Kelly Wang

Coolstuff Team
May 10, 2024

Meet Kelly, owner of the sustainable clothing shop, Rue Saint Paul. Located on Carroll Gardens’ famous Court St, Rue Saint Paul offers rentals and pre-loved clothing and is even committed with a seasonal buy-back program. We caught up with Kelly to hear how she put her stamp on the circular fashion community in Brooklyn.

How did your career in fashion begin?

Fashion was NOT a career path I even remotely considered. I grew up in a very STEM oriented family (my dad is a molecular biologist, my mom is a civil engineer, and my brother is a doctor) and I worked in Finance before launching Rue Saint Paul. It only took me a decade in the wrong career to learn that I am actually a very visually and spatially oriented person who thrives on creativity, big ideas, and building things. I have spent the last six years nurturing that by building Rue Saint Paul. I am particularly drawn to fashion, because it is such a powerful form of communication and self-expression; a way to show the world who you are without saying a thing. I’ve been an introvert my entire life and clothing has always given me a sense of identity and courage that words sometimes cannot. I love being able to share that power with my community.

Tell us about your sustainable fashion shop, Rue Saint Paul!

The shop is rooted in circularity and sustainability. We call ourselves Brooklyn’s sustainable closet because we are the only independent store in the city where you can discover new sustainable brands, rent, and sell/buy used indie brands all under one roof. I started the brand online in 2018 and opened our first brick and mortar store in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn in 2020.

Since I didn’t study fashion, I learned everything about the industry (good and bad) along the way of building RSP. And there are a LOT of bad, in terms of impact to the planet and labor practices. I struggled a lot with how to have a clothing store that was not contributing to the existing problems in the industry, because the truth is that we cannot shop our way into being more sustainable. At one point I even thought about shutting it all down, because the idea of just selling things, even if they were made sustainably or ethically, didn’t seem good enough. I thought a lot about the kind of business that I wanted to build and ultimately conceived of a space where there is more than one way to consume fashion. I always say that if you need something to wear, your own closet should always be your first go-to. If you still need something, consider swapping or renting (where we come in). And if you must buy, consider thrifting (again, where we come in). And lastly if you must buy new, choose a brand that is producing in a way that is responsible to the planet and people (us, again). The ultimate idea is to offer our community more responsible and conscious alternatives to big box fast fashion.

What’s your favorite part about the New York sustainable fashion community?

The energy and resources in this community are beyond comparison. On any day of the week, there is always something going on, be it mending clubs, closet swaps, seminars, book launches, panels, fashion shows, etc. It is truly the best place in the world to meet sustainable fashion enthusiasts be it students, professors, activists, brands, non-profits, or entrepreneurs.

How do you discover sustainable brands to stock in your shop?

When I first started it was a lot of research and cold emails asking if brands wanted to wholesale to us. Since we are very particular about which brands we bring into the store (they must align with at least several of our ten sustainable values), doing due diligence on brands took a lot of time. Now that people know our shop and values, we get a lot of inbounds from new brands wanting to be stocked at the store. I wish we had more space because there are so many amazing brands out there!

Do you have a favorite new brand right now?

Kow Tow is a brand from New Zealand that I am absolutely obsessed about. They have been around for some time, but it is one of the brands that is truly committed to people and the planet. All their garments are made farm to body in fair trade organic cotton. They recently made their entire collection (from buttons to thread) plastic free. They are also very size inclusive. I just love them!

Reclaim Creative is a newer brand we discovered out of Knoxville, Tennessee. They take vintage Appalachian quilts and turn them into stunning garments and accessories. It is truly circular fashion at its best!

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