As many Kenyon students have had to find new hobbies and activities to fill their time in quarantine, Lili Bernstein ’22 has taken the chance to start selling homemade clothing online. With the help of her mother, Bernstein has started to create and sell homemade tie-dye underwear and tank top sets through her Instagram account @smallgiraffe. While Bernstein views the activity as a sort of passion project, the venture is philanthropic as well; 30 percent of the proceeds go to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure all children are able to get healthy meals.
“I really have watched the tie-dye trend go up and I like some of the tie-dye that I’ve seen, but, personally, I wanted to just take my own spin and work on colors that I thought would be cool,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein’s methods of tie-dying are unique. Rather than using a boxed tie-dye set, which could take up to six hours to dry, Bernstein has opted for Rit dye, a higher-quality dye, and rolls her garments up with rubber bands. The rubbered-banded groups will usually contain six tank tops and four pairs of underwear.
“I [then] put it in Saran Wrap,” Bernstein explained, “and then I put it in the microwave and it heats up, and expands and it absorbs the dye into the fabric. Then after that, I rinse it in the sink … when I do batches of colors, I’ll probably rinse it for a total of an hour to really get all the dye out. And then you wash it and dry it. And that’s it.”
While Bernstein enjoys creating these pieces, she is also motivated by the charitable aspect of her work.
“I’ve always been interested in the crossover between art, and giving art back in a way,” Bernstein said. “If you have the privilege to work on something that you’re passionate about, that’s amazing. But also if you can give back, if you don’t necessarily need all of the profits that you’re making.”
Bernstein has sold over 55 total articles of clothing, and is looking to expand the types of clothing she tie-dyes as time progresses.
“We’re using the classic Hanes tank tops, due to the circumstances; however, once we get out of the shelter-in-place lifestyle, we’re hoping to become more eco-friendly and use vintage tank tops that I can easily find in like thrift stores here,” Bernstein said. “We [also] want to do like boxers and little canvas hats for the summer. So we’re trying to broaden our inventory for a more wide audience.”
Customer reviews so far have been positive. Mia Potter ’20 purchased a set after seeing Bernstein promote them on Instagram.
“I’m really happy with the set,” Potter wrote in a message to the Collegian. “Most of my clothes are still at Kenyon, so it’s nice to have a cute new shirt to wear during this time.” Anyone who is interested in purchasing a set can follow and message Bernstein on her Instagram account @smallgiraffe.