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Home  > Article

Rising Stars: Sustainable Style Goes Fashion Forward

By Ken Siegal

A vivid entrepreneur with a passion for social justice, sustainability, and fashion starts her own boutique and finds an outlet for all three. Only a year out of college, Kate Goldwater is in the capital of fashion, and she's got a message.

Name: Kate Goldwater
School: New York University
Major: Art & Clothing as Social Justice
Years Out of College: 0-2
Title: Boutique Owner, Designer
Company: AuH20
First Steps

A big break came through her freshman year job- a happy coincidence with a wild beginning. One night, she answered her phone to a strange request; someone was asking her if she could come in to work at a theater that evening. Kate seized the mistaken identity opportunity, telling the owner of the voice that she didn't have any experience in lighting, but could help out if they needed help with costumes. "I learned everything at that job. Plus, I had access to all of their equipment. I could borrow their machine or threads." With this leg up, she continued with her own designs and created a business card. As an entrepreneur, "I was like a little kid. Everywhere I went, I had my tape measure and string, so that if someone liked something, I could take their measurements and do email orders on the spot." She also participated in fashion shows, spotting a platform for addressing her social/political causes. During her junior year, she started planning to open her own store.

From Then to Now

She formed her own LLC, amassing relationships with lawyers, bankers, realtors and other intimidating business affiliates. She miraculously found her space in New York's hip East Village on Craigslist. The owners were generous and understanding while Kate opened her shop, offering to let her move in first and start paying rent when she actually opened. "They were so nice and understanding. I think they're the only nice landlords in the city!" She signed the lease on August 23rd and opened for business on October 1st. In-between, she quickly learned to the ropes. September was spent filling out forms, faxing papers, and "spending $500 like it was free." The fees and costs associated with opening a business seemed endless. Kate was fortunately backed in part by an "angel investor". Luckily, the store was already set up like she wanted. All she had to do was add a coat of paint! Kate was amazed by the way people helped out. Neighbors lent a hand and tools; friends offered web and general business advice. "Everyone was so helpful, so great."

Challenges Faced

A friend's then-boyfriend (now husband) was a business school major who owned his own web design business. From this, he already had the necessary contacts with lawyers, bankers and accountants. "Everything just kind of fell into place."

My Experience

She bounds around the store, showing me jewelry, the mannequins in display cases, the "secret bathroom." It's clear Kate's not a "desk job" kind of person. During the day, she watches the shop, puts together new pieces, gathers materials for future creations and handles the day-to-day her business.

"I really like non-profit and the idea of changing the world." Her designs reflect her priorities, made from recycled clothing and screened with socially conscious sayings. Additionally, since Kate makes the clothes herself, they're sweatshop-free.

She's at the store until 8:00. "I don't open til 1:00, so I can at least go out and have a social life. I run errands in the morning. On Sundays, I sometimes have to choose between playing in a soccer game and opening the store on time." Sometimes soccer wins, sometimes it's the store.

Next Steps

Things look good for the fledgling businesswoman. She gets good feedback and repeat shoppers, which is encouraging. Recently she wrote an article for the Huffington Post and was invited to apply for Fashion Week. "It's only an invitation to apply, but it means I'm on the radar."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

She started sewing in 8th grade and instantly loved it. In middle school, "I was that weird girl with pants made out of a tent or a bed sheet."

After starting college in art studies, she transferred into the create-your-own-major Gallatin school, headed-so she thought- in the direction of political science, sociology, feminism, social justice or environmental science. She threw fashion into the mix and took classes such as history of costume design and fashion photography. In her sophomore year, people began to see the talent behind her passion - and they liked her designs.

As far as a career in fashion, the industry left her sour. "There's so much of it at NYU, in New York in general. Everyone with their Louis Vuitton bags."

Advice for Others

"A website! Get a website! Learn Photoshop and Dreamweaver and just do it."

"I stopped wearing things I had bought from other people. It doesn't help you when someone asks where you got your shirt and you have to tell them Urban Outfitters."

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