At UH, she is honing skills to support her business in the Master of Arts in Arts Leadership (MAAL) program. The MAAL program is specifically designed to provide students like Zeren with the tools needed to develop and sustain an artistic enterprise.
“The Arts Leadership program has been great for networking and meeting new people within the arts community in Houston,” she said. “I feel much more connected now.”
Before becoming a UH Cougar, Zeren studied fashion at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and worked as a women’s clothing designer for Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. But after several years of working for a large company, she was ready for a big change. In fact, she set her sights on volunteering internationally and fell into designing men’s accessories as a way to fund her travel plans.
“At RISD, [my classmates and I] were constantly drafting our own patterns and making stuff, and I started to miss that after a while…[and] men’s neckties seemed like a fun thing to try,” she said.
Her work has grown to include bowties, pocket squares, and several artist collaborations, ranging from hand-dyed fabrics to handcrafted leather goods and all natural apothecary products. Some of the artisans she collaborates with include O’Douds All Natural, Anvil Handcrafted, and textile artist Kari Breitigam.
Zeren is committed to running a for-profit company with a mission that goes beyond simply maximizing profit.
“I believe that business owners have a certain responsibility to act with integrity,” she said. “It [is] important to me to support American manufacturing while reducing my carbon footprint as much as possible.” To meet this goal, all of her products are made in the United States with sustainably sourced fabrics.