Barrett student James Cannella illuminates creativity with his business called Accendi

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March 14, 2017

Accendi is a Latin word meaning illuminate. It’s also the name of a company, Accendi Handcrafted Apparel and Design, founded by Barrett Honors College student James Cannella, a junior majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing.

James Cannella

James Cannella, founder of Accendi, a casual wear, street wear, and design business.

“To me, accendi means illuminating individual expression,” Cannella said, explaining the inspiration for the name and brand identity of the business that he started in 2014 while a student at Metea High School in Naperville, Ill.

Cannella was exercising his own creative expression by hand-dying hoodies and doing some graphic design work when the idea to start his own business struck him. “I wanted to bring my own concepts into the casual wear and street wear market,” he said.

He developed a process of mixing professional grade dyes with soda ash in small batches so that he could create custom colors and hand-dye garments. He watched YouTube videos to learn to use a sewing machine so he could affix labels on clothing. He learned to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and other design programs through Internet tutorials.

A most challenging part of establishing the business was getting a resale license and a tax identification number, Cannella said. He also figured out how to source garments and have them shipped to Tempe, and set up an online catalogue and system for ordering and shipping. But it’s all been worth it.

Accendi now uses social media and its web site to sell casual wear with hand-dyed designs, hand-sewn labels, and hand-printed graphics in 40 states and ten countries, including Italy, France, Denmark and Germany. Annual revenue is in the five-digit range, Cannella said.

While managing the casual wear side of the business, Cannella also provides graphic design services, including custom logos and brand identity materials for businesses. His clients have included a holistic healing clinic, a talent and event management agency, and a youth athletic organization. He also has designed album covers for Illinois-based hip-hop artists.

In addition, Cannella has established Color Of The Day, a daily tweet from @color_otd, to showcase exceptional use of color in culture, provide a tool for designers and artists to replicate their favorite colors, and provide a forum for established and new artists. Color Of The Day has around 3,000 followers.

In 2015, Cannella was invited to attend the Venue Tradeshow for independent street wear and lifestyle brands in Los Angeles. He raised $3,500 with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of attending the two-day show.

“It was a very valuable experience. We talked to people about marketing and supply chain management. There were lots of fashion industry people and store owners looking for products for their stores,” he said, adding that he spoke with representatives of the retail store Pac Sun and the Zumies brand.

Cannella said his future plans include making Accendi into a full-time business and opening a design studio to consult with musicians and other artists on crafting brand identity and marketing. He also may pursue opening a brick and mortar store for Accendi.

Already, the business has gotten so busy, that “it’s getting to the point where I need to hire people to help with production,” he said.

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