Starting Up in Style

From producing the fashion show Eleganza to promoting high fashion through the Vestis Council, Harvard students have proven that they know how to rock the world of style and couture. Three student fashion startups strive to combine students’ love of style with a desire to give back to their community.


Inspired by the belief that fashion should be accessible to all, Harvard Law School graduates Joana Florez and Bridgette L. Hylton launched their fashion business ShopRagHouse this summer. The business partners want to allow insider access to the fashion world by allowing users to submit their original clothing designs.

“ShopRagHouse is for the everyday fashion enthusiast who believes that they have something to contribute to the conversation around fashion,” said Hylton.

By opening the design floor to fledgling fashionistas, even those who don’t have a background in art or fashion, Florez and Hylton hope to make fashion more inclusive.

“Companies are being forced to be more responsive to the consumer market,” Hylton said.

The resulting start-up is an online platform that allows users to vote on the submitted designs, and the most popular sketches are transformed into samples available for purchase through the website. The designers of the winning sketches receive a 20 percent cut of the profits made from sales of their designs.

The ShopRagHouse website, which went live this fall, already has about 200 members. Over 30 designs have been submitted by users, and ShopRagHouse recently produced its first sample based on a design created by Florez and Hylton.

The duo highlighted the importance of technology as a means of conducting business.

“We really believe that tech-space is the future of retail,” said Hylton.

Using an online platform, ShopRagHouse plans to reach people all over the world. A recently submitted design came from a user based in Italy.

The two founders cite their experience at HLS, and their professors, as factors that encouraged them to found their own business.

“From the first day of law school, they were constantly encouraging people to go out into the world and think outside the box,” Florez said.

“It’s not just an in-class experience,” Hylton agreed. “The community itself breeds innovation.”

In the future, the HLS graduates would like to provide mentorship for emerging designers.