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UCLA student’s crochet business champions self-expression, connects others to art

Kathryn La Cava is picture posing for her portrait. La Cava taught herself how to knit for one of FAST at UCLA’s fashion shows. (Courtesy of Nathan Chen)

By Katy Nicholas

June 10, 2024 12:13 a.m.

Kathryn La Cava’s crochet creations are keeping Bruin heads warm and stylish.

The fourth-year art student started her crochet and art business Kibby here two years ago after teaching herself to knit after joining FAST. Her first customer bought a crocheted hat that was not even made with the intention of being sold, La Cava said. From there, her new skill grew into a small business that has been featured in many vending events around campus and the Westwood community. La Cava now sells crocheted clothes, prints and various other artworks, using social media to sell to customers all around the country.

[Related: Founders of PomPom Varsity look to foster spirit with UCLA-inspired clothing line]

“I think it’s really important to always keep a creative side to yourself and to always try and exercise that in any way you can because it really helps mentally,” La Cava said. “For me, my artwork is very different from the work I do in my small business. …It’s not really about money, I just love to see other people love it.”

La Cava said she started at UCLA as a psychology student but was inspired to stray away from the research-based academic route into art. The creative community on campus was a big part of this decision, she said. La Cava added the artisan and vending community at UCLA has greatly helped small businesses and aspiring artists like herself get their start. While it is difficult to network, La Cava said she was lucky enough to be involved in creative clubs such as FAST and get advice she needed from knowledgable individuals.

Fourth-year sociology and geography student Nancy Nan said these creative communities host events with music, food and art and foster relationships that keep small vendors afloat. Although many of these gatherings include professional vendors, Nan said numerous small business owners rely on this market to keep their businesses profitable. She added that she has known La Cava since the beginning of her business and has seen La Cava grow from struggling to make any sales to now hardly having time to fulfill all of her orders.

Ashley Chen, a fourth-year economics and philosophy student, said La Cava is often so busy La Cava has to crochet at unconventional locations and times. For example, Chen said La Cava once had to bring scrap yarn during a road trip they took to Las Vegas to crochet products during the whole drive. Chen said she has also seen La Cava’s artistic styles develop over the course of their friendship, as she recalls when La Cava initially began crocheting, La Cava had not found her signature look yet.

“Her first fashion line was kind of earthy, grungy core, and I think it’s evolved now into her wanting to make unique things,” Chen said. “The crochet wasn’t really like anything that I had ever seen before, so she still tries to continue that aspect into our line today.”

Kathryn La Cava is pictured smiling and holding up a piece sign. The small business owner also sells art prints and other articles of clothing. (Courtesy of Kevin Bentovoja)

La Cava said her personal artistic inspirations are centered around generational trends, more specifically how art of her generation are impacted by technology. Not only does this influence the messages and muses for her works, she said it also helps her reach a market she would not have without the internet. La Cava is now shipping to multiple states and her business has grown further than she originally imagined.

While UCLA has this supportive community for creatives, La Cava said one thing the school is lacking in is advising for artists and small businesses. Although she said she was lucky to have a supportive and experienced artistic community in the beginning, many of her peers do not, which prohibits them from pursuing the creative interests they possess. La Cava said she wishes creative careers were guided as much as traditional ones.

“I feel like there’s a lot of workshops and stuff for finding the perfect resume and building yourself up within a corporation or a company, and for some of us that’s just not the way we want to go,” La Cava said.

[Related: Sustainability, personality drive alumnus-run fashion business allisunny designs]

Although she is graduating, La Cava said she still sees her small business being a part of her post-graduate life. She said, in a perfect world, she would go viral on social media and make her business her full time gig, but she is happy to have it as a fun extra source of income, if nothing more. La Cava said monetary value isn’t the driving force behind this endeavor. Rather, she does it for self-expression and other people’s happiness, as she can connect to her customers through their shared artistic inclinations.

“I need to create to survive,” La Cava said. “I’m just gonna keep going as long as I can and hopefully I’ll never get tired of it. I don’t think I will.”

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