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Students launch fashion company in 1789 Venture Lab

Lisa Myers and Natalia Gonzalez, artistic director and founder of Artwear Designs, launched their new clothing line in 1789 Venture Lab on Friday, March 28.
Lisa Myers and Natalia Gonzalez, artistic director and founder of Artwear Designs, launched their new clothing line in 1789 Venture Lab on Friday, March 28.

Artwear Designs is Chavez and Myers’s brainchild. Combining the arts and fashion, Chavez and Myers find designs from young aspiring artists around the United States and print them on tank tops and T-shirts.

“We want to give young millennials an outlet to purchase artwork in a way that they’re not spending hundreds of dollars on a painting that ends up on the wall where you can only look at it from afar,” Chavez said.

“Instead, we want them to have a wearable art they can take with them wherever they go.”

Chavez, who has had a jewelry-making business since she was 14-years-old, expressed to Myers a desire to change the direction of her business last year. Myers offered her help, and the partnership began.

“I’ve always painted growing up, and I’d always thought it’d be awesome to be an artist,” Myers said. “But I didn’t want to be a starving artist, so when she approached me I was like, ‘Yes, let’s go.’”

Chavez and Myers — both pursuing minors in entrepreneurship — brought their concept to UNC’s JNO Awards in Entrepreneurship, and despite of their lack of experience, they impressed the judges and received a grant of $3,000 to promote their brand.

“Just knowing that someone is willing to give us money to make it happen really gave me a sense that we can do this,” Chavez said.

Aaron Scarboro, director of 1789 Venture Lab, an organization that houses UNC startups, said Chavez and Myers’s business plan is unique.

“You don’t see a lot of companies that can combine that artistic vision with a really good business sense,” Scarboro said.

Chavez and Myers have also received recognition for being one of the few female-run ventures.

“In my entrepreneurial lab class, I’m the only female, non-business school student who’s there, and there was not a single female entrepreneur presenting throughout the semester,” Chavez said. “We’ve got to represent, and I’m so proud to do that.”

The brand has eight artists from eight different cities contributing to its premiere collection, and a portion of their earnings from each order is given to the artist.

Everything from the production of the raw materials to the screen printing is done locally. The response to the company’s products has been positive, with more than 25 percent of its inventory selling on its first day.  was one of its customers.

“I like the fact that it goes beyond Chapel Hill,” Bass said. “There’s some sort of unity through the diversity that you see in the artwork here.”

Chavez and Myers’s work doesn’t stop here — their next goal is to launch an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for their next collection.

“We not only want to make a name for us locally,” Chavez said. “We also want to make a fashion brand for us in the U.S., and hopefully around the world.”

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