VCU student’s line of handmade bags could be the next big thing
Clayton Storm Hall has a lot on his plate. Born and raised in Richmond, the 20-year-old is a junior in the Fashion Design Department at VCU, he’s openly gay, and he’s the founder and designer behind an original line of handmade accessories known as JET.
“I figured, why not start now?” Hall says of his decision to start making and selling his line of canvas bags while still in school. “I’m willing to put in the extra effort in order to propel myself where I want to go in life.”
He started JET in 2013, when he made one bag. He quickly realized there was a market for his products, and started doing research using his fellow VCU students as test subjects. He would carry a bag around the campus and ask students questions about the product to gain insights.
He explains, “I walked around campus just to see what students gravitated towards and I started making more and more [bags], different colors, different styles, to gauge what people liked.”
Hall used his findings to determine JET’s four signature bag styles: the duffel, the bucket drawstring bag, the tote shopper, and the clutch. “That’s what people gravitated towards,” he says. “They’re no-fuss accessories.”
Hall’s bags are all made here in Richmond, and are machine-washable, hand-dyed, hand-sewn canvas. He started selling bags online using Etsy and his own website. Now he’s in negotiations to have JET bags sold in national retailers.
So why start with accessories? Hall explains: “It’s much easier to sell a $140 duffel than it is to sell a $10,000 evening gown.” He has plans to release a ready to wear collection within the next year, but his accessory line enabled him to start small and gain experience running a business.
Plus, he’s still a student.
Juggling all of his commitments is tricky and Hall admits it’s stressful, but he maintains an upbeat outlook. The designer believes much of his positive attitude stems from his refusal to kowtow to middle and high school bullies.
His parents and family have always been supportive of his sexuality, but his peers were less forgiving. At school, Hall struggled with being put down and made fun of for being gay.
He describes those years as times when he was forced to be his own therapist, sorting through his feelings and deciding how to respond to his classmates’ taunts. He decided not to let the put-downs stop him.
“You get to the point where you can’t let people push you around,” he explains. “I think that was a big step in how I am today…I feel like I would be a completely different person if those bullies hadn’t said those comments.”
Hall encourages those who are nervous about pursuing their dreams to persevere.
“In the long run, people should realize that you can do whatever you want,” he says. “I’m a firm believer in doing anything you set your mind to and following your dreams.”
When asked about his own future, Clayton Storm Hall says “The sky’s the limit.”
JET by Clayton Storm Hall bags are available on the website and also at Modern Artifacts in Carytown.
2014 was quite a year. The LGBTQ community here in Richmond, around the state of Virginia, and nationally and internationally, hit a number of impressive milestones. And we here at GayRVA were proud to report on all the issues we could. So here’s the top stories from GayRVA in the last year – some good [...]December 30, 2014
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