When AJ Viaene decided to turn one of her headbands into a tube top during spring break, she thought nothing of it. She definitely didn’t think that one simple fashion choice would lead to the creation of her own accessories fashion brand.
“I’ve always wanted to have a business. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Viaene says.
AJ’s Outfitters, founded in April 2018, is a handmade accessories brand Viaene runs via Instagram. From versatile headbands and scrunchies to essential oil necklaces, there’s a product to suit everyone’s needs. Viaene describes AJ’s Outfitters’ diverse collection as “adventurous and bohemian.”
That first improvised tube top from spring break was the start of something big for Viaene. After encouragement from her mom to create her own version of the headband, Viaene bought fabric, cut a pattern and sewed her first piece. With a little bit of help from her roommate’s Instagram story, Viaene’s Instagram messages were soon filled with people requesting to purchase headbands of their own [the black and gray tie dye is a bestseller].
In less than a year, Viaene has watched her brand grow faster than she expected. With over 200 followers, AJ’s Outfitters has shipped products nationwide, including to New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan and Illonois. Viaene created her own Instagram page for AJ’s Outfitters and shared it with her friends. She says being on the Kent State CHAARG executive team helped a lot.
“I think just being a public figure in such a large community really helped me a lot,” Viaene says. “From there, people told their friends and I’ve gotten in with sororities and things like that.”
Viaene says she has been interested in fashion for most of her life and remembers drawing clothes all the time as a little girl. Now, she is a third year fashion design student at Kent State University. She has taken this experience and used it to make her brand the best it can be, carefully thinking through her designs and taking the time to create products of the highest quality.
Despite other competitive brands that carry similar products as AJ’s Outfitters, Viaene still thinks hers is unique.
“Mine are different because they’re all handmade,” she says. “I use a different fabric as well … my fabric is a bit thicker so [headbands] stay on your head a lot better and if you wear it as a tube top, it’s not see through and it also does stretch a bit more.”
Not only can customers expect high-quality products, but also timely delivery as well. Viaene is proactive about the items she keeps in stock, buying fabrics in bulk ahead of time and making many products at once with her in-home studio. After packaging the product and promoting it on Instagram, Viaene waits for orders to be placed and ships them out the next day.
As a brand so young in its establishment, AJ’s Outfitters still has room to grow and Viaene has big plans. Aside from studying fashion, Viaene is an avid outdoors woman and a passionate supporter of the National Parks, visiting them for as long as she can remember. Eventually, she hopes to open brick and mortar locations of AJ’s Outfitters near the parks and donate part of her profits to National Park funding. One day, she may even create a line of activewear.