Cal Lutheran junior aims to empower women through ‘wearable art’

Magally Lopez, El Eco Editor

“I want women to wear my clothing and feel empowered and feel like they’re the shit and like they’re that bad bitch … because who doesn’t want to feel like that,” Aliyah Gardea, California Lutheran University junior said in a Zoom interview.

Gardea said she started Bronze Aura Creations on Instagram and Etsy selling jewelry as a form of artistic expression. With high levels of support early on she was able to expand her brand and start selling custom clothing pieces.

Aliyah Gardea, Cal Lutheran junior and owner of Bronze Aura Creations models her Custom Angel Rhinestone Crop Top. All of her proceeds go toward her doula training. (Contributed – Aliyah Gardea)

“That’s something I really enjoy doing, is like creating wearable art […] fashion is definitely like a way I express myself,” Gardea said. “The inspiration for my clothing, my art, or my jewelry, it all comes from things that are in my life. I really wanted to create like, some sort of, brand where it can be relatable, like especially to our generation of minorities.”

Gardea said she couldn’t always relate to many clothing and jewelry brands, because she felt like fashion should be more meaningful and personal.

Gardea is the soul of the company and its sole representative. “[I’m the] PR and the CEO and the factory worker and […] also the model, the spokesperson,” she said.

She said she works with her customers when it comes to the process of creating the custom pieces and keeps the focus on creating for “strongly empowered women of color.” When Gardea envisions her next pieces she said she “always imagine[s] my best friends wearing them.”

Taylor Brown, communication major and Gardea’s friend, described Gardea in a Zoom interview as “amazing”, “very collaborative” and a “great helping hand.”

Brown said that Gardea’s business shows her independence and her custom designs can be great gifts as well.

Gardea’s profits from her business will fund her doula training program. She said she wants to help Black mothers during pregnancy through the whole journey and provide support.

According to the CDC “Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.”

Gardea also works on campus in the Center for Equality and Justice (CEJ) as one of the student program coordinators.

Cynthia Duarte, director of the CEJ and assistant professor of Sociology, has worked with Gardea for about a year and a half and said “one of the reasons I hired her was for her enthusiasm for social justice issues, to learning more about it and being involved.”

Duarte said Gardea had a small budget through CEJ and conducted a program last semester that had her design “United Against Racism” t-shirts to “support solidarity” in the Cal Lutheran community.

The center hustled to raise money to create the shirts, advertised for a few days and sold out in one hour.

Duarte said the t-shirts gave Gardea a creative opportunity to encourage the need “to come together as a community and say that we all have something to say and we all wanted something to do about it.”

Gardea said she felt that her way to give people a voice was through fashion and she wanted to continue to create that platform for expression.

“This is who I am, I’m strong,” Gardea said. “Being different is something that was hard for me especially coming into Cal Lutheran that’s a predominately white school and facing a lot of prejudice.”

Aliyah Gardea, a junior pursuing a communication degree at California Lutheran University, started her own jewelry and clothing business in May 2020. She said her designs aim to empower women of color.
(Contributed – Aliyah Gardea)

Gardea said she was identified as Sarah in The Echo’s article about students of color’s experiences with racism on campus.

Gardea said “[she] felt very ostracized for [her] differences freshman and sophomore year,” but going through those experiences made her more comfortable with herself. 

“I’ve reached a place where I do feel comfortable being the person I am so I want my clothing to express that,” Gardea said.