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Meet Kayla Cornelius of Kayla Zwa in Silverlake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kayla Cornelius.

Kayla, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am originally from Los Angeles, California but at the age of 13, I moved to Santa Barbara to live with family and it gave me perspective on life that involved traveling and opened my eyes to the bigger world around me at a young age. After high school, I was working at a consignment store and loved being able to trade in my clothes weekly, discovering designer brands I never heard of and being able to develop my personal style. The time had also come where I felt like I needed to see more and had to get out of Santa Barbara. So I moved to San Francisco at age 20 and finally settled on fashion as my major. There were lots of abrupt lessons I learned leaving my small town. I was ready to dive into the industry and the only way to start that journey was to work in retail. I worked all over the city and my eyes were widen to the possibilities of what my career would be.

Once I got enough credits to transfer, I went to Cal State Long Beach. While I was taking classes, I was working two jobs. I was shipping sneakers at the store Flight Club and working as a personal assistant for the former creative director of Jeffrey Campbell. Working with her, I got to see first hand how the look books & photoshoots were created from start to finish. She taught me a lot, but what I still remember to this day is how important it is to have a go to team. With ateam, you can work with people you trust and whatever you need is one call away. Everyone benefits. As time went by, I continued to take on more freelance jobs and internships eventually working in apparel development for a streetwear brand for a few years.

Through these various jobs within the fashion industry, each position has helped me learn something new and now I am running my own business. 2020 has brought challenges; making things more difficult than usual to navigate especially with COVID-19. I am finding new outlets where I can show my creativity and put all of this energy I have towards something meaningful to myself and those around me. Through my years of buying, selling, and collect pieces I decide to start my own vintage reselling business via Depop (depop.com/kaylazwa). It is a great learning experience for understanding how to really run my own company and handling each aspect of the work that needs to be done. This foundation that I’ve been building has opened more opportunities and leading me towards creating my own clothing also. This is something exciting for me because things are all lining up for me to do what I feel I was meant to do.

Great, 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?
Definitely hasn’t always been a smooth road, but I have learned to be as adaptable to change as I could possibly be. There were times when I was working in streetwear, where I had some difficulty finding my voice and had to practice speaking up in a mostly male-dominated industry. I also have faced some difficulties when I was working on a smaller team, but I learned to be resourceful and determined to help in the long run.

Nothing is going to be perfect, my motto that I live by is: You have to endure the darkness to appreciate the light. A lot of the spaces I thought I wanted to be in or wanted to be in weren’t as perfect as I expected them to be. After seeing them for what they were, it help to see what I wanted to contribute and figure out ways to add my own style to the industry. Now, I feel that if what I am doing isn’t serving me in a meaningful or purposeful way then it isn’t for me.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a freelance stylist and vintage collector and seller. I haven’t been styling as much because everything is shut down at the moment so I am currently selling gently used and vintage clothes online via Depop and my Instagram stories. Each piece is hand-selected by me and reflects my style. I am most proud that during the few months that I have started, I already have a pretty solid following and been selling consistently. With sustainability also being a major focus in the fashion industry today, I feel that it is important to find a new home for these great clothes instead of them going to waste. It motivates me everyday to continue finding great and unique items. From sourcing the pieces to planning the shoots to packaging the orders, the whole process gives me joy. I am also planning on starting my own women’s clothing line and that has been fun brainstorming and planning how I want to represent myself as a brand. I have watched how everything is done in the industry, now it is my time to shine in my own way.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I believe that drive, optimism and being resourceful are the most important qualities to my success. All of these have made everything I have today possible and these traits keep me motivated in terms of wanting to do more.

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Image Credit:

Top Left: Alyssa Leyendecker Photo by: Raul Romo, Top Right: Annessa De La Cruz Photo by: Jay Will

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