Two first-generation college students are working to help the planet, one garment at a time.
As cofounders of the sustainable fashion startup, Infinitely, Nimra Karamat ’23 and Ashley Cardenas ’23 are creating high-quality, affordable clothing that is “ready to take down the world of fast fashion.”
“Brands that greenwash and benefit off of the backs of underpaid workers in underdeveloped countries are the top sellers in fashion,” Cardenas said. “This shouldn’t be our reality. Through Infinitely, we want to inspire people of all backgrounds and identities to lead sustainable lives and help people understand how fast fashion is damaging for the environment.”
Every piece of ethically-produced apparel that Karamat and Cardenas crafts is unique. The fabrics are materials that otherwise would have been discarded, burned, or buried. With each yard of fabric used, the young entrepreneurs estimate that they save 700 gallons of water. Their production methods do not contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Every clothing item is hand-stitched locally in New York City and Connecticut, and all products are shipped in eco-friendly, home compostable shipping mailers.
Cardenas found her passion for entrepreneurship at the age of 11 when she’d create and sell her own bracelets at school, and Karamat already had experience selling her own sustainable clothing online. Together, developed the idea for their “dorm room venture” during their sophomore year at Wesleyan.
“We had been talking about the clothes that we wear and eventually it turned into a discussion about how people of color don’t have access to sustainable clothing because it’s too expense,” Karamat said. “As two women of color, we don’t want to support fast fashion, but sustainable clothing is just too expensive. So, we created Infinitely.”
Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center, has witnessed the birth and growth of the students’ project. “While Nimra and Ashley’s success as entrepreneurs is definitely worth celebrating, I am even more impressed with their values and the way they approach their work. Both of them have a tremendous work ethic, openness to listening and learning, and excitement about experimentation,” Kingsley said. “They are passionate about environmental and social justice, and that drives their work as fashion entrepreneurs.”
Their new sustainable fashion brand is already being noticed. In 2021, it was awarded a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Seed Grant, and in April, Infinitely was honored with a 2022 Connecticut Entrepreneur Award in the “Student Entrepreneur” category. Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12, assistant professor of the practice in environmental studies, also received a first-place entrepreneur award in the “Entrepreneurship Program” category for her class, CSPL239 Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea. The Startup Incubator is a one-semester, experiential learning program designed to teach and enable student entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models from their ideas.
Karamat and Cardenas, who are both studying abroad this semester, say Infinitely is a constant work in progress. They’re currently focusing on ways to expand their venture and grow the business even after graduating.
“We really believe in our vision to make sustainability fashionable and accessible,” Cardenas said. “Sustainability isn’t just for those who can afford it, it’s for everyone. And that’s what we hope for Infinitely to be, an opportunity for everyone to contribute to making a change for our future.”