Kent State has one of the top fashion design programs in the nation. With that high honor comes high caliber students. Meet Zion Burrell, a sophomore fashion design student who has created his own brand. His one of a kind designs can be found on his Instagram Zionbcouture. But, for a special look into both the designer and brand, A Magazine has sat down with Zion for an exclusive chat.
How did you know you wanted to be a designer? How long have you been designing?
I’ve been designing for like a year now. I’ve always been into distressing and bleaching jeans in middle school for fun, but I really got into designing recently.
Have you had any internships?
I have not had any internships before. Prior to the basic sewing class we take here, I didn’t know how to sew. I didn’t really have much experience. I was just like an artist from Pittsburgh. But fashion design is no different from art in general, so what I knew how to do was useful in my design.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your own brand?
The outreach and marketing and getting my designs in a place where people can see them were definitely the most challenging. I also found finding a way to balance the brand and school sort of challenging.
How do you build your clientele? Do you find it to be hard to find new clients?
I don’t really have a specific method. I really just focus on marketing. I try to get my stuff on the archive pages where you can put your designs up. They are pretty much fashion hubs and that definitely helps.
photo: dana mckinney
How big of a role does social media play in your sales?
So, I don’t have a website yet so I just handle all of my sales through instagram DM’s right now. They send me the Cashapp or Paypal and I ship within 48 hours. I send the tracking and that’s that. Sometimes people will send me pictures of them in the clothes and sometimes they don’t even let me know if they got it, but that’s it.
How much does your life experience and surroundings affect your designs?
I would say like 200%. With each piece I like to have a specific story or setting in mind and usually that comes from something from my childhood. That’s why I try to live as much as I can because that creates fuel for my designs.
How would you describe your brand? When designing, who is the person you have in mind?
I definitely just want to make something fresh. People might have done it before, but I feel like it’s my turn. I want to make something new and never seen before. I am sustainable in my fabric choices and I incorporate my art into my work.
What kind of designer do you consider yourself to be?
To put it simply, one person who I think is really doing it right is Mike Amiri. He is a high-end designer, like $2,000 jeans, but his clientele is still young, like a lot of rappers and young rich people. So that’s my goal. I want a younger, designer clientele high- end. And I feel like because my clothes are handmade and one of a kind, my brand is definitely headed that way. I consider myself to be a couture designer.
Can you describe your design process?
I like to see the final design first and break it down from there. I have this thing where my first ideas are usually my best. Like, if I just take the initial idea and work on it and build it up and that usually works out. I’m usually designing with the idea of “I would rock this” or I “think it’s just really fire.” I just try and keep it simple.
If you had to pick, what celebrities would you have wear your clothes?
I could see my clothes on a lot of rappers. Trippie Redd, Drake, Future. I could also see a lot of pop stars like Ariana Grande wearing my clothes as well.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I would definitely say that anime and early 2000’s culture are big influences. I also look to Europe. I like to look at archives like early CDG. But, my favorite designer is Yohji Yamamato. When designing, I try to take from the historical and put them out in a new futuristic
What is the ultimate vision for your brand? Where do you see the brand in 10 to 20 years?
I want to be a household name and take my designs global. Even if I’m like Virgil Abloh where I’m the head designer for a designer brand, that fits my aesthetic. That would be fire.
How do you determine your prices?
I determine my prices based off of the material cost. I try not to consider how long it takes to create but it can sometimes play a factor in the pricing just because I am doing this by myself. I know that I don’t want to sell anything below $75. My first piece sold for $200. Once you show the craftsmanship and the confidence that you put into your brand, people won’t question your price.
photo: dana mckinney
Have you sold your clothes internationally?
Yeah, so I had orders from Switzerland and the Ukraine. International orders are kinda hard to do because you have to deal with customs and all that.
How did you get the opportunity to sell your clothes to Juice Wrld?
So I made a pair of pants last summer to go with a jacket that I had already made. When I finished the pants I dropped the collection and nobody really noticed them. So I started marketing and sending them to the archive pages and I got a DM from Ally Lotti, who is Juice Wrld’s girlfriend, just saying, ‘can I buy this jacket for myself and then the pants as well for Jarad.’ I didn’t even know who Jarad was and I was like, who is that and she said ‘Juice Wrld.’ I was like wow, is this even real? She said ‘yeah’ and I got straight to business.
Is there anything that you would like to say that we haven’t gotten to cover?
Along with my art, I feel like who I am as a person is very important too. It gives me an edge. There aren’t many African American designers on top of straight, African American designers. I really just want to go against the grain of society just on the personality side of what you expect out of the designer and typical high-end brand.