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April 19, 2023 | Tom Ballard

UTK alumna continues to pursue her fashion passion

UTK grad Mary Cayten Brakefield is completing her Masters in Marketing degree at Vanderbilt University while growing her adaptive fashion line 'Brakefields.'

During her senior year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), Mary Cayten Brakefield pitched the idea for an adaptive fashion line at the Graves Business Plan Competition, where she won third place in the lifestyle category for the brand she named Brakefields.

A few months later, she was awarded $10,000 in seed funding through the Boyd Venture Challenge, another competition organized by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business at UTK. Her success in the two competitions led Brakefield to be selected to represent UTK at the SEC Student Pitch Competition for members of the Southeastern Conference.

Fast forward a few years, and the UTK alumna is enrolled at Vanderbilt University where she is pursuing a Master of Marketing degree in the Owen Graduate School of Management, as well as overseeing the business with her partner who also happens to be her mother.

Brakefield’s journey was spotlighted recently in this Vanderbilt University news release that chronicles a former very active student athlete who experienced severe medical issues during her sophomore year at UTK. After multiple episodes, devastating effects to her body, and severe mental stress, Brakefield eventually was diagnosed by doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with two rare syndromes that are now being treated successfully.

“I can look back now and see that the experiences I had with my health and the changes in my abilities were a launching pad to something else – a way that I could help other people and make this story not about myself and my illness, but about something greater,” she said. 

The result is the idea she hatched at UTK – Brakefields. In her words, “It’s a clothing brand and a philosophy of creating a place where people of different body types, different abilities, and different lifestyles can come together and feel great about what they’re wearing.”

She’s since hosted her first runway show and launched her first products to the public, including dresses, shirts, and skirts that are adaptable and easy to put on for those with mobility issues.



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