New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Beyond NYU: Turning thrift finds into fashion gold mines

Gallatin alum Kate Goldwater is redefining sustainable style with her East Village store AuH2O.
Gallatin alum Kate Goldwater now owns a thrift shop in the East Village. (Courtesy of AuH2O)

One year into studying art at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Kate Goldwater discovered that the curriculum was too “rigid” to cover her diverse interests, prompting her to transfer to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. At Gallatin, Goldwater concentrated on art and clothing for social justice, exploring her passion for politics and the environment while also continuing her focus on fashion and art.

As a kid, Goldwater would take her mother’s old clothes and repurpose them as her own. Goldwater continued to rework clothes while at NYU and realized that what had been a dorm room tailoring business could lead to a sustainable career. After graduating from Gallatin in 2006, Goldwater opened a thrift store in the East Village called AuH2O, named after the chemical symbols of her last name: gold and water.

In an interview with WSN, Goldwater spoke about her experience switching schools while at NYU, her journey merging her environmental interests with fashion and the approach she takes in running her thrift store. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What sparked your choice to transfer to Gallatin while at NYU? 

Goldwater: I was trying to think of a way to combine both my concern for the environment and also my love for style. I felt like the fashion industry was definitely not that — the fashion industry is horrible for body image issues, water uses, environmental abuses and child labor. I felt like caring about the world and also loving fashion. The fashion industry wouldn’t be right for me, so I always wanted to own my own company where I could live by my ideals but also still be passionate about clothes.

Growing up, Goldwater said her mom had worked as an aerobic instructor, giving her “fun and bright” clothing to repurpose. Goldwater said that during her first year at NYU, she sold clothing out of her dorm room and tailored pieces with a sewing machine. By the time her senior year came around, she already had her own website and began selling her pieces at open-air markets. Eventually, she wanted to open her own store. 

WSN: Can you describe your experience starting and running your own business immediately after graduating?

Goldwater: I was working every day. On the one hand if I had started later in life, it might have been a little bit better because there were a lot of years where I was learning as I went instead of doing that sort of research and a bit more life experience going into it. On the other hand, it was really great because I would never have been able to work as many hours a week as I did then. I would come home from a party and go straight to my store, sleep there and wake up the next morning and sew until I opened at noon. That would probably not be sustainable now.

Goldwater said she wants everything at the store to “sell itself” rather than customers feeling forced to purchase items. She also added that she didn’t want her store to follow trends that allow for items to appeal to people of all tastes and ages — she wanted it to be unique.

WSN: What approach do you take to running your store?

Goldwater: When I was in college, I was interested in sustainable fashion and learning about how much water went into making a t-shirt and organic cotton instead. I just still felt like secondhand was the best option, even though I did love designing clothes, and I kind of wanted to be a designer for a little while but even then, I would always be reworking old clothes — cutting up things and making one offs out of them. I sort of realized that when I was making my own clothes, if I sold 20 things I needed to make 20 new things. I was like, ‘I can’t do this — this isn’t sustainable,’ and that’s how I realized how much buying and reselling I would be doing. 

After experimenting with different methods of buying and reselling, Goldwater discovered that the best model involved buying items upfront at thrift stores for one third of the price she sells the pieces for. Goldwater said she hopes to open a second store in Virginia. 

WSN: How would you say the business has changed along with you in the years since you started?

Goldwater: AuH20 has been consistent since 2013, basically over the past decade. Now I’m never at the store, which is very sad, but good for my kids and family who I’m living with in Virginia. That is what people think of as the dream, when they think about opening up a business — that you step back from it in a way that you’re not hands on everyday. You’re not putting your blood, sweat and tears into it all the time, but it is kind of running itself and successfully which is great.

Contact Isabella Jambrina at [email protected].

Leave a comment

Comments (0)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *