A trip with a friend to an IKEA furniture store last summer led to a huge boost in Kenny’s popularity online.
“We walked past the IKEA bags and he was like, ‘You should make something out of it,’ ” the San Francisco Bay Area native told Atlanta Black Star.
“I was like, ‘Okay, sure!’ and that’s how it started with the IKEA outfit,” said Kenny, who is double majoring in drama and French.
“I bought the bags and I got home, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” she shared. “I was just kind of [like], ’Well, we’re gonna cut this up and see where it goes.’ ”
With minimal sewing experience under her belt and only a week after getting her first sewing machine, Kenny constructed an entire outfit from IKEA’s signature blue shopping bags.
She didn’t stop there. Since August 2020, the innovative college student has transformed a number of shopping bags from brands, including Walmart, Vans, Target and Trader Joe’s, into wearable designs.
Kenny says depending on how much time she has while juggling work and school, the outfits can take anywhere from eight hours to a few days for her to complete.
“The Trader Joe’s outfit, it took like four days, because I really wanted to do a jacket, but I ended up not having enough fabric,” she said.
Kenny’s dedication and her gift of turning unconventional material into wearable art has earned her a lot of attention online. One of Kenny’s TikTok videos showcasing her eco-friendly outfits has been viewed over 4.5 million times.
The exposure has gained her 80,000 new TikTok followers and 6,000 new Instagram fans. Many fans were amazed by her creativity and called the fashion “iconic.” Many even tagged the department stores featured in her fashion videos, with one fan posting, “IF TARGET DON’T CONTACT YOU RIGHT NNNNNOOOOOWWWWWW.”
But Kenny says her spike in online popularity didn’t happen overnight.
“It didn’t really get that much attention ‘til December,” Kenny explained. “I was making it for fun, and in December, it just kind of blew up.”
You might not guess it from seeing her unique creations, but Kenny says she’s relatively new to the sewing game. She only started sewing on her mother’s Singer Fashion Mate machine last summer.
Though she’s not studying fashion design in college, Kenny says outside of her studies, she lives for fashion.
“I’ve always been, I would say, fashionable, I would like to think!” she laughed. “I get inspired by fashion, all the Fashion Weeks, I’m just obsessed.”
As of now, Kenny has only designed five shopping bag outfits, but she’s upcycled other creations out of unusual materials.
“I’ve been using a lot of fabric scraps that you find at Goodwill, and a lot of curtains,” she said. The creative designer says she’s also used a tapestry and a canvas painting to make a corset.
Kenny revealed that she doesn’t have a specific process when she begins creating her pieces. “For the IKEA dress, I thought, ‘a dress is simple,’ and then, the next one was with Target, and I was like, ‘Well, I like pants,’ ” she said. “So I just go from, like, ‘Do I want pants, a dress, a skirt?’ and then from there, the type of garment.”
Kenny says since she’s still new to designing clothing, she’s a little nervous about the thought of mentoring others, although several people have reached out via social media. The budding designer adds that in the future, as she perfects her craft, she’ll be open to offering guidance to her fellow designers.
“I didn’t go to school or anything, I don’t watch YouTube videos, I just kind of started doing things,” Kenny said.
“Maybe once I learn more, then I will try to be more giving and help others achieve what they want to achieve with sewing,” she said.
Kenny does have advice to share from what she’s learned thus far.
“If you’re a visual learner, you could probably start looking up beginner videos on YouTube, like, what kind of machine to get, what’s the best for your needs,” she said.
“If you’re someone who is like me, more tactical and likes to do things and just figure it out, just get a machine, get fabric and start doing it,” she said.
Before going viral for her shopping bag designs, Kenny’s post-graduation plan was to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. She says, these days, she’s leaning toward a future in fashion and aims to eventually release her own clothing line.