Gallatin student co-founds sustainable fashion brand

Katie Xue and Isabella Chan share their struggles with social pressures, fast fashion rip-offs and work-life balance.


Amoy’s Jane Mini Dress, which retails at $225, is first out of their new brand of mid-luxury clothing. (Courtesy of Amoy)

Brooke Wasserman, Contributing Writer

The story of Amoy New York, a mid-level luxury sustainable fashion brand started by Gallatin senior Katie Xue and Chapman University senior Isabella Chan, began during the COVID-19 pandemic. The duo met through chance and found that they had a shared love for fashion, leading them to launch Amoy this past June. 

Chan, having grown up attending an all-girls school, felt that it gave her a complex relationship with her femininity. She struggled with wanting to be able to compete in a male-dominated world while maintaining her personal autonomy and taste — her love for fashion and shopping.

“I felt very insecure about wanting to wear makeup or caring about how clothes looked, and I liked looking at Vogue and those fashion magazines,” Chan said. “Especially with like second-wave feminism like there was a lot of like, oh, we need to change or like we need to … hide like things that were like considered traditionally feminine, because we need to be able to like act or like do things that are like traditionally masculine in order to compete.”

Chan and Xue recognized feminine people are often not allowed to simply be feminine and be respected. Instead, they must be something traditionally masculine as well — edgy, deep, strong — in order to gain society’s broader respect. But erasing femininity never quite fit Chan or Xue. 

“We’re two New York City girls who love to dress up and wear cute clothes, but also care about the planet,” Xue said. “We felt like we could create pieces for people like us.” 

Xue and Chan didn’t bother with mood boards and hours of pondering over aesthetics — their vision for Amoy was crystal clear. They spent the months prior to their launch creating their first product, the Jane Mini Dress, which retails for $225. The dress is created out of fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and made using ethical labor practices, which Xue noted as something Amoy prides itself on. The low back, long sleeve and high neck black mini dress with overlapping mesh was inspired by ‘70s silhouettes, a passion for sustainability, and the need to stay on the go and be fashionable at the same time. 

Once Chan and Xue created the Jane dress, their previous stints in social media influencing came in handy. They found that social media advertising was the best way to spread awareness about their launch, given its low cost and accessibility to potential customers. A few days before their launch, they decided they needed to kick up their advertising, so they filmed a friend in the Jane Mini and posted a TikTok of her walking along Sunset Boulevard in the warm Los Angeles light to Chan’s account.

They said the first TikTok got approximately 1.4 million views and estimated that overall, their TikToks have garnered between 3 and 4 million views. Just as they’d hoped, their social media press strategy worked, and it catapulted their brand. 

“That very first day, we had maybe like 20 or 30 orders,” Xue said. “And that’s pretty exciting for people like us who don’t really make that much money.”

Xue and Chan’s excitement was palpable even months later. The pair described how they screamed every time a new order came in, once even disturbing a family friend’s meditation session.

After the brand went viral, several influencers bought and posted the Jane Mini, including Amelia Gray, who currently has 1.3 million Instagram followers. But within two months, several websites had listed copycat versions of their dress.

“It’s scary for us because we put all this time and effort to see it be so easily copied and mimicked,” Xue said. “We made this sustainable dress so people could have a sustainable alternative to the normal clothing that they buy. And then here is a business that’s undermining our values in terms of sustainability.”

While frustrated with other businesses taking advantage of their creativity and using their pictures and models’ likenesses without permission, Xue and Chan both acknowledged that sustainable mid-level luxury is not realistic for everyone to be consuming. 

“Different kinds of fashion serve different kinds of purposes,” Chan said. “And I don’t think we claim that our dress serves every purpose for everyone.”

Sustainability provides an escape from the cycle of revolving-door-esque fast fashion trends. Xue and Chan explained that the intent behind Amoy’s design is to stand the test of time and be truly sustainable, instead of something that’s worn briefly, then disposed of after it falls out of the trend cycle. 

“It takes a long time to develop [a] pattern and design that we really believe in,” Xue said. “Feeling like we need to rush that process is pretty scary. But otherwise, I guess it’s just a part of the game.”

Currently, Chan’s and Xue’s stressors revolve around managing a rapidly growing fashion brand while also being full-time students on opposite sides of the country. Amoy’s initial summer launch was already time-consuming, but now that school is back in full swing, the pair is struggling to find the time to create new designs that they are excited about.

Chan recently had to take an entire week off from class for New York Fashion Week and juggle planning an NYFW party while keeping up with her schoolwork and traveling. But through it all, Xue and Chan have learned that they can rely on each other’s strengths.

“The advice I would give to anybody is to start young,” Chan said. “You start a brand in college and it doesn’t really work out, and then you go on and do other stuff because at the end of the day, whatever you did then is still under your belt.” 

Though Xue and Chan seem to be incredibly passionate about Amoy and want it to become something self-sustaining in the future, they also seem prepared to put the great experience they gained into wherever their creative hearts take them next.

“The fashion industry is considered less of a high art form than art itself,” Xue said. “Fashion can be on some level superficial but I don’t think that necessarily makes it something negative for people.”

She also goes on to say that people engage with superficial thrills all the time, and that fashion should not be any different. 

For now, all they hope is for both old and new customers to tune into the presale of their new Jane Maxi. This white lacey version of their classic starter dress launched on Sept. 30.

Contact Brooke Wasserman at [email protected]