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Miami Fashion Designer Offers Classic Clothes With Feminist Ideology

The fashion industry is pretty sexist — but perhaps not in the way you're thinking. Compared to most other trades, women do rule the industry. Many top designers, fashion magazine editors in chief, and influencers are women who create, show, and sell clothing to other women. But the business of fashion can still be problematic. Ultimately, it depends on sales — and that means convincing women to spend more and more on the way they look.

Meanwhile, men’s fashion never really seems to go out of style (unless, of course, you’re designing for Ed Hardy or Von Dutch — sorry, Christian Audigier). Comparatively, men’s fashion hasn’t really changed all that much in recent years. A polo shirt from 1995 (with imperceptible alterations) is still being made and worn today.

But one local designer is working to equalize fashion between the sexes. With the launch of her new clothing line, JAEST (pronounced “jast”; the e is silent), Erika Hanna is offering versatile pieces at an affordable cost. Her “elevated basics” aim to mix and match with all other pieces in your closet, creating 35+ new outfits. Currently, there are seven individual pieces (12 if you count the different colors for some styles). And the best part: They're designed to be modern classics that'll still be in style next season.

“For years, it’s been easier for men to get dressed than it is for women," Hanna says. "I’ve been shopping for basics at the men’s sections since I can remember, because they have things women are missing for everyday life — styles we can just throw on to take on our day.
“I’m trying to solve the ‘why don’t I have anything to wear?’ problem that most girls face when they look in their closets,” Hanna continues, on the run to her first pop-up shop at Miami Beach’s Broken Shaker. “And where better to start in than Miami? The city’s blowing up as a new hot spot in fashion, and I want to be part of the revolution.”

The 22-year-old Miami native started her venture in fashion at the age of 6, when she’d accompany her great-grandmother to the textile factory in Hialeah to choose materials for her next Halloween costume.

“I’d join Abuela at the factories at age 6, and I sewed for the first time at the age of 10. I knew fashion would always be my thing,” said Hanna. “It’s a part of me; it’s always been naturally in my subconscious.”

Hanna’s first taste of entrepreneurship started in high school, though, where she sold her homemade bows. She spent her free time sewing them and sold them for $4 to $6, depending on the size.

“I’d be sewing all weekend long, and by the time I’d show up Monday morning, they’d all be sold out. Sewing is extremely time-consuming, so I’d only make around 25 at a time — and they’d instantly sell out. Needless to say, that soon stopped. I couldn’t keep up,” she laughed.
Now, Hanna is up-and-coming, along with Miami’s fashion culture. The designer has already been featured in major national fashion publications and is collaborating with local fashion bloggers like Iron N Salt.

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But here’s the best part — she’s humble and she cares. The line is all Miami-made and skips the cost of the middleman, bridging the gap between designer fashion and fast fashion. This is how Hanna is able to keep her prices low while using top-of-the-line materials that are meant to last years, like vegan leather and rich silks.

“We searched all around South Florida for the right manufacturer and finally ended up with one in Hialeah. We loved the spirit and enthusiasm of the workers here — most importantly because they’re happy where they work. Witnessing this was extremely important to my decision to work with this manufacturer,” says Hanna.

When asked where she sees JAEST going, petite Hanna has big dreams: She wants JAEST to become a globally recognized brand. Hopefully we'll see Hannah achieve that goal, because in the words of Karl Lagerfeld, “One is never overdressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.”

You can pre-order JAEST through Hanna's Kickstarter campaign today. 

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