Surrounded by textiles of various colors and patterns, Paly senior Ena Zou quickly stitches fabrics together in hopes of repurposing the materials sprawled across her workspace. From old bedsheets, she sees the potential of a trendy skirt. From her father’s old pocket squares, she intends to make hand warmers for the winter. Zou sits at her sewing machine and works into the night, fueled by her commitment and a few cups of coffee.
Zou has had an interest in fashion for as long as she can remember. From a young age, she began pursuing her passion by sketching in a notebook, DIY-ing her clothes and watching fashion videos on Youtube. “I was drawn to all sorts of bright prints and designs and would go digging in my mom’s closet a little too often,” Zou said. “I was fascinated with the prints, colors, attention and detail that were put into each and every piece.”
At 10 years old, Zou was gifted her first sewing machine and began to gain a deeper understanding of the structural and artistic side of fashion. “From this point on, I spent a good amount of time sewing and altering anything I could get my hands on,” Zou said. Whether it be from her parents’ closet or a thrift store, Zou sees the underlying value of used articles of clothing or material and constantly strives to recycle and repurpose these fabrics.
Zou always dreamed of creating her own clothing line. Over the past two years, this dream slowly but surely became a reality. After emailing various clothing producers, Zou received a response from one based in Alameda, California, and they began working together to bring Zou’s vision to life. “I showed [the producer] a bunch of different sketches that I’d done in a little black book full of patterns and taped-in fabrics,” Zou said. “After looking at them, she gave me the whole overview of the process, which involved grading, marking, pattern-making and finally cutting the pieces into the actual production cycle.” After their original meeting, Zou and the producer kept in touch and met every five months to further discuss the project.
Throughout these beginning stages of this process, Zou would constantly search for patterns and buy square inch samples of fabrics online to test out different materials. Once Zou collected the fabrics she wanted her brand to feature, she gave them to the producer and the long process of the production cycle began. From one size, the samples were altered in increments to make different sizes, and Zou had to pay close attention to details that rarely would cross the minds of consumers. “I learned that there were a lot of small yet imperative aspects to clothing that I had never thought of before—I spent days thinking about the tiniest details,” Ena said. “The production cycle changed my perspective on how much attention is needed while designing simple pieces of clothing.”
The production cycle of manufacturing the clothes ended around August of 2019, which allowed Zou to work on the other aspects of launching a brand. Using photos of her friends wearing her clothes, Zou worked on the website, and soon after, she registered for a business and sent her taxes to the state capital. Over the course of two and a half years, all while balancing the work of a busy high school student, Zou was able to successfully complete the process of creating a business. Her brand, Reverie, was officially launched at the beginning of March 2020.
The style of clothing presented by Reverie reflects Zou’s own style and ongoing interest in fashion. “My type of fashion is bohemian with a lot of different prints and colors,” Zou said. “I’m into patterns, denim and funky shirts but nothing too crazy.” Through tops, skirts and bags, Reverie features various prints and unique pieces of clothing while prioritizing maximum comfort to the wearer.
The purpose of Zou’s brand directly relates to its name Reverie, meaning a daydream. “I hope to send a message of genuinely following your dreams,” Zou said. “If you find something you like, pursue and tinker with it.” For years, creating a business and fashion line was nothing more than a dream for Zou, but through hard work and determination, she was able to take her passion and make her dreams into reality.
Moving into the future, Zou hopes to expand her brand and reach more customers. “A lot of people wearing my clothes and having them in a couple of boutiques locally would be amazing,” Zou said. She recognizes, however, that there are possible struggles of juggling her brand and her future studies outside the world of fashion. “Another launch with the same pieces of different customizable tops with prints on them is the hope,” Zou said. “But making completely different patterns might be more difficult because of college.” As Zou transitions into the next stage of her life, she hopes to continue to build upon her interests in fashion and maintain this passion throughout her life.
“Follow your dreams,” Zou said. “And shop Reverie!”
Photos by Natalie Schilling