SIU student entrepreneur, mom, builds brand with style (PHOTOS)


Alicia Hammond, a junior from Kankakee studying healthcare management, swings beside her son, Ryan Simington Jr., 4, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at Lenus Turley Park in Carbondale. Hammond, a single mother and a full-time SIU student, recently started her own clothing line called “Secrets.” “I keep it on the cheaper side,” she said of her products, which she sells for less than $20. “I don’t want to break anyone’s pockets more than the school does.” At night, after her son goes to bed, Hammond also works at NeuroRestorative in Carbondale. “I had a child in high school,” Hammond said. “A lot of people probably doubted me and thought I wasn’t going to do anything, but I never let that get in the way.” (Anna Spoerre | @annaspoerre)

By Diamond Jones

SIU student Alicia Hammond’s day consists of parenting, classes and an overnight job assisting brain injury patients — all while aiming to become the next fashion icon.

In September, Hammond launched her own business, a clothing line called “Secrets.” The line is a way for others to “unlock different and unique styles,” she said, but more so, for her to express her love for fashion and to generate extra income to provide for her 4-year-old son.

“I’ve always loved fashion,” said Hammond, a junior from Kankakee studying healthcare management. “I thought, what if I started creating the stuff that I wear and maybe people will buy it? They seem to like my style.”


So she started her own business based out of her apartment.

The condition of Hammond’s living room was much like that of a pre-fashion or pop-up shop as she laid pieces of her first collection — including bodysuits, bombers, bleached shirts, caps and halter tops — across the sofa during an interview Friday. Her son, Ryan Simington Jr., chimed in excitedly when he recognized a shirt that looked similar to one his mother made him.   

“It may sound crazy, but I don’t even have to look at fashion trends to know them, it just comes natural,” Hammond said. “I wouldn’t put anything on my website that I wouldn’t wear.”

Secrets has a motive to reach out to people who carry different styles, she said. She said she plans on creating new products for each season and theme driven collections. For example, the upcoming Queen collection emphasizes “Black Girl Magic,” or the empowerment of black women.

As a single mom, this empowerment is something Hammond has reminders of posted in her room. Her mirror is decorated with colorful post-its filled with motivational messages for herself.

“Ryan is my superhero,” she said. “I just want to be a great role model for him.”

Hammond makes sure to spend time with her son by taking him to movies or reading him books. She said Ryan inspires her because she wants the best for him — and having a smart and outgoing child pushes her to go the extra mile.


“So far it’s not too overwhelming — time management is a big thing,” Hammond said. “It’s about staying focused on the goal and not letting anything get in the way of that.”

On top of taking 15 credit hours, Hammond also spends 40 hours a week working nights as a life skills trainer at NeuroRestorative — a brain injury rehabilitation center in Carbondale.

Hammond, who hopes to eventually run a nursing home, said she looks at studying healthcare management as way of getting a secure job after graduation. But her course load and night shift job don’t stop her from creating new pieces for her line on days off.

People constantly ask her why she didn’t study fashion. She believed it wouldn’t get her a stable job, she said, but the inspiration she received from clothing and her unpredictable style pushed her to continue her passion.

She keeps the price of all the handmade items at less than $20 so the line is affordable for college students.

“I would get discouraged because I thought no one would support me,” Hammond said of the initial launch.

But support is one thing Hammond soon found she doesn’t lack, having received an immense amount of positive feedback from friends on Facebook.

“She’s very positive-spirited and her production and visual is so unique,” said DeAngelo Tompkins, a friend of Hammond’s who models for her website. “Through the photo shoot, she was very determined with her work. She likes to get things done; she likes to please everyone around her.”

Tompkins, a junior from Chicago studying advertising, who is also a poet and lyricist on the side, said student entrepreneurs are “a dime a dozen,” and that if someone has a passion for something, they should find others who are as passionate to push them.

For Hammond, fashion ultimately depends on the person who is wearing the clothes and how they feel in them.

She encourages and supports other businesses similar and different from hers, hoping to see her styles in other stores one day. She also dreams of owning her own boutique in Texas within the next five years.

“I want my business to show others, especially single black mothers, that you can do whatever you want,” Hammond said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Staff writer Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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