Student-led clothing brand Grandioso designs with purpose 

Joe Freedman, Life & Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Feb. 11, 2022 flipbook.

Sitting in his backyard on a bright spring day, Jorge Villa Rangel saw a vibrant monarch butterfly land on a bluebonnet. After spending days brainstorming ideas for the next release of his clothing brand, Grandioso, he finally found the inspiration he was looking for. 

“My grandfather grew up in Morelia, a Mexican city that the monarch butterflies migrate through,” the psychology senior said. “As a Mexican-American living in Austin, I felt that the image of a butterfly on a bluebonnet not only represented my identity, but also looked amazing on a hat.”  

“Grandioso,” a term that directly translates to “greatness” in English, is the perfect encapsulation of Rangel’s lofty ambitions for the clothing brand. Founded in January 2019, the company was the brainchild of three friends: UT-Austin students Villa Rangel and Aly Hirani and UT-Dallas student Kendall Kucera. Grandioso has released an all-new collection of hoodies, T-shirts and hats every season since its inception and collaborated on projects with creatives, such as local musical artist Yung Nugget. While incorporating new styles and designs with each iteration, Villa Rangel and Hirani maintain the roots of their vision, promoting the idea that every individual can achieve success.

“With our clothing, we hope to inspire self-expression within the UT population,” Hirani said. “Through Grandioso, we have been able to give back to the community and encourage others to do the same.”

When it came time to release their “Bluebonnet” and “Bear Moon” embroidered hats in June 2020, the founders decided to donate all hat sales profits — more than $300 — to the Austin Justice Coalition, a non-profit supporting people of color in the Austin area.

Mechanical engineering junior Tayo Ezekoye said he appreciates the activism of the brand and gladly accepted an offer from Villa Rangel to model for Grandioso’s Fall 2020 Collection, which included a “Raise Your Voice” T-shirt inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. Grandioso dedicated the profits earned from the shirt to a variety of Austin charities working to fight injustice. 

“Grandioso cares about the communities they’re a part of,” Ezekoye said. “It’s inspiring to see a young, minority-owned business, giving back to those who need it. It’s also cool they’ve given people like me a chance to be a face for their brand.”

While the brand chooses prioritizing donations and making an impact on the community over profit, mechanical engineering junior Aly Hirani said it doesn’t come without cost. Production of the brand’s clothing continues to be an expensive process, which has only become more arduous since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The cost of embroidery skyrocketed due to COVID,” said Hirani. “The same hoodie that we could get made before the pandemic for cheap, would be upwards of $120 to produce now.” 

The brand released their most recent collection in October 2021. While the newest fall hoodies appear sleek and simple, Villa Rangel and Hirani said it took months to settle on the perfect designs that would prove cost effective, sell well and please fans of the brand. The final result — a “Butterfly Embroidered” and a “Grandioso Flower” hoodie — do just that, offering visual appeal and high quality with a $50 price tag.

“At the end of the day, Grandioso isn’t about the money,” Villa Rangel said. “The excitement that our brand creates is incredible. Seeing people around campus wearing our clothes makes me crack a smile and know that it has all been worth it.”