PANDEMIC PURSUITS: How six entrepreneurs launched businesses during lockdown

Sen Morioko
Sen Morioka

Sen Morioka, Fashion Design ’16

His new brand’s lookbook was at the printer when the lockdown hit New York, but Sen Morioka didn’t panic. Since falling in love with fashion as a boy while watching his mother, a dressmaker, trace patterns, Morioka had worked toward creating his own clothing line.

He studied Fashion Design at FIT, interned with Narciso Rodriguez, and built his skills working with the kinds of luxury fabrics he hoped to use in his designs. Rather than churning out clothing to match trends, Morioka chose a slow-fashion strategy—sourcing quality fabrics and designing small-batch collections meant to last a lifetime rather than a single season. After years of determined effort, on the cusp of launching his brand Senbo, even the extreme twist of a global pandemic couldn’t shake Morioka’s belief in the future.

“That’s the good thing about being a slow-fashion company,” he says. “I believed in myself. I believed in my work.”

Early on, Morioka caught COVID-19, which hit him hard. Finally recovered in April, he wondered what to do with the garments—flowing dresses and skirts in soft cottons and linens whose precise pleats and asymmetrical hems added an air of low-key romance–that were ready for launch. He listed them on Depop, an online marketplace, where his first customer immediately bought three pieces. “That was a good sign,” he says.

Throughout the year, Morioka continued to design and steadily drop new pieces with a focus on both comfort and beauty that he hopes will help customers maintain “good spirits in difficult times.”

“Nothing will be easy,” he says. “But with or without a pandemic, there is always a way to do our best. I’m very optimistic.”