Editor's Note: This story appeared in the December 2015 ORANGE Issue IV.
MAJOR: History & Government
HOMETOWN: Austin, Texas
Story by Estephanie Gomez
Photos by Joshua Guerra
University of Texas sophomore Nishiki Maredia co-founded the online apparel store 1950 Collective with Boston College student Angela Lin. The business has seen success in the online community, accumulating over 16,000 followers on Twitter, 42,000 followers on Instagram and a shoutout from Buzzfeed Style since its start in January 2015.
How did 1950 Collective Start?
Angela and I were always big One Direction fans. We noticed that all the merch was awful and overpriced. We were like, “We can definitely do a better job because we’re not old men who don’t know their demographic.” We are their demographic. So we started designing, reaching out to fan artists, and it honestly just blew up on Instagram. It’s such a dedicated fanbase.
Where did the name come from?
1950 is the number of miles between UT and Boston College, where my co-founder Angela goes.
How big is the operation?
At the start of the school year, we realized, “Woah, this is a lot.” Now, we have an intern for packing, an intern for creative design, an intern who keeps us updated on what’s happening online and our printer Jeff. We like to do our own social media, though. We don’t want to outsource that.
When did you see 1950 grow?
We started out tiny. We spammed our friends on Facebook, and on Instagram we used #tagforlikes. Eventually we figured out that fandoms have big accounts. They have a ridiculous amount of followers, so we reached out to them. We told them we’d love it if they promoted us, and if people bought merchandise because of them, we’d love to send them free stuff. A lot of it was just asking people on Instagram or on fan accounts to become ambassadors.
How successful has the business become?
We just hit 100K in revenue at the start of November. In terms of profit, we have yet to do our finances. We did them at the start of the school year, and we’ve just been putting them off. We’re lucky enough to not be too concerned about the money. We just generally have a pay-out when we need it. At the start of the summer, Angela was in L.A. and I was in D.C., and we both needed money to pay for our apartments. She’s actually in town this week, so we’re going to meet up during Thanksgiving Break and figure it out so we can get to holiday shopping.
Where does inspiration come from?
The biggest thing that we can offer to the people who are buying our shirts is that we’re in their age group, and we like all the same things. Basically, what we would like, we try to put out there. Right now, a lot of our designs are very minimalist, nothing too flashy. We also like to incorporate memes. With the “Hotline Bling” shirt, we know it isn’t going to be as popular in a couple of months. We know some of our designs will fade in and out. When we went to the 1D concert last year, they were still using pictures from when the band just started. The most important thing is just growing with our audience and staying current.
Is there a pressure to constantly produce new products?
We have a reputation for being there for the big moments. When an album leaks, we’re right there, and we’re listening to it with the fans. Our designs will come out before the official merch does. But as One Direction takes a break, we’re thinking we should too.
How do you juggle being a student and running a business?
It is a lot, but Angela and I have meticulously drawn-out planners. It’s definitely easier with our interns for 1950. Once they started taking care of the nitty gritty stuff, it became more relaxing. I’m so glad Angela is the person I’m doing this with because communication with her is so open. If I had a really crazy week last week, and she had a really crazy week this week, we just picked up the slack for each other.
Did you ever imagine doing something like this?
Not at all. Angela wants to go into the music business, and I probably want to work with a non-profit. We love fashion, but it’s not what we imagined doing. You can definitely see bits and pieces of what we love in 1950 Collective. We work with up-and-coming artists. Recently, we came out with two designs for Syrian refugees and the Paris attacks. All the money goes toward helping Syrian refugees.
How would you describe your personal style inspiration?
Fashion makes you feel confident, and some days you’re like, ‘I need to look nice because it’ll make me feel good.’ Inspiration-wise, I like pretty dramatic looks. I love Rihanna and M.I.A. Angela and I had our highest day of sales a month ago, and I was on a high and thought, “I’m going to buy a fur coat.” I definitely love very patterned and fun pieces. Besides that, I don’t think I’m particularly dramatic. I’m honestly such a stickler for finding sales and sticking to what I can find there.
How does it feel seeing people wearing your shirts?
Angela actually just went to a One Direction concert in Boston, and she saw a bunch of people wearing our stuff. It’s crazy, and we definitely freak out. We also encourage the people who buy our stuff to send in pictures to feature them on our Instagram because it’s actually very hard to find a diverse group of models — different body types and different races. I guess they’re not really being told to put themselves out there. [Using Instagram], we know we’re going to get a good group.
What's your favorite shirt design?
I’m personally a huge fan of our social justice/feminist line. The artists we started working with are just ridiculously talented. I love wearing them around.
What would you like your ideal post-college life to look like?
I would want to take a year off to travel. I’m at UT on scholarship, so I want to save up the 1950 money and use it to travel for as long as I can. I’m currently at that sophomore year point where I’m like, “What am I going to do with my life?” I definitely just want to make a difference, which I know sounds cheesy. Right now, I’m trying the non-profit route. I think it’s the most direct way I can help. I would want to start my own non-profit and focus on issues that are important to me. I think I could use a similar model to what we use for 1950.