Teenage Page Powell designs, sews and sells swimwear. (Photo taken by Chuck Fong)
Page Powell was in third grade when her grandmother gave her a great gift: to teach her how to sew. Sewing has become Powell’s passion and she has spent the past eight years honing her skills. Now 16, she’s turned that passion into a small business, Lazanya Sunwear, whose name pays homage in part to her late grandmother and the beloved lasagna she made for her family.
Powell’s friends have always benefited from her sewing skills, often coming to her with requests for alterations or custom-made garments ranging from shorts to prom dresses. Two years ago, his friend Mary Miyamoto asked him to try making her a bathing suit, and Powell was delighted to oblige.
“I wanted to try on a swimsuit because I have all these ideas in my head of what I want in a swimsuit, and I couldn’t find it anywhere,” Powell says, saying that most swimsuits baths on the market today are expensive, poorly-fitting and mass-produced.
“I absolutely hate ‘fast fashion‘ – the overproduction of things and the use of unethical materials,” she says. “Personally, that’s one of the reasons why I like to sew. This is an important value for me.
As more friends began asking for swimsuits, Powell overcame early frustrations of learning to sew on the thin, stretchy fabric, improving with each costume. She created her own designs and came up with several designs. The costumes became so popular among her friends that she decided to try selling some on Etsy’s website, and her small business was born.
She’s sold a few costumes through Etsy, but she says most of her sales have been by word of mouth, as she prefers to focus on tailoring rather than marketing her business. So, in March of this year, she hired 17-year-old Miyamoto to serve as Lazanya’s media manager. Miyamoto took the reins of all marketing and business aspects of the business, including handling all orders and accounting, creating daily social media posts, and attempting to place some of Powell’s designs in local shops.
In the three months since Miyamoto teamed up with Powell, Lazanya Sunwear’s monthly sales have more than tripled and its Instagram presence has grown from 60 followers to 280. Suits range from $55 for a custom two-piece set at $65 for a one-piece set. , and up until now, most of its customers have been other students at State College Area High School, which allowed costumes to be easily customized and hand-delivered.
In keeping with the Lazanya theme, Powell names his designs after pasta shapes, such as the “Fusilli” one-piece and the “Orzo” top. Each suit is lined with no visible seams, and Powell takes particular pride in how each suit fits its individual customers.
“All the reviews we get say something like, ‘This is perfect; it’s the best fitting suit I’ve ever had,’ which makes me really happy,” she says.
She’s also proud of how she’s stayed true to the values that brought her to sewing in the first place.
“Each suit is ethically handcrafted and extremely comfortable and functional. They are not overproduced and they are not overpriced.
Powell has a dedicated sewing studio in her parents’ basement and primarily uses two sewing machines: a standard machine and a “serger,” intended for use with stretch fabrics. She’s taken trips to New York and Atlanta to shop for fabric and also buys some through Etsy.
“Some of these costumes are completely original, which means you’ll never see them again because either the fabric was dead or I only bought a certain amount,” she explains. “A lot of the costumes are one of a kind, which I think is really special.”
Powell says it takes her up to two hours to complete each swimsuit, and she has made sewing part of her daily routine, averaging one a day after school. As the business grows, she understands it might become a challenge to keep up with orders, but for now, she says, “we take it as it comes.”
Powell and Miyamoto met with consultants from Happy Valley LaunchBox for advice on growing their young company. As rising high schoolers, both girls recognize that running a small business will be a great experience as they move into the next chapter of their lives.
Powell says she plans to go to design school after graduating to study fashion or interior design. She plans to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York or the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. When she gets there, she says, she might have to put Lazanya on hold.
“How do you run a business while going to design school? I feel like it would be really difficult,” she says.
But until then, she plans to expand her offerings.
“I’m thinking of selling pajama pants in the winter. I make fuzzy pajama pants and everyone really loves them. I’m also thinking about making board shorts for the guys,” Powell says.
For her part, Miyamoto thinks that kind of hands-on experience will help her when she applies to Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.
“Page gave me a great opportunity,” she says.
All designs and most available fabrics can be easily viewed via the “Custom” modules on Powell’s Etsy page at etsy.com/shop/LazanyaSunwear. Orders are also accepted through Lazanya’s Instagram page, @lazanyasunwear. T&G
Karen Walker is a freelance writer at State College. This story appears in the July 2022 issue of Town&Gown.