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Community Highlights: Meet Crystal Watts of Zuna Apparel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Watts. 

Hi Crystal, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I remember loving to create as a child. I loved sketching and taking art classes. Vivid memories of driving to a pottery class with my grandmother or staining my clothes with photography solutions are fond recollections. I compiled quite an art collection my mother kept for years (and maybe still has) in a large trunk somewhere. 

My professional training came later at Meredith College studying Fashion Design under Dr. Eunyoung Yang. As a student, I participated in various community shows in Raleigh and Charlotte including Redress Raleigh and FashionSpark. The department was very supportive of their students, and I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship for their Paris Study Abroad Program. Part of my time was spent interning for Elie Saab during Fashion week in his Paris salon. 

After graduation, though the excitement subsided, and the grim real world began to settle in. The question of “what now” seemed to grow louder, and I finally settled for a corporate banking job. After a career change that was still not fulfilling my need for a creative outlet, I felt I was losing a small piece of my soul each day. If working for someone else meant allowing my dream to die inside of me I couldn’t allow that to happen. I decided to file the paperwork for my LLC that week and began to build a women’s apparel website. 

My online boutique began by selling other brands and labels. After a while, I started attending tradeshows like Atlanta Apparel Mart and Magic in Las Vegas. One particular trip led to a styling gig for a local magazine. I had a chance to write a fashion piece for the issue and stayed on as an ongoing stylist for their advertiser fashion spread. 

As many careers do mine has evolved yet again back into my first love, designing. As of this fall, our online boutique will now offer our own in-house designs as well as wholesale to other retailers. After making many excuses as to why it wasn’t the time, this past year really gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I wanted most out of life. I finally dove headfirst into creating my own collection. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing worth having ever comes without challenges. Sometimes the lessons you learn in life and in business come at a high cost. However, failure is a very important piece of the journey. Dave Ramsey once said, “Success is not a gleaming, shiny mountain. It is a pile of mistakes that you are standing on, instead of laying under.” 

Design is very personal. It’s a vulnerable thing to put your creations out into the world knowing that not everyone will approve or even disapprove quietly. People have told me that having fair trade and environmentally conscious lines won’t be profitable. Pricing and the market are still an obstacle I’m facing as a new designer who won’t compromise my values to meet the status quo. When people say something can’t be done, it usually means you’re onto something that hasn’t been done before. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact, you may be in a position that holds a lot of potential. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Zuna Apparel is a brand with a mission to change the way our society consumes clothing. As a people-first company, all of our garments are designed in Raleigh and produced in New York with a fair and living wage. Having an American manufacturer makes us one of the 2% of women’s apparel companies in the world to have US-based construction. The design aesthetic is an unexpected juxtaposition of tailoring and comfort. Interesting but very accessible. The majority of our line is produced from natural fibers. Textiles are sourced with biodegradable capacity in mind. Some fabrics are composed of Lenzing AG certified yarns, the highest industry standards of sustainability in textile production. Of the few synthetics included in the line, half are compiled of recycled materials. Even our fiber content tags are made of recycled polyester. 

What was your favorite childhood memory?
Hard to pick just one, but one memory that stands out is performing dances made up with my best friend to 90s boy band songs. We would put on a show (complete with concessions) every day for anyone who would watch. Literally anyone. We once took a boombox to a carpet store and made a makeshift stage of a pile of rugs. Sometimes we even had specific costumes for the performances, so maybe that could be considered our first styling gigs. My friend became a very successful stylist, so oddly enough we both kind of ended up being consumed with our respective fields. 

Contact Info:

  • Email: crystal@zunaapparel.com
  • Website: www.zunaapparel.com
  • Instagram: @crystalcwatts
  • Facebook: @ZunaApparel
  • Other: Pinterest: @crystalcwatts14

Image Credits
Dimitri Williams Photography
Caleb Watts

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