Lee Romano Sequiera's decorative approach is crystal clear – literally. "I've always liked original things," says Sequiera, owner of Philadelphia-based Sparkle Plenty Designs, which has been a pioneer in the crystal T-shirt fashion movement. "Once you make something original, you want to share it with other people."
Sequeira's career didn't begin in fashion, but her previous work allowed her to tap into her creativity. "My background is in publicity, promotions and book publishing," she says.
After attending a beauty convention in New York City – and being inspired by a convention speech by Kyan Douglas, star of the fashion-oriented TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – Sequiera decided to start GoodtoBeYou.com in 2004. Later that year, she won an award for "Most Beautiful Website" from celebrity makeup artist Elke Von Freudenberg.
"I fell in love with so many of the spa, bath and beauty products on display and decided to start my own site with fun, practical and unique products and informative articles for women," Sequiera says. "After a year, I added handbags, accessories and created a dare-to-wear line of crystal and rhinestone shirts with cheeky sayings on them – even a line of shirts for people who had plastic surgery and wanted to have fun with the healing process." (Some of those sayings include "I Love The New Me," and "Under Construction.")
Two years later, Sequiera and her husband, Andrew, moved from New Jersey to Philadelphia when they acquired Sparkle Plenty from its owners, who had founded the store six years earlier. Sparkle Plenty provides custom crystal apparel for a variety of markets, from restaurants and wineries to spas and salons. Sequiera's T-shirts are embellished with Swarovski crystals. "We were one of the first companies to make crystal shirts," she says. "They're actually pro-set and heat-transferred on." Her more creative designs include tees that feature a yin and yang, a lotus flower and a peace sign.
In addition to its numerous T-shirt designs, Sparkle Plenty offers Swarovski crystals for accessories such as hats, headbands, jewelry – and even body tattoos. "They're crystals with a medical adhesive on the back," Sequiera says. "You just press it on the skin wherever you want, you peel back the clear tape, and you have a crystal design that will stay on your skin for anywhere from five days to two weeks. They're really popular for summer."
In the past four years, Sequiera has already had her share of top clients for her crystal T-shirts, including NASA, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and Mexico's Next Top Model. For each of these companies, Sequiera turned their respective logos into a crystal embellishment across the middle of the tee.
But with all the prestige that comes with her nationally-known customers, Sequiera is the most passionate about her lower- profile work for fundraising events. "My husband and I are big believers in giving back," she says.
One of the collections closest to Sequiera's heart is in memory of Katelyn Joy Derstine, a 20-year-old girl who was recently killed in a car accident. "She was a budding artist, involved in the community, an all-around great kid," she says.
So, Sequiera and Derstine's mother collaborated on the Fly High Tee collection. Sequiera took a piece of original artwork by Derstine and converted it into Swarovski crystal art. The artwork includes a butterfly with the words "Fly High" on each side of the design. The profits from each shirt go to the Katelyn Joy Derstine Scholarship Fund. "When and if we do T-shirts like that, I'd rather give some back to charity," Sequiera says. The Sequieras also donate a portion of each custom order of 25 pieces or more to one of several charities, including Make-A-Wish Foundation and Defenders of Wildlife.
Sequiera says she loves what she does – not just because of her charity work or her high-profile clients, but because she's a crystal tee client herself. "I'm a sparkly girl," she says.