A passion for fashion

Bella Savignano establishes clothing business, Stardust Vintage

March 29, 2019

Bella Savignano peruses an estate sale quickly, but thoroughly. After having waited in a long line to get in, she hunts for hidden vintage treasures with a keen eye.

Savignano, a 17-year-old former Decatur student, took a keen interest to fashion at a young age. This interest has since developed and manifested itself in her own self-created business: Stardust Vintage.

Savignano’s passion for fashion was evident early on, when she wouldn’t allow her mother to choose her outfit, though the outfits she picked for herself “were always crazy ridiculous.”

“She used to put together all sorts of colors and prints that did not match and would walk into a room proud and confident,” Kimberly Savignano, Bella’s mother, said. “And from that point, she’s been very particular about the clothes she would wear. Bella also got involved in sewing as a young girl, and loved creating outfits for herself and her stuffed animals and barbies.”

As she grew up, Savignano’s interest in fashion developed specifically into vintage and everything 60’s and 70’s. Bella values the flower child movement, rock and roll style and studio 54-esque disco style.

“I saw a lot of live music that year and the artists were all dressed so well. They had all this cool old stuff on– it was all stuff they found through thrift stores and tours,” Savignano said. “I found that so interesting, so seeing that and the combination of making my own clothes made me pursue it more.”

Kimberly Savignano and her husband have collectively supported their daughter’s creative side and provided creative avenues in order to balance out the pressure Bella put on herself to excel academically.

“I’ve always bought her art supplies as a child to draw her fashion, sent her to sewing, art and cooking camps, sewed many halloween costumes and clothes with her as a child, and let her explore whatever area she was interested in,” Kimberly Savignano said. “While my husband is a business owner and has mentored her in business exploration, most of Bella’s business savvy comes from her desire and determination to teach herself as much as she can.”

The summer prior to her sophomore year Savignano decided she wouldn’t return to public school at Decatur. She spent that summer with a family in France, having conversations with her host mother about her future.

“For a while I thought I wanted to go into a musical sphere, and now I’m realizing I want to integrate fashion more into that,” Savignano said. “It would be great if I could integrate both [music and fashion] into what I do. I’d like to be a stylist to the big stars of the indie world.” Photos courtesy of Bella Savignano.

“She said ‘well you shouldn’t just keep putting it off, you should find a way to do it now.’ I thought about that a lot, and when I came home I was like ‘what am I going to have to do to pursue this full time and make this a reality,’” Savignano said.

Consequently, she viewed online school as the best option to make her dream in fashion-design a reality.  

“I just felt like I was wasting my time, and people thought I was crazy for that because it’s like ‘it’s school everybody has to do it.’ But I just knew I could get it done faster and better off without the restriction [of public school],” Savignano said.

Savignano thought out possible pros and cons of online school and presented her plan to her parents.

“Albeit something we never considered, she had clear goals and really thought through the process, so we were 100% supportive,” Kimberly Savignano said.

In her first year of online school, Savignano “got into the swing of things.” During this time she learned more about sewing, and fashion sustainability. In fashion sustainability, Savignano wants more of an emphasis to be placed on not creating more clothes than we have by reusing clothing. As for clothing production already occurring, she argues more of a focus should be placed on better labor conditions and effect on the environment.

With her newfound free time in online school, Savignano not only delved into learning about aspects of fashion on her own, but she also reached out to a graduate of SCAD who majored in fashion design.

“I started going to him to learn more of the ins and outs of the industry and the couture fashion, and the techniques that they use for high end clothing,” Savignano said. “I went to him to start that process of learning enough to be able to do it on my own.”

It took Savignano a full year of online school before she launched her business on Sept. 10 2018. Over the previous year, Savignano had become aware of obstacles in the way.

“I realized how expensive it was, and how I didn’t think it through enough,” Savignano said. “That’s kind of what led me to the thrift store which led me to starting the vintage thing.”

Savignano decided to run with the idea of giving second-hand clothing a new home, and occasionally reworking the clothing. She began her business by finding unique vintage clothing at estate sales and thrift stores, which she would sell through a website, the title mirroring her brand, Stardust Vintage.

“[The thing I love most] is giving a new life to stuff that people didn’t intend to wear,” Savignano said. “I don’t think some of the people in estate sales or thrift stores I go to ever expected that their clothes would ever live a new life with someone else.”

Savignano began collecting clothes at the beginning of May 2018 leading up to the launch of her website. After spending the summer collecting, she had a plentiful supply of clothing, and started to design the website.

To commercialize her clothing on the website, Savignano’s friend, photographer Lauren Armao, took the photos of the clothes.

“It all came together with a lot of help from my friends and asking people what they thought. It was a lot of taking risks and hoping they would work out,” Savignano said.

Savignano’s parents supported Bella initially by providing her with the capital she needed to begin her business, then, after her business took off they backed away.

“We supported Bella initially by helping her purchase clothing from thrift stores. We bought her a sewing table and set up a studio in our home for her,” Kimberly Savignano said. “With her profits, she bought business cards, stickers and other marketing materials, sustainable shipping materials and more clothes. She also has a website that she pays for. After a couple trips to purchase inventory, she started selling items and sustaining her business with the profits.”

Savignano runs her site through software SquareSpace provides, but graphic design was still an area, that for the most part, was unfamiliar to her.

“It made me look at other people’s businesses a lot more and their best and worst qualities and that made me think about what I wanted in mine and what I didn’t,” Savignano said.

“I’d really love to start customizing stuff, like painting things and changing things to make them completely new, Right now I don’t really have time to do that, but I graduate in a few months,” Savignano said. “So hopefully when I have my year off I’ll have more time to do that. I definitely want to rework more stuff; I have a whole pile of things I want to do something to. I just haven’t been able to yet.” An example of her customizations are the pants Savignano wears above, which she made herself.aid.

Savignano originally planned on naming her business after her, but she realized that if she wasn’t going to launch her own label filled with her own designs, she didn’t want to name it after herself.

“So I thought of a new name [Stardust Vintage]. It’s named after David Bowie because I thought he was so inspirational to the process,” Savignano said.

The website’s appeal, Savignano feels, is that it’s more approachable and less intimidating to customers than the average estate sale or thrift sale.

“I try to make sure there are enough things on my site that could be integrated into someone’s modern wardrobe. When I was getting into vintage, all of these stores were carrying all this crazy stuff that the normal person wouldn’t buy,” Savignano said. “I’ve tried to make sure that when I’m shopping I’m not only shopping for someone who wants this crazy big piece, but also someone that wants something special that isn’t super crazy but is vintage quality and special.”

Savignano currently does a photoshoot around every two months. Ideally she would like to hold them every two weeks in order to keep her customers engaged.

“I have to upload the photos, take all the measurements, and write all the descriptions,” Savignano said. “I also have to keep up with my focus at that point, so at the beginning of winter I put more of a winter focus on the sight.”

Savignano most enjoys giving a new life to clothing that would normally sit for years in the back of a closet.

“It’s so exciting to see that new life breathe into old things that you wouldn’t expect for someone to love so much. It never gets old seeing people find something they love,” Savignano said.

On Dec. 2 2018 Savignano held her first pop-up, in which new and returning customers had a chance to look through her clothing in person at Ponce City Market.

Savignano described her first pop-up at Ponce City Market as successful, and due to that success she has done three more pop-ups since then and plans to do more. “The pop-up that I did I got to watch people look through what i had and find that perfect thing,” Savignano said. “It’s so much fun for me to see the smile on someone’s face, when they find their perfect piece.”

“My business hasn’t been opened for long, so there isn’t a huge following on it. The pop-up shop allowed me to market to a whole new people that I had never talked to before,” Savignano said. “I’ve actually signed up for a lot more [pop-ups] just because I think it’s the best way to shop– seeing people ask questions about what it is and being able to tell theme whose house and estate it came from– the story behind everything is so fun.”

Savignano graduates from online school in a few months from now and will take a year off before college. In this year off she is hopeful that she’ll have more time to customize her brand. Other priorities in her year off are to grow her business to the point where she doesn’t have to be watching it so meticulously all of the time, launch collaborations with other artists and to launch something she has created entirely herself.

“Right now I’m running [my business] on my own. I’d like to build it to the point where I can let go of the reigns a little bit, have someone else manage the day to day stuff, and I take care of the bigger stuff,” Savignano said. “I just want to know that when I leave it’ll be in good hands.”

Since beginning Stardust Vintage, Savignano has dreamed of studying fashion at Parsons School of Design. As 2018 was coming to a close, this dream came true when she opened her mailbox, finding her acceptance to Parsons.

While at Parsons, Savignano plans to study strategic design and management but to concentrate in fashion communication.

“I’ll be able to focus my business stuff to a more fashion-focused degree. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to be able to run the business while I’m in New York,” Savignano said.

Kimberly Savignano is “excited for this next chapter” for her daughter at Parsons and to see her continue to grow in a new environment.

“Bella has flourished in so many ways. She’s really developed a growth mindset and knows the way she chooses to see things can make or break her,” Kimberly Savignano said. “She continually studies different aspects of business and trends in fashion while applying them to her business. She has such integrity and is dedicated to her clients and the environment.”


Contact the writer, Alexis Siegler, at [email protected]

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