By Lauren Saxe
What began as two 21-year-old college kids fashioning an original streetwear brand continues to grow as they sell Sky Culture in 200-plus stores across the country, including some of retail’s biggest names such as Forever 21 and Zumiez.
In 2010, IU seniors Corey Arenson and Corey Rosenblum knew their college careers were coming to a close.
Though Arenson, a student in the School of Public Health, and Rosenblum, a student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, did not have any professional experience, the fashion bug kept biting, Arenson said.
“Starting our freshman year, we always talked about it,” Arenson said of the initial idea of a streetwear brand. “We were always the kids that our friends would compliment. We were very into fashion and followed streetwear very closely.”
The two finally decided to start during their final lap on campus.
“Right before our senior year, we got serious and knew we were going to graduate,” Arenson said. “We decided, let’s give it a shot.”
The idea took off when the two created a tank top design for one of the biggest events of the year: Little 500.
“We sold 500 within two days,” Arenson said. “And then we were like, ‘I think we’re on to something.’”
The two began conceptualizing design ideas and manufacturing product in their Bloomington home. In an eight-person house with only seven tenants, they utilized the eighth room as their makeshift studio and showroom.
After graduation, the two made the brand their full-time gig. Hiring a designer out of Chicago and scouting manufacturers in California, the pair attended trade shows to put their first collection on the map.
“We were two 21-year-old kids talking to buyers who have been in the industry for years,” Arenson said. “They weren’t taking us seriously. We got into a bunch of small boutiques at first, but eventually we got our first big sale with Zumiez.”
Arenson attributes a huge part of his success to the network he formed during his time at IU. They work with many professional athletes from IU, including Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Noah Vonleh and Isiah Thomas.
“If it weren’t for IU, we wouldn’t have a company right now,” he said. “The whole Indiana network was super supportive.”
In addition to its IU-affiliated partnerships, Sky Culture has also brought in big names such as Snoop Dogg and Carmelo Anthony.
Though Sky Culture is only online and stocked in stores, Arenson is confident that they will open up a brick-and-mortar shop in the near future in a fashion hub such as New York or California. In the meantime, the Sky Culture team, based out of New York City, continues to climb the ladder.
“Last February, we went to a trade show,” Arenson said. “A Forever 21 buyer was just walking by, and we didn’t know who he was. He saw our main design, this logo called Kid Cloud. He stopped in his tracks, and he went back and looked at it. He’s like, ‘I love this. It fits our store to a T.’”
Two months later, the buyer called back with good news. Sky Culture not only implemented seven of its designs into Forever 21’s online store but also sold out immediately with demands for reorders.
Aside from a March Madness collection coming out soon, Arenson said the next steps are as they always have been: to keep growing and moving forward.
“It took us years and years, but we’re finally starting to take off,” Arenson said.