We’re all smiles for this brand curated for people who don’t fit into a category.
Paige Kirby had an unhealthy relationship with clothing and fashion – and she was tired of it.
“I was kind of stuck in this rut,” said Paige. “I thought to look good in trendy clothes I had to lose weight – I had to be like a stick figure. And I’m a normal size… there’s nothing wrong with my size.”
Paige, an Ohio University senior studying strategic communication, deeply felt the lack of body type representation in fashion, especially when it came to styles that are seen as the most popular.
After feeling fed up with not seeing the sizes or styles she wanted, Paige decided to create her own brand instead.
“I wanted to have a collection of clothes where women felt the same thing: like they didn’t have to lose weight to look good in clothes,” said Paige.
With body positivity and increased representation at the forefront of her mind, Paige created Whatever Makes You Happy: a brand for people who are tired of trends being unattainable and unflattering toward certain body types.
Paige wrestled with the idea for a while, initially dreaming it up her sophomore year of college. In starting the brand, she broke it down into baby steps: she started saving up money, got her business license, and started looking into vendors. But she didn’t really have time to commit to it until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“This summer, my internship was canceled because of the pandemic,” said Paige. “And I thought, ‘You know what, it’s the perfect time to start this business.’”
Whatever Makes You Happy officially launched in June of 2020. Paige uses Business-to-business (B2B) wholesale to buy from brands that sell exclusively through wholesale. She receives shipments and sends out orders all from her off-campus house on Congress Street.
In keeping with the theme of representation, Paige tries to feature a lot of different styles on the website. From cottagecore pieces to trendy California vibes, her goal is for all of her customers to be able to find something that speaks to them on the website.
In addition to clothes, Paige has a self-care section of the website that features vegan, cruelty-free products like sugar scrubs, bath bombs, and candles. This addition was the brainchild of Paige’s mother, Erin Kirby, who serves as the self-care section’s buyer and candle-maker.
“I think it’s really beautiful that she’s so supportive and really loves to help out,” said Paige. “Her background is in finance so she helps me a ton with that. And it’s surprisingly one of the easiest relationships – we definitely are way different people and have two different business styles, but she keeps me motivated and on track with a lot of things.”
Erin wanted to contribute not only because of her endless support for her daughter, but also because she has more time on her hands now that she’s an empty nester.
“It was just a way for me to find a little bit of a hobby and then still contribute to her business,” said Erin.
Although quarantining gave both Kirby women time to buckle down and focus on the logistics, the pandemic’s impact on the economy certainly made Paige nervous. In order to combat this, she made sure the website didn’t rely on selling out of product to be able to stay afloat. All of the money she makes is poured right back into buying more clothes for customers, and she tries to keep her products in an affordable price range, with self-care products varying from about $8 to $20 and clothing varying from about $25 to $50, depending on the type of piece.
The first launch was meant to be a test to see if people would be interested, and Paige had no idea she’d get the response she did.
“The response was way overwhelming,” said Paige. “This summer, I reached goals and I beat records of my own that I was definitely not expecting to. I can’t even describe the feeling. It was just so overwhelmingly beautiful that people were paying attention and they were ready and willing to support.”
Paige is right around her 200th order. Though she still gets excited when she sees it’s a customer she doesn’t know, Paige is extremely grateful to have received a great deal of support from people she does know, mainly her friends. She even has involved her friends in collaborations with the business, including social media posts and modeling the clothes for the website.
Lily Miles, a senior studying psychology, is one of Paige’s friends who has modeled the brand and describes Paige as the ultimate hype-woman during the photoshoots.
“She was like, ‘Can you be one of my models?’ And I was just so excited,” said Miles. “I’ve done a couple of her releases and because she’s such a close friend, to see that professional in her come out and how well she does it… she empowers me.”
Paige has also featured Miles on Whatever Makes You Happy’s Instagram account, which Paige emphasizes is a key part to building the brand.
“It used to be all content that I created and now it’s more and more user-generated content,” said Paige. “And that’s a beautiful thing that almost brings me to tears. That means that I’m doing my job; I am creating a community, and they are finding inspiration off of each other.”
Paige plans to continue this business after she graduates from school and hopefully turn it into more of a full-time job rather than a side project. In the future, she hopes to get into self-manufacturing so she can further expand her clothing size range and create more gender-neutral silhouettes to appeal to more than just women. She is also researching more ways to make the brand more eco-friendly.
But for now, Paige is happy with the brand she’s created and the satisfaction she’s given to customers. Her friends are quite proud, too.
“I think she is just a wonderful woman,” said Miles. “Ever since I’ve known her, she just empowers others and literally is just sunshine. I really feel like anyone that buys her clothes, they feel amazing in them. You would think you have your own boutique and you want your style to be out there, but she really lets everyone express their own style through her clothes.”
This experience has been particularly special to Paige, not just because she’s doing something she’s wanted to do for so long, but also because of the collaboration with her friends and, especially, her mom.
“She has been selling products since I think she was in the third grade, whether that be making her own jewelry or various other things through the years,” said Erin. “She’s always had that background, so it didn’t surprise me when she was met with the challenge of ‘I don’t really have a summer job now, and so I think I’m going to start this business.’ She’s always been successful, so I knew she would put forth her best foot with this venture, also.”
Paige has met her goals and set new ones for the business, but that’s never her main concern. No matter where she’s buying from or how many people are visiting the website, her first and foremost concern will always be creating a community for people to feel seen, and find whatever products make them happy.
“I don’t want anyone to look at a page and think that ‘I don’t belong here because I don’t see somebody like me,’” said Paige. “The whole idea behind the items that I pick are so women feel like they have a place where they can shop and have this community that they can look at via my social media and see themselves. I definitely never want to base my business off of claims. I’m more of ‘Here’s what I’ve got right now, here’s what it looks like and I’m always gonna keep trying to do better.’”