Finding the perfect outfit is never easy. You might think you've found that tee you've been looking for, but then you turn it around. There’s a weird cut–out the shape of some asymmetrical polygon or an oddly placed lace square in the center of the back. If it weren’t for that one little part, the tee would’ve been perfect. That’s where Lea Chen (W ’19) comes in. Her clothing company Lovelea is providing a new platform for creativity and customized apparel.

The idea behind Lovelea is simple. Put any design on any piece of apparel, whether that be tees, sweatshirts, or stickers among others. Then order your item for a fixed cost at no minimum volume. In the first years following its inception, each piece of clothing was handmade. The initial goal of handcrafting each individual piece was to guarantee quality and diligence, to give the feeling of a unique piece. Just how a store–bought cake will never taste the same as your grandmother’s homemade recipe, you can always tell the difference when something is made with love, hence the name Lovelea. Though the Lea has since switched to another manufacturing process to handle larger orders, the quality has by no means changed. The love is not gone, but it has changed in the way it's expressed. 

Photo Courtesy of Lea Chen

Concentrating in marketing and management on the entrepreneurship and innovation track, Lea founded the company, or project, as she prefers to call it, the winter break of her freshman year. She says the project is “more of a learning opportunity for me and allows me to take risks.” Having always had an interest in the retail and fashion industry throughout high school, she took her first leap into the field with a class in Fashion Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology. There, she was exposed to what it took to build a brand and name for yourself from the ground up. 

She used all that she learned and built her brand around love. Her business card reads: “graphic clothing made with love for lovely people.” While the manufacturing has changed, the love now comes from the concept. Since its beginning, the line has expanded across the nation, shipping to places as far as Hawaii. Because of this expansion, the mission of love isn’t just for the consumers, but on the tangible social impact that comes with this growing influence. A portion of profits go to organizations combatting mental health stigma and supporting LGBTQ communities. It’s perhaps by no coincidence then that a large number of Lea's collaborators, including independent graphic artists in and out of Philly, consist of minority women. 

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The idea of the line also came from her own Wharton Passion Project. While working with fourth graders in a local West Philly school with limited access to the arts, she asked every kid to draw their hopes and dreams. From there, she turned their drawings into T–shirts, turning their hopes into a form of reality. That is the mission of Lovelea. 

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At the heart of the entire line is the customization aspect, which is a testament to Lea’s commitment to innovation. Lea is also the curator of Popstart, a startup for startups. Essentially, it’s a market for physical startups to sell their items, designed in such a way that the experience mirrors that of a flea market. Inspired by Artists & Fleas, a multi–merchant marketplace selling artisan goods, any walk through a Popstart experience is a walk through a multi–merchant marketplace. Just recently, it hosted its biggest pop–up at the TedXPenn conference, bringing a number of vendors from around Philadelphia together. The goal is to make innovation possible and accessible. In the past, it’s also worked with Penn Fashion Collective to put together a retail startup pop–up on campus, sourcing vendors such as Strut for Scoliosis, PATOS Shoes, and the never–old Squirrels Without Morality. 

Between Lovelea Clothing and Popstart, Lea is driving creativity and sparking innovation—all with love.  

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