Jun. 26, 2021

PANDEMIC PURSUITS: How six entrepreneurs launched businesses during lockdown

Fatima Vali.

Fatima Vali, MPS Global Fashion Management ’19

When the lockdown squashed her job search, Fatima Vali’s confidence plummeted. But her love for denim brought it back.

Vali graduated in December 2019, eager to start a new career. But as the coronavirus swept across New York City, her job interviews disappeared.

Feeling stuck, Vali joined her brother’s volunteer efforts to find masks for health care workers near their Long Island home. One day, he suggested she use her degree to produce them herself. “That’s when the New Denim Project hit me,” Vali says.

For her capstone project the previous fall, Vali had worked with a Guatemala-based textile mill with an upcycling ethos: They gathered garment waste and grinded the scraps into fabric, creating something new. Vali realized making sustainable masks from her favorite textile could be her own salvage project for an upended year.

Naming the company Soulitude—with the motto “Embrace Your Journey”—helped Vali stay positive.

“It was about holding your head up and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

The months leading up to Soulitude’s November launch served as a crash course in entrepreneurship, making the first rush of orders all the more exhilarating.

“I closed my eyes,” she says. “I just wanted to take it all in. This was happening after all my hard work, and it just felt so good.”

Confidence restored, Vali plans to launch a new product—denim travel duffel bags—this summer. “I’m really excited for what comes next.”