A Penn student has combined her love of fashion and business to create good-humored apparel, from plays on popular logos to photos of Penn landmarks.
Wharton freshman Lea Chen launched a fashion website called Lovelea in January that sells graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts. The designs vary from pictures of animals and food to puns and Penn logos.
Chen makes all Lovelea clothing by hand. She designs the graphics on Photoshop and then adds them to T-shirts and sweatshirts using a heat press technique. Chen is proud of her success so far — after only two months of operation, she has received about 60 orders and has begun making a profit.
College junior Juana Granados purchased a Lovelea sweatshirt that says “alpacas” on it, in the font and style of the Adidas logo.
“It really catches your eye ... it’s one of those pieces that has a lot of good humor to it,” she said.
Chen developed a deep interest in fashion when she was a child. Her mother works in the cosmetics industry, so she was always surrounded by style magazines growing up. Chen said her interest in fashion helped her get through her “awkward pre-teen phase” and express her personality.
Chen says the business skills she learned in Wharton have helped her make sense of what she has learned in the classroom. But she also feels it’s sometimes hard to get her fellow students to take Lovelea seriously and understand that it’s “something that I really care about, not just a little hobby,” she said.
“A lot of Wharton students say, ‘Oh yeah, I want to have a startup,’ ... but this is something I put a lot of thought and creativity into,” she added.
Marketing Lovelea has been her biggest challenge, she said. She has relied mainly on posts in various Facebook groups but notes that she doesn’t want to overwhelm people with too many.
“I don’t want it to get to the point where it’s on people’s newsfeeds and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, another post,’” Chen said.
Most of Chen’s customers are Penn students, but Chen was touched when she got a kind thank you message from a complete stranger who purchased one of her designs.
It was “heartwarming and made me feel really good to know someone enjoyed the product,” Chen said.
The Lovelea brand is “parallel to what Lea is about,” said Wharton freshman Jillian Li, a friend of Lea’s and a Lovelea customer.
Li added that the clothing reflects Chen’s character and personality.
“She’s very sweet and very fashionable at the same time,” she added.
In addition to Lovelea, Chen also runs a fashion blog based off of the popular Humans of New York blog. She photographs Penn students with interesting style and posts the photos along with quotes from the students about their fashion inspiration. She doesn’t think there is one way to describe the way Penn students dress; “there’s a whole spectrum,” she said.
Chen hopes to work in the fashion industry after graduation, but for now she is focusing on expanding Lovelea.
“It’s really nice to be able to create something on my own, that’s so me ... and to see that it impacts other people,” Chen said.
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