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Hip entrepreneurial sideline suits Cambridge pals to a T

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Katie Kelly and Kris Ewton launched the Kovet Kouture clothing line seven months ago as a part-time project that has become a fashion sensation. Photo Gallery SEE MORE PHOTOS

Kris Ewton and Katie Kelly were tired of paying what they considered exorbitant prices for vintage-inspired tees. So the two friends, both from Cambridge , decided to design their own. But rather than turn to online sites such as eBay and bustedtees.com to sell their shirts, they started a word-of-mouth campaign, which included sending e - mail blasts to young professionals and college students they'd met through friends.

"We were all sick of paying $80 for designer tees," said Ewton, 25. "In Manhattan, particularly, thrift shops were asking $25 for a used T-shirt."

The frustration they tapped into led them to create Kovet Kouture, a clothing line that has produced a mini-vogue in Boston and become a hot commodity among the college crowd, selling on campuses as far away as Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Washington University in St. Louis.

QRST's in Somerville prints the tees on soft, sheer fabric meant to evoke the look of a T-shirt that's been washed too many times. The company's logo is a custom-designed phoenix that Ewton also has tattooed on her hip. Some of the shirts contain messages, such as "Judge Yourself" and "It's Who I Am," that the pair say are meant to provoke self-reflection.

"Our slogan ( 'Speak your mind. Be yourself. Kovet this.') was created to help others spend more time being true to what they believe and less time trying to be something they're not," said Kelly, 25.

She designs most of the collection, which ranges from $19.95 for a basic logo T-shirt to $44.95 for a polo with the phoenix logo and detail on the back of the collar that makes it suitable for flipping. A selection of military-inspired hats sell for $19.95.

But making money is only part of what keeps the pair busy. Kelly is in her third year at New England School of Law and Ewton works at Hearts On Fire, an international diamond brand headquartered in Boston. Their shirts are sold on their web site and at the I Boutique store on Newbury Street. They hope to begin soon selling their line at the I Boutique store at Ink, an A-list celebrity nightclub in Miami. At a fashion event tomorrow at Underbar nightclub on Tremont Street , they'll be releasing three limited - edition shirts. Bar staff and models will all be wearing Kovet Kouture.

The clothing line can be found online at kovetkouture.com , or at I Boutique on Newbury Street, 251 Newbury St., 617-266-1988. iboutiqueboston.com.

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