Nicia John, a 20-year-old dance and psychology major based in Ontario, Canada, is the owner of a vibrant, trendy and inspirational clothing line called Palette Wear which features biblically based scriptures on all of her designs and pieces. “I started in December 2019 in my dorm. And I was 19 years old,” Ms. John shared. Starting as doodles in a bullet journal, the ideas began to spring again and again in her head, that she could turn these drawings into real materials. “I remember sitting at my table one day, and thinking, well, I need to turn this into something else. I felt like it meant so much more than to just keep it in this notebook. So then, over time, it kind of progressed into putting scripture on clothing, and things that I appreciated onto clothing.”
A fashion lover since a child, Ms. John dedicates her love of designing clothes to her young days as a child. She would create small patterns for her dolls.
But of course, the dream of starting a clothing line and actually beginning to manage a business were two different concepts. She had to research and learn about different manufacturing companies, learn about how to get the clothing from her notebook pages onto actual fabrics, and learn about how to actually manage a business and products. Along with this research was new knowledge that was required to learn about marketing, advertising, and website building. “So it took a lot of work and all like, should I do this? Should I do that? No. What’s more expensive, especially as a college student, sitting in her dorm room? It just took a lot of back and forth.”
When it comes to managing the many different roles between business and personal life, Ms. John has battled many new challenges, discouragements, and obstacles. Being a college student, there was little Ms. John knew about starting a business. “I think my biggest challenge was knowing what to do with this product,” Ms. John said. “I had this thing, I had this idea of what next was like, I created a website, but it wasn’t that good. There were so many questions that I hadn’t sat down and just gone through to figure out what the business needed. So that was hard.” Mixing all these new and very scary revelations with being a student dealing with stressful college courses can set anyone up for a stressful failure. But Ms. John found a way to stay inspired during the beginning of her entrepreneurship by visiting retail stores and identifying how they positioned their items. “I remember walking into malls and looking at different product types. Just thinking, oh, this is what polyester and this combination looks like. And I would go through different places and see what brands are doing and look at ads. But for me, I just wanted to get started.”
Taking a look at her Instagram and website prove that Ms. John has learned a lot in a short time and truly cherishes the clothing pieces she has designed. “I looked at what other people in my field were doing, looked at how they were reaching out, or the kind of things that they were doing. (That) really helped me narrow in on this central idea of (balancing) the colors and whites,” Ms. John said. “I didn’t have much. Being a college student, I don’t have a fancy studio to take pictures or a billion models to organize (photo) shoots as much as I’d love to. Just using little things.”
Once Ms. John started blossoming into her new business, the ideas for including scriptures on her pieces got bigger and bigger. Now, as one can notice when looking at her craft, scriptures are a big part of her clothing accessories. “In the beginning, the scriptures were more of a background thing,” Ms. John said. “It was kind of like, I knew I was Christian. So the business website had scriptures on it and what I believed in, but the clothing itself wasn’t very clear. So I think just adding that scripture in real time, I feel like it became obvious that it just meant so much more than just having it in that journal as well. It kind of propelled me to believe, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I need to put this in the forefront instead of just having it hidden in the background.”
Ms. John is inspired to use the things she has, and is not stagnated by the things she doesn’t have yet, sharing “I have a wall, what can I do with that? I have a white light, what can I do with that? I have a photo editing app, what can I do with that? I can change the light, I can put my own light in front of the wall, make it brighter. I can order samples.”
Ms. John makes it a personal mission to include in her clothing bright, vibrant colors to reflect “God’s light”, as her about me page shares on her website. “There’s a common knowledge about what it means to live in Jesus’s light. It’s the light of hope, the light of love, the light of peace, he carries the leadership and way of living in front of the world that people can really feel comfort and peace in,” she shared. “So I kind of asked myself, well, what is light? What does that mean? And in my scientific head, I realized that light is amt electromagnetic spectrum of visible light. So in that white light, there’s all these colors in it. So I was thinking, if that’s Christ’s light and all the little things that he’s doing are like little parts of color. So if we read these little tiny things, we can be the components of what it means to be light and not just say, living in Christ’s light.”
When picking her colors for certain fabrics or designs, Ms. John says that she receives these colors from the scripture she reads and they change based on the scripture she uses. “Living in Christ’s light, what does that mean? That may be living at home; maybe pink, living in green, there’s an entire spectrum of things that contribute to living in light and leading in light. And I feel like I’m just a palette where the entire range of colors in that visible spectrum kind of translate back to a more spiritual sense of light.”
John is inspired by her scriptures she uses for her clothing to help her continue to push past her last year in college and run her business with excellence. “It’s so hard, I always want to quit. I just be like, no, I don’t want this anymore. This is not working, or this thing that I did didn’t pay off, or that didn’t work. So I feel like having the scripture as a source for design for understanding that this is what this piece should look like. But then also, that verse is telling you something; it means go ahead. Keep going, have faith.” Through this process, Ms. John motivates her customers through her aesthetically pleasing pieces with scripture and words of encouragement, and also herself during the creation and idea stages.
Ms. John sees God and nature as a fashion expert and an inspiration to her. While watching a fashion documentary on Netflix, she noted the mention of the colorful birds, the colorful fish in the sea, and how bright the world is. “(Everything) is just so uniquely patterned and designed, He’s a stylist. Even just (looking) at nature. I use a lot of flowers as well, a lot of shadows, a lot of leaves and stuff like that. That’s my inspiration.”
“I’d really like to expand the number of people working on this (business) because with this one man show it is kind of hard to do anything and learn everything on your own,” Ms. John shared with me on her goals and dreams for the company in the future. Right now, Ms. John receives a lot of her direction from her business from the Holy Spirit, whom she considers her business partner. “I’d love to expand (to more people) so that I can focus more on the designing and reaching out to people and collaborating instead of all the little backend things like website coding. So I’m thinking college groups or in places worldwide, or over like online, in this pandemic. And yeah, a very godly, stylish enviornment. Hopefully, we will get to there.”