Kate Coughlin

kate coughlinKate is an SDSU alumnus who started an upcycled clothing company, Jazzy Mabel. She gives another life to pre-loved clothing through her bright colors and eye-catching designs! Her business is primarily on Instagram @jazzymabel and in a few weeks, her website jazzymabel.com will be available. Continue reading to hear about sustainability in Kate’s business, her artistic journey, and advice for students.

You created an upcycled clothing company! Can you tell us a little bit about your work?

“I work with pre-loved clothing. Everything that I work with is either from my own closet, donated to me, found at yard sales and thrift stores, or taken from my customers. Sometimes people will bring me items and we will work out a discounted order for them. Mostly, I use local thrift stores and yard sales. I take items in great condition as well as damaged items that I mend and tailor. I primarily use fabric paint but also sew, embroider, use dyes and bleaches, and tie dye. I like bold, bright colors and repeating patterns. As long as the style is something that speaks to me and my customers, I am willing to give anything a go.”

How is sustainability incorporated into your business?

“Every single item I use is from my own closet, donated, or repurposed. I give new life to items that would otherwise be forgotten or tossed away. Additionally, I take damaged items to mend or use as patches, wall hangings, etc. I use a lot of natural dyes and try to not use any art supplies that I don’t already own. When it comes to paint, I use it to the very last drop before I restock. When I first started, I was doing jewelry as well and I would only use items that I found at the thrift shop to make the jewelry. I try to be as mindful as I can when it comes to sustainability, and it’s highlighted in how I source my clothing.”

Where did you get the idea for Jazzy Mabel?

“It came from boredom and from wanting to create something that made me happy. I was a theatre major at SDSU and graduated last year (2020). I was burnt out with the creativity that I was supposed to be focusing on and was finding difficulty engaging with my Zoom classes. However, I really missed being creative. One day, I wanted to go thrifting for a new outfit. Of course, that wasn’t safe at the time nor was it possible because thrift stores were closed. Undeterred, I found old, blank pieces at my house and taking bleach and a paintbrush, I created some designs I really liked. I was so stoked that I posted about it on Instagram and many people liked them! Next, I started an Instagram and came up with the name for my business, Jazzy Mabel. Jazzy has always been a symbol of youth and creativity because it was the name of a ladybug that my dad would use in bedtime stories. Mabel is one of my middle names. It felt right to combine the two and soon enough, I had the name! I started getting orders immediately and at first I had one or two orders that I was working on at a time.”

What is your favorite part about your job?

“The customers. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really is. It’s really encouraging when people reach out to you whether to buy something, repost, or tell you that they love your work. It uplifts you and encourages you to carry on. Also, working with people and doing custom work is amazing! Talking to them, seeing how excited they are, and witnessing how a specific piece is speaking to them is so much fun! The joy I get from customers makes everything worthwhile. I just had a pride event called Over the Rainbow hosted by Jazzy Mabel and I debuted my pride line. It was so fun to talk to customers and sell my clothes in an in-person space.”

What advice do you have for students interested in starting their own sustainable business?

“Number one: Just get started. Also, work cannot come from stress especially if you’re doing something artistic. Create what you like and what makes you happy. If you like what you’re creating, others will too. Something else I want to emphasize is that the cost of your time, brainpower, and most of all your uniqueness is valuable. Lastly, don’t immediately discount your products the minute someone doesn’t buy. It’s common for people to reach out but not follow through. If someone doesn’t respond, don’t immediately lower the price because it can send the message that you don’t value your work. Consider waiting because someone will most likely buy it at full price. After a few weeks if it’s not sold, then you can consider lowering your price or having a sale. Value your work, time, and artistic vision.”