Alden Kramer and Presley Campbell filled the empty space in their Rieber dorm room with sewing machines.
Having met as roommates, the two second-years spent much of their free time visiting local thrift shops. Kramer said they wanted to create a sustainable, affordable brand, utilizing thrift stores to repurpose used fabrics for their designs since their launch in May. Their company CAMPBELL&KRAMER has since gone on to amass over 5,000 Instagram followers and will be hosting a pop-up shop on Oct. 11 at UCLA Delta Gamma. But Kramer, an economics student, said they initially didn’t know what would come of the shop but wanted to pursue their passion for sustainable fashion nonetheless.
“We went to a thrift store and we bought some clothes, which was kind of scary at first because we spent a generous amount of money and we had no idea where it was going to go,” Kramer said.
Before they launched CAMPBELL&KRAMER, the pair scouted out Goodwill in Santa Monica, hunting for old game day wear that they could repurpose into new pieces with a vintage look, Kramer said. Campbell, an economics student, said they cut up the newly acquired clothes, discussing their vision for each item as they went. They spent their spare time after class and on the weekends sewing and stitching, often while watching “The Bachelor,” as they prepared to open their shop.
They first launched their line RIEBIRTH, where they take the non-UCLA clothing they’ve discovered and transform it into original pieces, such as tie-dying white shirts. Meanwhile, their CAMPBELL&KRAMER line utilizes fabrics acquired from thrift stores to create pieces from scratch, such as slip dresses. RIEBER 515 – which pays homage to their Rieber roots – is their vintage game day wear, with designed corseted tube tops and one-shoulder tank tops.
When designing a piece, the pair considers both their own style and what they are capable of making, Kramer said. Neither of them has taken sewing classes, so Kramer said they had to go through trial and error when they first began the shop. The first design they made from scratch was their LOLA TOP, which features a lace-up top and puff sleeves. They don’t use size templates, instead choosing to size on each other, though Campbell said they aim to incorporate more inclusive sizing in the future.
Third-year global studies student Hanna Eguchi, who has purchased from their company, said much of CAMPBELL&KRAMER’s appeal is geared toward college students, especially with their game day wear. While Eguchi said she wasn’t drawn to those spirited designs, they offer a nice mix of other, more modest styles. Wanting to support student entrepreneurs while treating herself, she bought a magnolia top, with white linen fabric and black ribbon.
“I think it’s awesome for people who are looking into more sustainable projects and see what they’re doing and think, ‘I can do that,’” Eguchi said.
A member of a sustainable fashion club, Eguchi said she also wanted to support a company that isn’t wasteful. Students seeing their peers pursuing sustainable business might help inspire them to consider ways in which they can live sustainably, she said.
Campbell said a major goal while creating the line was sustainability. After interning at a sustainable clothing resale company and taking a course in sustainability, Campbell said she became more aware of just how wasteful the fashion industry is.
“We also realized that there’s no affordable sustainable fashion out there,” Campbell said. “Thrifting is kind of the only option you can do to shop affordably and sustainably.”
Going forward, the pair aims to eventually expand into a larger production setting, where they plan to create more made-to-order items. However, Campbell said this will likely present new challenges, as it can be difficult to remain sustainable within a factory setting. The two of them toured the Reformation factory, where the popular sustainable clothing brand makes their products. Kramer said they hope their factory will resemble that – a location that pays their workers fair wages and functions sustainably.
Relying only on what they can uncover while shopping does limit their creative abilities, Kramer said. But within the grand scheme of how much waste is caused by the fashion industry, she said she does not think their company would be at all meaningful if they were adding to that waste.
“I think, naturally, our line would look different if we had every single available resource for us,” Kramer said. “But I also think that working with what we can find has … given us more creativity. Sometimes working with limitations forces you to be more creative.”