Years ago, when 14-year-old Madison Cruz was very young, her grandparents owned a few retail stores in L.A. filled with items imported from South America.
After her grandparents retired, her family’s garage was filled with boxes of leftover stock, including more than 1,000 vintage Peruvian sweaters, which had been one of their best sellers.
“They are 100% Pima cotton, which is the softest blend of cotton that’s available, so they’re really soft,” Madison’s mother, Lillian Cruz, said, “and they’re all hand-machine-knit in Peru.”
Lillian remembers working with her father, who took pride in the sweaters and their designs.
“He worked with the design team on the different designs, and did all the design approvals,” she added.
Though too young to remember the shops themselves, Madison always had the sweaters in the back of her mind.
“I’ve always had an interest in trying to start this up, even just when I was younger, seeing my parents organizing them in the garage,” Madison said.
Lillian had tried before to sell some items, successful only in depleting their stock of Christmas sweaters in years past, but when Madison saw similar vintage items for sale on Melrose Avenue earlier this year, she knew it was time to bring the sweaters back.
“After we came home, I decided that I wanted to start this all back up again because of the fact that they’re coming back in style,” Madison said. “I’ve seen it all take form, and now that I was old enough to be like, ‘I kind of want to try it,’ it was cool.”
Madison got to work, enlisting the help of her mom, along with some friends, to sort through the sweaters, then model and photograph them.
It was coming up with a name for the business that took Madison awhile, as she wanted it to represent a continuation of her grandfather’s business, eventually settling on Sweater Weather Co.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses, Madison and Lillian took part in a SoCal Etsy Guild Market at Westfield Valencia Town Center mall, debuting Sweater Weather Co.
“We had a blast. We just sold as many sweaters as we could,” Madison added.
They have nearly 100 different sweaters in various sizes, all of which are funky and brightly colored.
“I think that’s what they like about them is that you can’t find anything like this anymore,” Lillian said.
They then began placing sweaters for sale on various online stores, including Etsy, Poshmark and Depop, and the business began to take off.
“My mom has definitely helped me when it comes to stuff like that,” Madison said. “We work together on it, for sure, but it takes a while to understand the sites.”
Since then, Madison has put a significant dent in their stock, selling more than 100 sweaters and learning some business lessons along the way.
“I’m getting an understanding of it more,” she added. “I was scared to reach out to people that showed interest. I’d have my mom write them because I thought I was going to make a mistake, but now I’m really learning how to do it all because that’s an important life lesson to learn. So I’ve gotten to overcome that.”
From the start, Madison knew she wanted the business to honor her grandfather, who died a couple of years ago.
“I definitely wanted to do something to donate back, and a cause that has a lot of meaning is the Alzheimer’s Association because my grandfather had passed away from Alzheimer’s,” Madison said, adding that she remembers seeing the progression of the disease before he died.
Madison and her family had been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association for a few years, participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s events each year.
“So I wanted to donate money back to them because they helped us through some really hard times, and I thought it was important,” Madison said.
Now, a portion of the proceeds go toward the Alzheimer’s Association, with the rest going into Madison’s college fund, allowing her endeavors to save money for her future.
“Whenever we hit a certain point, we make a donation to Team Tata, which is the team that we put together for the walks,” Lillian added. “This was our fourth year doing the walk, but the first year that we’re doing it with more of a meaning.”
Each sweater sold comes with washing instructions, as well as handwritten notes from Madison, along with her grandfather’s story.
“When I tell people this story, a lot of people that buy from us connect to it,” Madison said. “So it’s definitely brought people together, and I think that’s really cool.”
For more information on Sweater Weather Co., follow them on Instagram @sweater.weather.company or visit depop.com/sweaterweatherco.