By: Ellie Roberto, Executive Editor
Picture from @friskmegood on Instagram
Cierra Boyd spoke with Variant Magazine members about her experiences as a founder of Variant and her journey to becoming a fashion designer. This story provides a glimpse into our inspirational meeting with her and zooms out to show her impact in the sustainable fashion industry.
Regency-era corsets have made a recent runway revival, and now designer Cierra Boyd is adding recycled materials to the mix. Her Cleveland-based fashion label FRISKMEGOOD™ turns your dad’s old Skechers into covetable masterpieces by reworking them into bold, upcycled corsets, bodysuits and bags.
Designs by Cierra Boyd, self-taught designer and founder of FRISKMEGOOD, have been featured in Nylon magazine, HYPEBAE, The Verge and most recently, a full-page spread in Vogue Mexico: a model, posing horizontal wearing leggings, a blue blazer, white Nike trainers with matching socks, and Boyd’s own New Balance sneaker bodysuit. Her reaction, “Bitch I’m in Vogue,” was complete with five crying emojis, and her Instagram feed was filled with congratulations from friends and fans who have watched her brand grow from the start.
Magazine features like this have not always been a part of FRISKMEGOOD’s story. In fact, Boyd feels that she’s just now getting everything she’s wanted: living in her studio and being able to design full-time.
Boyd started FRISKMEGOOD after she graduated from Ohio University in 2017 with a degree in Retail and Fashion Merchandising. Before that, her first experience with fashion design was for herself. Boyd made her own outfit for her 21st birthday party because she couldn’t figure out what to wear. It was a red dress, “not put together well at all,” she says, but from that point on she was dedicated to improving her sewing skills by watching YouTube videos.
Out of college, even with her degree Boyd couldn’t keep a job or make over $13 an hour. “Like dang. Should I have been a doctor or something? What should I have done?” she laughs. She says she had to learn to stick with what she loves, even if it meant living in her mom’s house for three years after graduation. “For me, I took that as a sign that I should be focusing on my business,” she says.
It wasn’t until she entered a fashion competition that she got the idea for her signature sneaker corsets. Watching an episode of VICE about a guy who made gas masks out of shoes, she was inspired to do something similar. With old shoes, Boyd made her first corset and won second place in the competition. Her small collection from the show sold on Depop, giving her the confidence to continue making upcycled garments.
On Depop, FRISKMEGOOD has been featured on the explore page, which gave the designer more exposure and increased her sales on the app. Now, her corsets sell for over $600.
“I really have to give a lot of credit to Depop for my success because they really gave me a platform,” Boyd says. “It gave me like a sense of belonging and understanding and acceptance.”
Clearly, Boyd has a “can do” attitude. She talks with energy and excitement like she’s constantly on the verge of dropping big news. However, she had to learn to maintain this positivity even in difficult situations, like people trying to steal her designs or claiming her ideas weren’t original.
“I’ve had to learn that, you know, when you’re a small business, people will try to take advantage of you even from things like, from influencers trying to get like free stuff, which that’s not what being an influencer is about,” Boyd says.
Even if it was unconscious at first, Boyd says that she’s always been a “thrifty” girl, shopping at Value World in high school and local thrift stores in Athens, Ohio during college. Since starting her business, she has given up fast fashion, including Zara, which was her favorite, but for obvious reasons, she still buys new shoes occasionally. “I don’t even buy shoes for myself,” she says. “I always cut them up.”
Boyd’s studio is littered with piles of shoes, blankets, t-shirts. It’s in these piles of what some might call trash that Boyd finds her inspiration. Her process, like her materials, is untraditional.
She explains that she doesn’t sketch her pieces like “regular designers.” “I really just let the materials pick me when it’s time,” she says. “It’s very random and spontaneous and I like to keep it organic. I like to just make what makes me feel happy at the moment and what inspires me.”
Boyd sees the future of her business as being circular, meaning “not throwing away any materials at all whatsoever and always finding a way to utilize the pieces that will get thrown away and preventing things from getting in the landfill,” she says.
Fast-changing style trends feed fast fashion, which feeds landfills. According to the EPA, 70% of clothing and footwear ended up in landfills in 2018. Only 13% of clothing and footwear were recycled. Clothes with cheap price tags are attractive to those not wanting to break the bank every season but still participate in the latest trends. Of course, there are other wallet-friendly alternatives to buying new clothes, such as thrifting or buying used clothes off Poshmark or Depop, which is how Boyd does business.
Zara, Boyd’s ex-favorite label, is a flagship brand of Inditex Group, one of the world’s largest fast fashion companies. The store sells inexpensive versions of the season’s biggest styles that appear high-end.
In 2019, CEO of Inditex Pablo Isla announced that by 2025, “100% of the cotton, linen and polyester used by all eight of its brands will be organic, sustainable or recycled.” Zara’s Join Life environmental label is tagged on 30% of its garments, which are either made from ecologically grown cotton, Tencel, or recycled polyester, according to Zara’s website.
Despite the change in attitude towards commitment to sustainability, many are still skeptical of Zara’s ability to shed its fast-fashion label. In an NPR interview, Elizabeth L. Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” says styles with a fast turnover, like those sold at Zara, “still swallows a lot of energy, regardless of whether it’s using organic cotton or selling products in more eco-efficient stores.”
Zara received a score of 4.4 on the Fashion Transparency Index 2020 conducted by Fashion Revolution, which ranks brands “according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices, and impacts.”
Not everyone can afford to invest in well-made pieces from transparent brands, whose prices are often high but reflect the quality of materials used and fair wages paid to workers. Therefore thrifting or upcycling clothes appeals to some fashion lovers’ wallets and eco-friendly values.
Boyd is used to this clever, thrifty lifestyle that has allowed many to live sustainably without the high price tags. She makes a living off it. With little money and student loans to pay, Boyd grew her business from nothing by utilizing the resources she had available. Her goal is to become one of the first well-known sustainable fashion houses. Boyd wants to represent hardworking, sustainable fashion designers and “show people that you can do it and you don’t need to be wealthy just to have a successful clothing line. All you need is talent and passion and you can keep going,” she says. As Boyd looks back on the past three years growing her business, she reminds herself to never take things for granted or act like she’s better than others, “I just really tried to stay true to myself, and I want to continue to do that no matter how big or the level that my clothing line will ever be on. I just always want to stay true to myself and my mission and who I am.”