Kayla Garland Fashion Designer of indie bran Sovrin Apparel

Kayla Garland is an American fashion designer and proprietor of independent clothing line SOVRIN apparel. With an astute eye for design and eager DIY attitude, Kayla set her creative goals high at a young age.

Initially inspired by the whimsy and resourcefulness found in Harajuku street fashion, Kayla dreamt up her own designs and began sporting her creations to school. Before long, she sparked the attention of her peers and acquired several commission requests from other fringe fashion lovers.

Unable to find clothing that suited her tastes, Kayla utilized her sewing and printmaking talents to create her own clothing brand in 2012. Not only does Kayla pride herself on producing eco-friendly prints and utilizing ethically sourced fabrics, but she has a hand in every aspect of her business.

Whether it’s designing a new launch, conversing over social media or packaging orders, Kayla has always been dedicated to ensuring her customers receive the most personal and high quality experience possible. SOVRIN’s success is a testament to Kayla’s strong work ethic and enduring passion for creating unique and high caliber apparel. If you would like to find out more about Kayla’s enchanting designs and inspiring entrepreneurial story, read on.

A model posing in a black graphic tank top from Sovrin Apparel

 Tell us a little bit about yourself and the origin behind SOVRIN.

Ah, that’s a loaded first question. Well, I’m 24 and I live in a studio with my cat Lilo in the Willy Street neighbourhood in Madison, WI. I’ve always had an interest in a variety of things: horror and anything paranormal, anatomy, fantasy, horses, nature, music, fashion, and art. Random fact #1: I can be a bit awkward in person. Random fact #2: I’m in love with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (though this may not be of surprise looking at my shop). Random fact #3: My cat, Lilo was named after Lilu from The 5th Element (one of my favorite movies). They told me he was a girl when I purchased him only to find out he was in fact male. SOVRIN all started because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for in apparel. I desperately wanted a tank with a ram skull on it, and could not find it and that’s what fist started SOVRIN.

Black Unisex Ouroboros T-shirt by Sovrin Apparel

How would you describe the core essence of your brand to those whom aren’t familiar with it?

SOVRIN really reflects a myriad of ideas. To name a few: animal anatomy, bone structure (animal), macabre, fantasy, magic, Victorian/filigree, nature, and really anything I find inspiring at the time. I’ve always been influenced by dark fashion (in color and aesthetics).

Sovrin Apparel Black Rune Leggings

What are some of the most influential elements that you feel have helped shape your brands aesthetic?

I think some of the most influential things have been the overall beauty of animistic anatomy. I have purchased quite a few anatomy books on animals, and they are just gorgeous. I look at them whenever I feel like I need inspiration. I also do love going on people’s tumblogs and have found a ton of inspiring photos relating to nature, fabrics, and just people’s overall style.

Sovrin Apprel Charcoal Messenger Bag with Ram Skull Print

How important is it for SOVRIN to uphold a completely ethical and eco-friendly business model?

It is extremely important to me. I order (almost) everything from American Apparel except the bags and handmade items. American Apparel is well known for providing people with a fair living wage, and being sweatshop free/made in the USA. I also use all eco-friendly water based inks. These types of inks can sometimes be more difficult to print with but the struggle is worth it knowing I’m not releasing harmful toxins into the atmosphere while printing. Also, my new Witching Hour designs all use organic bamboo blend materials. Not only is it eco- friendly, but it’s a very strong and soft fabric! Overall, supporting the idea of sustainability has always been something that I strive for. I want to not only create beautiful clothing, but at the same time, know I’m supporting a bigger idea and a healthy earth. Beyond the fact of eco-friendly products, I love supporting other independent designers. I feel like there is a small Etsy community of some bad ass gals with crazy talent. We all support each other in spreading the word and just overall saying “hey, what you made is super rad”. It’s a pretty cool thing to be apart of.

Black Rune Scarf by Sovrin Apparel

Take us through a day in the studio. What does your conceptual and design process entail?

Everyday really is different. It all depends on how many orders I have coming in. I’ve recently been trying to plan out my weeks on Sundays to get a better grasp on what I need to accomplish but that can all be changed due to a wholesale order or a large influx of orders. Usually when I come to “work” (and I say it in quotes because it doesn’t feel like work yet!) I assess what new orders I’ve had come through and see if I have products ready to be sent out. After that, I go through and make print lists of what needs to be done, and print it out there. Some days I do sewing, some days I do smaller tasks like making tags. I’m a very self-sufficient person (though it may not always be to my benefit) so mostly every detail of SOVRIN was done by my hand. As for my design and what my process entail, honestly, I design by what inspires me. Anything can spark that. A beautiful photo, an old horror movie, walking around, different oddities. It’s really an organic process I suppose. I try and keep a sketchbook with me wherever I go so if some idea sparks my mind, I draw it and build off of it.

Sovrin Apparel Black Canvas Elements Backpack

What has been your biggest challenge since embarking on an entrepreneurial path?

There really have been quite a few challenges. First off, I’m a perfectionist of sorts so if a print has some little tiny mishap, I won’t sell it. My parents always tell me they have no idea what I’m talking about, but I still don’t take their word for it. That can definitely be a stressful situation. A huge one has been knowing when to leave a 9-5 job. I have had two different jobs during the time of having SOVRIN, and it’s been a tough decision to leave both times. It’s really a gamble of sorts trying to figure out if it’s the right time to focus more on SOVRIN and give up that stable paycheck. So far though, even though I’ve felt like I’m going to have a heart attack when deciding whether or not to leave, it’s been the right time and decision. Money will always be a gamble, but it’s just a risk that has to be taken. Also, placing your first “big” order through wholesale. Again, I felt like I was dying hitting the confirm order button but you just know it will come back to you and that you aren’t selling your soul.

Sovrin Apparel Black Longsleeve Creature Shirt

When did you first become immersed in the world of fashion and the art of printmaking?

Well funny thing is, I’ve been obsessed with fashion since I was 14. It all started with Harajuku street fashion and Helsinki street fashion. I was infatuated with these crazy outfits people had made or thrifted. I literally stalked Fruits and hel-looks.com. I then started following in their footsteps and making my own clothing (sewn, not printed). Sketching outfits, making collages from magazines, thrifting and sewing clothing. They all became my favorite pastimes. After a while, I started getting recognition in school for my unique style and people wanted garments sewn by me. That’s when I first started my own little company Maverick that’s no longer around. It got a lot of acknowledgement. I participated in four or five runway shows and had a few newspaper and magazine articles written about me. It was probably one of the most exciting times in my life so far. I did take a break from Maverick to focus on school and ended up being a  store manager at Hot Topic. I was in the process of applying for a buying position but managing really wasn’t my thing. I found myself fantasizing about crazy clothing ideas every day and had this “Ram Skull” design that I desperately needed to put on a tank top so that’s when I started SOVRIN. A good friend of mine and fellow Etsy seller, Saul of The Bare Tree taught me how to print. I honestly don’t think I ever would have gotten into printing had it not been for him.

Sovrin Apparel OOAK Mannaz Heavy Drape Cardigan

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs that wish to turn their artistic passions into a successful business venture?

Just go for it. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and say they have these things they want to do so badly, but have  something like a job or money standing in the way. Well I’ve found that the reality of it is that you are the only one standing in your way. So move over, and go do what you want to do. Save up $500 or $1000 and start small. Apply for a credit card or try Kickstarter and give it a big push and don’t give up. If you are a youngin’ reading this, I’d say start now. Find any way to get into that niche you are looking to be in whether it be through blogging, a small etsy shop and just make what you want for fun and learn what the necessary tools are. Find any way to get yourself out there. The younger you are, the more people will be amazed at what you are doing and in the end have the world looking at what you are doing.

Black Sovrin Apparel Snake Skeleton Unisex Hoodie

What is your utmost passion in life besides fashion design?

It’s my absolute dream to one day own a horse. I used to show ride horses when I was younger and it’s by far the most incredible and exhilarating feeling. I miss it dearly but in time I hope
to have a small farm and my own horse.

Sovrin Apparel Black Long Sleeve Elements Top

What projects can we expect from SOVRIN in 2015?

It’s my goal to re-release some tank top designs. I think I may have just found a winner. It has a longer back and a great drape but it will be a bit before that comes out. Also, I’m going to try and release more hand sewn/printed apparel. I feel like I stand out a bit in having the talent to sew and print. I should really try and utilize that to create fully customized and unique items. It all is very time consuming, but this being my only job now I’m going to do my best to use every minute of it!

A big thank you goes out to the wonderfully talented Kayla Garland for taking the time to share her art and expertise with us. It is an honor to have been able to host this interview and I hope that you, my dear readers, have enjoyed it as well. Please check out Kayla’s undeniably awe inspiring works on her official site as well as her Facebook and Instagram pages to follow her upcoming work!


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