Although the term “sustainability” has been a buzzword for long enough that its defining boundaries have blurred and evolved, the movement’s core ideals remain centered on waste reduction, natural resource preservation, and conscious consumerism. And it’s no secret that the fashion industry has work to do when it comes to finding balance between sustainable progress and sustainable profit. But locally owned shops are proving that even small actions, made consistently, can have just as much of an impact within a community.
La Vie Apres L’amour, a new clothing boutique in Kingston’s Rondout district, is heeding the clarion call of sustainability by offering upcycled fashion (re)designed from †used and vintage textiles. “I love fashion, and I love nature, but don’t like how at odds they often are,” says Kaitlyn Murray, founder and CEO. “In fashion, wearability is sustainability, so I focus on well-made, classic, timeless staples that can be reworn over and over.”
Murray’s main line features a core collection of styles reimagined from mens’ button-downs, including cropped tanks, off-shoulder looks, and a dress made from multiple pieces that can also double as a shirt. Materials are sourced from various avenues including regional thrift stores, friends and family donations, and clothing swaps. At one point, Murray gave a presentation about her mission at senior community Woodland Pond, which inspired residents to donate.
“Everything for sale is upcycled and handmade from vintage pieces, but the clothes are more than just vintage finds; each piece is a new work in its own right,” Murray explains. “That’s where the name comes in: la vie apres l’amour is French for “life after love”—giving once-loved pieces new life.”
Although the clothes include items like shirts and dresses classically categorized as womenswear, they are intended to be unisex and can be styled in numerous ways. The shop itself is multifunctional, too. The retail side includes clothes, home wares, and handmade skin care, but the space also includes Murray’s studio, as well as an art gallery and a cafe. “The heart of the brand is sustainability and slow living, so I was very thoughtful about the cafe: composting grounds, water filtering, water collection, and minimal waste,” she explains. “I’d like to encourage people to bring their own mug and slow down to truly enjoy their cup of coffee or tea.” The soon-to-open cafe will start with drip coffee, tea, and select pastries, with a goal to expand into espresso offerings.
The shop opened on Abeel Street in late August, but Murray, an FIT grad, established the brand in 2021, after years of dreaming and scheming. “I grew up in Red Hook and worked at boutiques but always wanted to have my own,” she said. “In college, I studied Buying and Planning and took a class on sustainable fashion around 2011, where I learned the underbelly of the industry. During that time, people were barely talking about the chemicals in clothing dyes, or how much water is used—for example, about 2,700 liters of water goes into making one cotton shirt, which is what an average person drinks in two-and-a-half years.”
After college, Murray started a career at luxury fashion brand Hermès, where she stayed for eight years until she felt a deeper calling to do her part to incorporate sustainability to the fashion world through her own business. “The concept began in 2017, but I wasn’t near ready to make the jump into going off on my own,” she says. “Then, 2020 made a lot of us stop and think; for me, it was hard to turn away from seeing the amount of waste in the industry. Some companies will burn clothes, others throw them away; it was all eating away at me.”
Murray explains that in 2018, the EPA estimated that 11.3 million tons of textile waste (clothes, bedding, shoes) went into landfills, with that number increasing each year since. “I began making real plans to launch, and started doing pop-ups with an online store in 2021.”
Among Murray’s pop-ups, she showcased designs at Kingston wine bar Brunette, which helped her gauge where to open a brick-and-mortar. “The people I’ve met in Kingston are very conscious about sustainability, but also love style and fashion,” she says.
She’s also met like-minded designers, with whom she’s organizing a Hudson Valley Sustainable Fashion Week show, bringing together 10 upstate, sustainable designers to blend the line of nature and fashion. The event is Friday, September 22 at Rose Hill Farm; 5pm doors with a 6:30pm show. Admission is $20-$55, and food trucks and cider from the farm will be available for purchase. Carpooling is encouraged. Other participants include Gabriella Daher of Newburgh-based DAHER; Hudson-based upcycled lingerie brand Clare Bare; vintage and deadstock specialist Annie McCurdy of So Vicki, and more.
“I understand; it can be so overwhelming to think about what needs to be done to live more sustainably, that it’s hard to do anything,” Murray explains. “But my thought is: Do what you can. Make small changes. If we all do something small together, we’ll have an effect.”
La Vie Après L’amour is located at 101 Abeel Street, Kingston and open Wednesday through Saturday from 12-6 pm.