Brooklyn, NY, native Despina Kotsis has always challenged the status quo. The Childhood Education major developed MINX NEW YORK, her own clothing line specializing in “streetwear,” a popular brand of casual attire typically worn by urban youth that celebrates the diversity found in New York City.
Despina, a junior who attends the Staten Island, NY, campus of St. John’s University, placed third in the 2018 Pitch Johnny competition, an annual event which showcases students presenting their new ideas to a panel of judges consisting of professors and industry professionals. The event is part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program in The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. This year’s Pitch Johnny competition will be held virtually on November 14.
“My Pitch Johnny experience was amazing,” Despina recalled. “It not only helped build my confidence, but it also helped me understand how I can improve my business model by getting practical feedback from industry professionals.” She added, “It was really cool working with other students who all had a vision of starting their own business and seeing the ideas they brought to life.”
Despina wants to change the landscape of streetwear. Explaining that streetwear is often popularized by a certain brand name, Despina noted that MINX features brightly colored drawings on every piece of clothing it sells. These illustrations are replete with detailed imagery. “Each has its own meaning,” she stressed.
It’s crucial to her that people of all shapes and sizes, and from all cultures and ethnicities, feel comfortable wearing her clothing and that each piece be an expression of their individual identities. “It’s a brand inspired by the people of New York City,” she said. “I want to show that everyone is beautiful and give them confidence when they model my clothing.”
Despina has taken pictures of people modeling her clothes and created short films featuring them. “The beauty of this work was capturing the models being themselves, whether they were smiling, laughing, or being serious. The feeling you get as you watch someone come out of their shell while wearing your designs is one of the best feelings in the world.”
The diversity and passion of its students attracted Despina to St. John’s. “I knew this would be the right choice for me because everyone I met really made St. John’s seem like a home and a family, and that's exactly what I wanted.”
Despina is buoyed by the encouragement she has received from St. John’s faculty who have helped her navigate the pitfalls of the fashion industry. She cited Richard K. Bigger, Assistant Professor of Administration and Economics, and Catherine J. Ruggieri, Esq., Professor of Management, Marketing, and Fashion Studies, as particularly strong influences. Both have extensive industry experience and visited her recent pop-up shop in Brooklyn to support her efforts.
Upon graduation, Despina hopes to open her own clothing boutique in New York City. “The industry doesn’t feature many designers as young as I am. I would like to change that. People my age have a lot of great ideas.”
For Despina, attending St. John’s helped her grow as an artist as it simultaneously supported her dreams. “That support has only made me work harder to achieve them.”