Vintage clothing companies based in the Hudson Valley have grown very successful due to the idea of sustainability. Fast fashion is a thing of the past as more companies like Cahoots, a women-owned company based in the Hudson Valley, give new life to used children’s clothing. Operating in Kingston, Cahoots is a unique company with a powerful and impactful message.
Cahoots started out as a college project during an entrepreneurship course, but it came to be an official business model in October 2019 as a sustainable clothing service that educates children to value experiences over clothing. Bard College‘s MBA and sustainability program introduced Cahoots’ business partners Eliza Edge, Lindsey Strange, and Stephanie Erwin, all of whom are based in the Hudson Valley.
Edge explains that starting Cahoots with Strange and Erwin “was a natural fit,” because they all live in the area. “It made sense to be here.”
Through Cahoots, the founders’ goal is to educate people on their carbon footprint and the negative impact that fast fashion has on the earth. The brand itself is energy-efficient, reduces water consumption, and reduces the amount of post-consumer waste. Cahoots repairs damaged clothing through what it calls “artful repair,” or repairs to clothing including re-dying, patchwork, and functionally mending clothing.
The idea behind Cahoots has much to do with how often children rip through their clothing during playtime, largely because mass produced clothing doesn’t always hold up to wear and tear. By creating artful designs and patchwork on clothing, Cahoots recycles children’s clothing and gives kids bold and stylish colors and prints that’ll be as fun to wear as they are eco-chic. Cahoots clothing is so unique because none of the clothes are manufactured by Cahoots but are “brands sourced by Cahoots that parents trust” and handpicked at secondhand stores by the Cahoots team or donated.
“What’s different about our model is that we own all of the clothing,” Edge explains.
In the past, Cahoots has hosted workshops in the Hudson Valley for children to learn about where their garments come from, how they are made, and how to repair them. Children are taught to value experiences with their families instead of time shopping when they grow out of, rip, or stain their clothing. When a child does eventually outgrow or wear out clothing, families can simply send the garments back to the Ulster County business for any repair work. After mending and a thorough washing, those revamped garments can go on their way to another child.
Since the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic started, Edge observes how a lot of parents moving out of New York City needed children’s clothing quickly.
“We’ve been on a rollercoaster since [the start of] COVID,” she admits, noting it’s all because of kids’ need for loungewear instead of the variety of clothing that Cahoots normally provides. Now that school is back in session, she looks forward to returning to the normal flow of operations with the brand.
Looking ahead, Edge reveals that she and her business partners have discussed the possibility of opening a storefront in the Hudson Valley in order to gain more exposure and traction in the community. It would be beneficial for them to start a convenient Cahoots drop-off and pick-up clothing location “wherever parents and kids are already stopping and doing business,” she points out.
“We’re trying to offer this convenient service for parents and for kids, but the reason that we started this was really around sustainability and education, around why it’s important to repair, and why our impact is something we should care about,” she says.