Five USC fraternity brothers have utilized the relationships they have forged in college to start their own clothing company, Kamala Trunks, which launched last month. What started as a common frustration between two freshman dorm neighbors to find the perfect pair of fashion-forward but still functional trunks turned into a five-man business after their fraternity brothers and friends hopped on board. Daniel Metoudi and Alex Jamiolkowski, both current juniors majoring in business administration, came up with the original vision. They then recruited Jonathan Tannenbaum, a junior majoring in business administration; Jonathan Delman, a junior majoring in communication; and Devon Mychal, a senior majoring in communication.
Jamiolkowski and Metoudi found themselves drawn to the brands of shorts from Europe, Australia and New Zealand but found that those brands often didn’t ship to the United States, or if they did, they cost upward of $125.
“[The shorts sold by] all of the brands in the U.S. were a bit longer, a bit baggier, the prints were tackier,” Metoudi said. “We noticed that a lot of people started wearing shorter shorts, and that was kind of our style too. We realized that there just weren’t enough options available for American consumer even though [shorter and less baggy shorts]were a trend that was picking up.”
Because of this, they created Kamala Trunks to fill what they saw as a void in the shorts market.
“We really made it from an idea into a business all together,” Delman said.
The trunks are named after Kamala Beach in Thailand because the five friends hope to capture the carefree lifestyle of that location in their brand. “Kamala” also means “lotus flower,” — which is the brand’s logo — in Hindi. The shorts come in various colors and designs, but each individual pair comes in a backpack that matches the trunks with the lotus flower insignia on the outside. The shorts are made with 100 percent peach-faced polyester and are printed through digital dye sublimation, a technology that prevents the fading and wear and tear that often accompany the salt, sun and chlorine of beaches and pools.The solid color shorts sell for $55, and the printed shorts sell for $65, which the students say is less than half of how much Kamala’s competitors sell them for.
“One of the highlights is the lifestyle behind our brand and that you can literally wear them for anything,” Jamiolkowski said. “If you’re going to the beach or going to the bar or doing whatever, you don’t have to change, and that’s one of the big things behind our brand.”
The five members each hold distinct roles in the company based on their majors and particular areas of strength. Metoudi, a Hong Kong native, uses his connections back home to work with Chinese designers as well as the Chinese factory that produces their product. Tannenbaum is in charge of the company’s finances. Jamiolkowski works mostly with design and media content. Mychal focuses his efforts on marketing, and Delman is in charge of public relations and business operations.
“The best employees, in my mind, are students that I know from USC, one of the top schools in the world,” Metoudi said. “It’s just a great group of guys.”
The students behind Kamala Trunks also credit the university with helping them get to this point.
“This was a really cool experience in that we are actually getting to take things that we’re learning in our business classes and apply them everyday,” Tannenbaum said. “There have been instances where I have popped my head in to [see] an accounting professor I had a few semesters prior and asked a question about what’s the proper way to account for this specific type of transaction we had to deal with.”
With the launch of their company last month, the students behind Kamala Trunks are setting their sights on getting into retail. Though they are mostly targeting boutiques around the Los Angeles and San Diego areas for now, they hope that five to 10 years down the line, they will be able to move their business into department stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods.
“We consider our product to be quite a high quality brand, so we are trying to hit boutiques that emphasize that quality, that uniqueness and style and design,” Metoudi said. “It’s really important to get into a store that really emphasizes the same sort of message or vibe that [we’re] trying to give off.”
As a young, small business, Kamala Trunks looks forward to future collaborations and networking among USC students and people in the Los Angeles area to help them improve its brand.
“We are always looking to connect with other entrepreneurs, people in the fashion business, designers. Anyone that is interested at all, check out our website, send us an email,” Delman said. “We’re very reachable, we’re still young, we want to connect and reach out as much as possible.”
Kamala Trunks are available for purchase exclusively at their website, www.kamalatrunks.com, and can be reached by email at email@example.com.