Monday, March 30, 2009

Interview with Kate Goldwater of AuH2O Clothing Shop

Two Brooklyn Green Team members scouted this great shop nestled away in the East Village and stopped by to shop and chat with the owner. . . 

BGT: When did AuH2O open and what inspired it?
KG:  I'd always wanted to do have a store ever since I was little.   You know how kids will make friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss indian-bead-loom necklaces and think they're going to open their own store someday and sell their jewelry?  I was definitely one of those kids.  I was a crafter ever since I was young- I loved drawing, painting, doing art projects, and making anything I could, and by about middle school I decided that I wanted to express my creativity with my appearance.  I pierced my thumb nails, drew magic marker tattoos all over my body, and wrapped my hair in yarn and rubber bands.  I realized that my favorite outlet was clothing, and I started going through my mom's old clothes (she used to be an aerobics and fitness and wellness instructor so she had crazy spandex prints and stuff) and cut them up and reworked them to make them fit me.  I sewed by hand, or I used a stapler and duct tape, until my mom got me a sewing machine for my 13th birthday (that I still use today!).  Then I was hooked on making clothes.  I would find anything unwanted in the attic- upholstery material, table cloths, even a fisher price tent, and rework it into clothing. Then I discovered the unlimited supply of unwanted materials at thrift stores, and started using t-shirts, scrubs, aprons, anything.  It never even occurred to me to go and buy fabric or a pattern from a fabric store and use for sewing projects. that wouldn't be nearly as unique.   I wanted to be sure that no one else would be coming to school wearing a pair of thick wool thigh-high hockey socks sewn on to cut off jean shorts with floral embellishments.   I just loved sewing and creating.   As I got older, my style started to chill out a little bit (though I was still voted "most outrageous style" in high school) but I still made my own clothes out of used clothing or materials, though the final products weren't as loud or mis-matched. at the same time, I started getting interested in social justice and the environment. I was a part of my school's "global action" and "students against social apathy" clubs. I wrote a piece for our high school school paper about how we should avoid buying new clothes altogether and only shop at thrift stores to take a stand against sweatshop labor. basically, making clothing out of recycled clothing was my passion at a pretty young age, though I wasn't thinking about what i wanted to do with my life at that point.   I'd always thought it'd be cool to open up my own shop, but I never considered it very seriously.  At NYU, I was in the gallatin school, or basically the "design your own major" program, and studied art, clothing, social justice, gender studies, and took a lot independent studies where I focused on art and clothing as activism.   I also did some internships that I strongly believed in the causes- one was NARAL pro-choice ny and one was the jewish women's archive (in Boston) to sorta feel out if that's what I wanted to do for a career.   Even though I loved the work i was doing, the people i met, and the change I felt was making, I was capital B Bored to sit at a desk.  I needed to be doing something creative. that was when I knew I had to go down the artistic path.   As much as I wanted to work for a non-profit relating to women's rights, or the environment, or social justice activism or something, I just couldn't.  Meanwhile, I was still making and wearing my own clothing daily, pretty much teaching myself.  I'm not entirely self-taught though; I worked at nyu's costume shop for four years, and I LOVED it.   Not only did I learn so much, but I was sewing all day long.  I loved it 80x more than my desk-job internships, so that juxtaposition helped me realize I had to go down the artistic/fashion route.  I took a graphic design class my senior year that taught me how to use photoshop and dreamweaver and make a website, and that was pretty much the start of my business.   I was able to sell online, take personal orders, and showcase my work.   I could contact boutiques  and show them my style and see if they wanted to carry my designs.  Finally, after selling on consignment for awhile, I realized that I wanted more- people said I should sell in those open-air markets, or on the street, but I was ready to really have my own shop.  I graduated NYU in May 2006 and spent the summer getting in touch with lawyers, bankers, accountants, real estate agents, etc, and formed an LLC, found a space, signed a lease in august.  Then I had a ton of work to do before opening, but I finally got a credit card processing account, bought a mirror, painted, renovated, bought mannequins, supplies, etc and was able to open up on october 1, 2006.

BGT: What is your favorite part about your shop and being a small business owner? 
KG: I think that when you own your own business, you love what you do so much that there isn't really a distinction between work and pleasure. If you're doing what you love and working for yourself, it doesn't really feel like work.  I'm so into making, selling, marketing my recycled clothing that I live and breathe it.  I love wearing my designs out and having people stop me and ask where I got it, then I immediately hand them my card.  Also, I get to shop for my job- it's the best!   Whenever I pass a store I can't help but stop in to get ideas for things I want to make, and if I ever pass a thrift store or button shop or antique store I always go in and buy material to cut up and rework.  Each time I go home to Wisconsin for winter break or a summer vacation I scour the garage sales and go to the goodwill and value village. Basically, every day is a great day at work. 

BGT: Anything else you want to tell people about your store? 
KG: My store is for people who are unique, who want to express their creativity, have strong political convictions, and want to wear clothing that gives that first impression. 

Visit the shop:Kate Goldwater  |  AuH2O Designs

AuH2O Recycled Clothing Store
84 E. 7th St. (b/t 1st and 2nd)
New York, NY 10003

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