Upcycled Fashion Girl Boss: Rachael Kertes

Home Ethical Fashion Upcycled Fashion Girl Boss: Rachael Kertes
Upcycled Fashion Girl Boss: Rachael Kertes

The commercial media will have you believe that all young women are selfie-crazed, trash-reading, reality-TV-showwatching air heads that only care about themselves, their latest outfit purchases and the colour of their nail polish. But they’re wrong.

Although there is some element of truth (one need only take a look at Facebook and Instagram to understand the basis of these generalisations) dismissing an entire collection of young women is unwise. Some of our brightest and creative leaders may be hidden in the pile of cheaply-made polyester numbers and see-how-thin-I-am midriff tops.

In the course of writing this blog, I have met some highly intelligent, ambitious, creative and humble young women who don’t fit the stereotype. One such woman is Rachael Kertes girl boss of Applique Vintage, a micro-business that began with a love of recycled clothing and a desire to make a positive contribution. The business idea is one centred on “upcycling” turning an unwanted, old or discarded item into something new by making just a few modifications. Rachael explains: “[Upcycled] clothing is a great form of recycling, all it takes is some minor alterations to make an old piece look trendy.” Applique Vintage is not just an upcycled fashion brand for women. It targets men too.

Applique Vintage - Eco Warrior Princess

The business hopes to source women and men’s recycled clothing through “The Big Clothing Drive” an initiative that will enable it to pick up clothes (in Melbourne to begin with), sort them and upcycle them or donate them to various charities. 50% of the profits from clothing sold will be donated to local causes supporting Rachael’s beliefs that businesses can contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Toying with the idea of starting her own business for many years, Rachael finally made the decision to follow Nike’s advice to ‘just do it’ and has been on a steep learning curve ever since. Her mature outlook may be unusual for someone her age, but makes perfect sense in the context of a fiercely determined entrepreneur at the helm of a start-up. “I’m sure most business men and women deal with – at some point – the disheartening feeling that comes with a bad day at a market, or a week without any online sales. However to succeed in business you must push through all those feelings that make you want to quit,” Rachael says. It’s hard not to picture her as Yoda when she says this.

Just don’t mistake her lack of experience for naivety. She is anything but. Her cynicism of corporations, a view shared by many belonging to the millennial generation, is evidence of a deeper understanding of global trade. “A lot of the bigger brands in current times publish CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports, however I am a somewhat sceptical person, and am not sure how believable these are,” says Rachael. Like her peers, she prefers smaller local brands to the corporate juggernauts. One example she points out, is Nobody jeans whom she feels “have simple yet effective ways of being sustainable and eco-friendly.”

Applique Vintage - Rachael Kertes
Source: Rachael Kertes

Like Nobody jeans, Applique Vintage is one of those local eco-friendly brands. With all of the challenges she has had to overcome, Rachael can be proud of this. But she has had other proud moments too. “A friend of mine sent a message through in the middle of the day one Saturday; it read, I just saw an Applique shopping bag at Flinders St Station [Melbourne].” It was in this moment that Rachael realised all her efforts and sacrifices had paid off. Although she understands that she hasn’t ‘arrived’, the belief that she will is evident in how she prioritises her business – even with study and her social life all vying for her time.

Indeed it takes work ethic and backbone to run a start-up regardless of age, but there is no doubt that Rachael is in the driver’s seat of her business and in a broader sense, her destiny. Here’s hoping that more young women will throw out the trash mags and follow her lead.

If you want to support Rachael and Applique Vintage, make sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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