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Wed June 19, 2013
How The Wynwood Arts Scene Inspired This Miami Fashion Startup
Thanks to YouTube, anyone can be a filmmaker. Thanks to Quirky, anyone can be an inventor. And now thanks to Miami natives Sabrina and Silvia Scandar and their soon-to-be-launched website, Vividly, anyone can be a fashion designer.
Sabrina, 25, and Silvia, 29, have set out to "democratize" the elite worlds of fashion and art through technology. They say Vividly—which is currently in beta form at the domain Vividly.co—will do just that by giving emerging designers and artists a new way to sell their work.
"We're a platform that allows artists or anyone with an artistic vision to transform their work into beautiful fashion pieces," Sabrina explained in a recent interview at The LAB Miami, a collaborative space in Wynwood, where she is based. "We take the art and we digitally print it on fabric and we make that into high-end, boutique-worthy clothing pieces."
When Vividly's online store opens for business later this summer, those clothing pieces will include locally-manufactured, 100-percent silk tops and scarves, retailing for between $62 and $98. All of the styles will be based directly on designs submitted to the site from more than a dozen artists from across the United States. Many of artists are South Floridians, while others hail from as far away as New York, Massachusetts and even Hawaii.
Miami native Cory Hunter will be one of Vividly's 15 featured artists; three of his designs are set to be available in the Vividly store when it opens.
A part-time artist looking to build his career, Hunter wrote in an email to WLRN that he hopes Vividly will expose his work to a wider audience.
"I wanted to get involved because in the art world, especially Miami, it's all about getting to know people and building contacts," Hunter wrote, adding that at the same time he "liked the idea of making art into something that everyone could own and would want to own, even if they don't have wall space."
"I think a platform like Vividly makes sense for a lot of people who want art but can't walk into a gallery and pick a piece off the wall," Hunter wrote.
New York-based artist Aly English-Murray, a textile print artist and graphic designer, will also be one of Vividly's featured artists.
In an email to WLRN she wrote that she liked Vividly's approach in not only highlighting artists, but also compensating them for their work.
"Vividly provides artists like myself a stake in the Vividly's success," she wrote. "When the company does well financially, so do the artists whose pieces are being sold."
(Vividly's featured artists will take home 10-percent of each item sold. Non-featured artists will earn 5 percent.)
English-Murray added that even though the site has yet to launch, just being featured on Vividly's blog has already raised her profile—helping to secure textile assignments and other fashion jobs in New York based on her Vividly profile, which includes her biography and artistic background.
Sabrina says Vividly will continue posting profiles of its featured artists in order to better connect customers to the products they are buying.
"Every piece has a story," she explained. "You're not just wearing clothing, you're wearing art, you're wearing a story."
A Bi-Coastal Company
So how did the Scandar sisters, both graduates of Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, end up founding Vividly?
After studying government and Arabic at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Sabrina moved back to Miami and took a job in the local office of Open English, an online language school start-up. Silvia majored in economics at Harvard before earning a law degree from Georgetown and taking a job as an international attorney in New York, and later San Francisco, where she still lives.
But the two sisters had long wanted to start a business together—their late father was a doctor of pharmacy and an entrepreneur who had founded University Diagnostic Center and Nuclear Medical Services, both healthcare-related small businesses—and by early last year, they were bouncing around ideas for businesses that could capitalize on their dual interests in tech and fashion. By August 2012, they both had quit their jobs in order to pursue their idea—then called Sew Love—full-time.
Last August, the sisters launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Sew Love. By October, they had brought in more than $20,000 from 265 separate backers. And in November, they won a series of services valued at $25,000 at a start-up pitch competition in Miami. That competition was sponsored by NewME, a San Francisco-based startup accelerator/incubator, and co-hosted by the Knight Foundation and the LAB Miami.
Sew Love, like Vividly, was a platform intended to democratize fashion. The idea was to "crowdsource" design by having website users submit ideas for clothing items and vote for the items they liked. The items with the most votes were would be manufactured and sold on the Sew Love website.
But earlier this year, the sisters decided that concerns over branding, costs and accessibility had made Sew Love unsustainable. So with a new name and a new concept—largely inspired by the Wynwood arts scene—Vividly was born.
"We would spend a lot of time walking around this neighborhood, looking at all of the art," Sabrina said. "We wanted to figure out how we could incorporate that community, that vision, into what we wanted to be doing. That led us to this idea of let's merge the worlds of art and fashion."
Sabrina admitted that while New York and Los Angeles may seem like more obvious locations for launching a fashion or art-based business, Miami has so far turned out to be a great fit.
"Things like Art Basel and Wynwood are kind of making a really big national splash in the media, and that's great for us," she said, "being able to use Miami's art scene, and combine that with fashion, it's sort of a newer concept, and it's something that Miami's actually a great place to launch from."
Follow Vividly on Twitter: @VividlyCo
Find Vividly on Tumblr
Lauren Fedor is a recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is a Google Journalism Fellow this summer with the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.