Julia Smith (’21), a graduating senior at Amador Valley founded the fashion business Shop Soleada several months ago, specializing in handmade clothes and accessories.
After rekindling her passion for sewing, Smith decided to display her skills on social media, where she gained a vast amount of views.
“It was about April last year in 2020 is about maybe a month after quarantine started, and I was at home during spring break, so there just wasn’t a lot to do. I’ve always liked sewing because my dad taught me how to sew when I was young, so I got more designs since I had more free time and I was sewing different clothes. Then one day I saw someone on TikTok make a bucket hat size and I needed to try [it] so I made it myself… [The] Tik-Tok of me sewing a bucket hat had almost a quarter of a million views. People commented that they loved it and they wanted to buy it. After that I made an Etsy account and a website, and I created more designs with different patterns for the bucket hats,” said Smith (‘21).
Starting with bucket hats, Smith began creating and designing a wide variety of products.
“I sew bucket hats, and I also sell face masks. I’ve been trying to develop the hats better overtime. Before I started off using patterns from The Essentials Club, and I adjusted it to make it fit my product better, so I created different linings and made the rims smaller. For the masks, I’m trying to make them more effective, double-layered and pleated. I also started selling rings recently and I also got an embroidery machine halfway through starting my business, so then I started embroidering sweaters. it’s about to be the one-year birthday of Shop Soleada, so I’m going to come out with embroidered sweatpants which are matching sets with the sweaters and sweatpants,” said Smith (‘21).
Julia draws inspiration from multiple sources, which allows for Shop Soleada to have diverse designs.
“For the bucket hats I’ve been inspired by a lot of different things. Usually what I do is seasonal ones, with summer, winter, fall, and spring lines. Because they’re inspired by seasons, the fall ones would have pumpkins and warmer colors. For the sweaters, I do what sells best, and I’ve realized that there are a lot of Disney styles, like Winne the Pooh, or the aliens from Toy Story, so I make more of those. I have some of my friends design stuff for me, which I embroider in the sweaters,” said Smith (‘21)
Smith offers multiple platforms, in which customers can conveniently purchase her products.
“I have a website online that you can buy stuff through Venmo or PayPal, and a Google Form. You can also just DM me on Instagram which is the easiest way. I also have a Depop and sell in person to supermarkets. The place I sell most often at is the So-so Market, which is currently held in Berkeley, but they also have different locations, like in Santa Cruz. They have a lot of vintage vendors and handmade stuff. Usually there’s a lot of lines wrapped around the corner because there are a lot of people that want to buy things, so that’s where I like to go because it’s my target audience. I’ve also been to the Westfield Mall in San Francisco and so that’s where I basically have my own little shop and set up on my things there for a weekend,” said Smith (‘21).
Shop Soleada differs from other small businesses by its philanthropic work. A portion of the proceeds are donated to many social justice organizations.
“In June of 2020 was the peak of the Black Lives Matter movements and so I felt like I wanted to donate and I realized this business was going to be a source of income for me and so I felt like I didn’t need all the money so I donated 25% to BLM and 25% to the Transgender Law Center, and since then I’ve donated to American Cancer Society, and recently to the Uighur Muslims in China and different organizations that need help currently,” said Smith (‘21).
While it might be difficult at the moment, Julia hopes to return to this in the future, as she enjoys the art of fashion and creating.
“It’s kind of hard to do this in different places. I’m going to college in Washington D.C which is a long way away, so I would have to carry two sewing machines into my dorm room, which is not going to fit. Right now I have a full sewing room that has all my supplies so obviously I’m not going to have a sewing room in college. But I could make college merch, and bring it out there and sell it there. I would probably put this on pause until I come back for summer, but I definitely do want to continue this in the future because I love donating and I love creating new things,” said Smith (‘21).
Visit https://sites.google.com/view/shopsoleada/home to learn more about Shop Soleada.