FOUNDER: KELLY ERNST
Redenim is ready to change everything you've experienced thus far shopping for that perfect pair of denim jeans. Through collaborating with existing sustainable denim brands such as Jean Shop NYC, Adriano Goldschimed, Hudson, and many more, Founder Kelly Ernst wants you to feel more comfortable and confident in your denim. Redenim's stylists learn about your fit and tastes to select three pairs of jeans they recommend you try on in the comfort of your own home for seven days, paying for only the jeans you decide to keep.
Austinites have special privileges though, as we have access to Redenim's entire collection, right here in our back yard! As they get ready for their launch this fall, sign up to win three pairs of premium, sustainable denim jeans on their website, and get in Redenim's pants. ;)
Learn more about Redenim's connection to the Austin community below.
Why do you call Austin home?
Three years ago I decided to move to Austin from New York City where I had been working in finance after graduate school. While I loved New York, it was a very exhausting city and winters were getting increasingly hard. I’d visited Austin for SXSW in 2014 and it reminded me a lot of what I loved about Brooklyn -- it’s an edgy, creative city with a great vibe and a ton of culture. After a lot of thought, I decided I wanted to give Austin a try and moved here. I’ve loved every minute of it from the amazing weather to the awesome food and cool neighborhoods. It’s become the perfect home for me and I can’t imagine being anywhere else!
Why did you choose to create Redenim?
It’s funny because I never really saw myself as entrepreneurial until I found a problem that I needed to solve. Then there was no stopping me. I was a developer for many years on Wall Street and later for an EdTech company here in Austin and was fairly content to keep doing that. About 2 years ago though, I was home in New York for the holidays and ended up in a boutique where they had these awesome jeans and fantastic stylists and I remember thinking to myself “what if there was a way to have a shopping experience like this every time I needed jeans?” And that was, in earnest, how the idea came to me. I figured I could combine my background in technology with my love for denim to create a low-touch, online boutique service that helped you find jeans by getting to know you a little bit. It seemed way easier than blindly shopping online and hoping that a style would look good and fit. When the idea came to me, I felt almost like I didn’t have a choice -- I had to build it. The whole thing started off as a side hustle but when I was laid off from the company I was working for full time, I knew I had to take the opportunity to scale Redenim into a full-fledged company.
Favorite song/album/artist for a spark of creativity?
Music is a really important part of my creative process and I love setting the tone for my work by putting on some awesome tunes. I feel like we’ve gotten away from listening to whole albums in favor of one-off songs on playlists, but I still appreciate a really good, well put together full album to get a sense of an artist in their full context. One of my absolute favorites is Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special” which we all know for “Uptown Funk.” But album as a whole is really solid with some awesome nods to motown, funk, soul, and hip hop. Start to finish it’s a phenomenal work and gets the creative juices flowing.
Biggest debate of all: Coffee or Tea, be specific ;)
I feel like such an old lady but I had to cut back on coffee because it’s been giving me heartburn! I’ve switched over to green tea for a little caffeine boost but found a ton of other benefits from the move including clearer skin, no jitters, and an easier time falling asleep. My mom is also really into a french brand of tea called “Kusmi” and she has it shipped to me from Paris a few times a year. I swear by it!
Go-to midday snack or routine for creative fuel?
Royal Blue actually has this phenomenal cheese, cracker, fruit, and farro salad box that I buy a couple times a week. I joke that it’s like a grownup lunchable and it’s my go-to when I need a little midday pick-me-up. It’s the perfect amount of food.
Where do you feel the most creative?
A few of my friends live in an awesome house in Barton Hills right off South Lamar that we’ve turned into a makeshift coworking space. It happened fairly organically -- we just started showing up during the workday to cowork around their massive dining room table and it just kind of stuck. On a given day there will be a bunch of people over working at the table, drawing up notes on massive sheets of white paper that we hang around the room, taking conference calls on the back deck, or cooking in the kitchen. It’s nice to have a place to go that’s out of the house but not necessarily an office or WeWork or something like that. I feel like I can be creative among a bunch of other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off of them, and get a ton of work done.
What has been the most exciting moment so far of starting Redenim?
I feel like every single day is full of surprises in one way or another. But for me, perhaps one of the most exciting moments was when we won a pitch competition at the kick off of SXSW last year. Gentleman Jack and Wired Magazine were hosting the competition and I jumped on the opportunity to apply. We were selected with two other companies in Austin and the night of the competition, a ton of my friends came to support me. It was really exciting and energizing to be there and to see everyone. When they announced Redenim as the winner, it completely blew me away! I was so proud and happy, but it really validated that we were on to something really special.
How do you make sure your brand stands out?
My team and I had a long conversation about what we want the voice of our brand to be and we decided that the most important thing to us was having a strong personality that was very real. We get it: everyone wears jeans, no one likes shopping for them and we don’t want to gloss over that because it’s an important pain point for our customers. And our mission is pretty straightforward -- we want you to get in our pants. We stand out by being honest and edgy about something that is very real for people, the somewhat combative relationship that we have with our bodies and finding clothes that fit us properly. Instead of being this stoic brand voice, we are very much about “real talk” with our customers and in a lot of ways that helps us to stand out. I never imagined how many conversations I would have with people about butts until I got into the denim business. Now it’s just part of the job and I find that people appreciate the fact that we are creating this space to be open and honest about our relationship with our clothes.
Who has had the most creative influence on your life?
I glean a lot of my creative influence from a ton of different sources in art, music, fashion, food, and travel to name a few things. But I would have to say that one of the biggest influences on my creatively is my parents. I was really lucky to grow up in a very eclectic household. My parents both studied theater in college and this played a really big role in how I was raised and the things that I grew up around. Music, art, film, and literature were all very prevalent in my upbringing because my parents valued these things so highly. From a young age I was exposed to a great deal of culture and this had a huge impact on how I viewed the world. I didn’t have a particularly glamorous childhood, but it was incredibly rich with experiences that helped shape who I am today as a fashion founder. The continued support from my parents to this day has helped me get through those times where I’m like “oh my god, what am I doing?” They raised me to be strong, to be a creative problem solver, and to be brave when things get hard and it’s paid off all these years later.
How has social helped your brand?
Social media exposure is everything right now as far as marketing is concerned. But what’s really great about it is that you can use social to tell a really poignant story about who you are. It allows us to have a two-way conversation with our potential customers and reach them through channels that didn’t exist a decade ago. We don’t think about “advertising,” we think about “conversations” and this has helped us move from an idea to an actual company. This is especially true for the social influencers that we work with. Instead of them talking about the jeans that we sell, they talk about us as a service and how we help people feel more comfortable and confident. That’s a really cool thing to see -- to be able to hear how the work we are doing positively impacts people who struggle with their body image or associate clothes shopping with bad feelings about themselves. Seeing this in real time is a constant reminder that we’re moving in the right direction.
Who do you follow on Instagram for inspiration?
This is tough because there are so many amazing artists on Instagram putting out incredible content. I love how accessible it’s become over the years in terms of just being able to see everything right in the palm of my hand. I do have a soft spot though for NYC-based instagrammer @Humzadeas (https://www.instagram.com/humzadeas/) who gets amazing shots of the city from spots where I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to go to. The vantage points are incredible and it allows me to transport back to NYC without all the noise and traffic.
What other artists have you loved collaborating with or would be interested in collaborating with?
It’s interesting because as an online service, we don’t actually produce the jeans that we sell. We hope to in the future, but right now we collaborate with existing brands and designers such as Hudson Jeans, AG, and Current Elliott. When we first started, I had no idea how to even begin having those conversations with designers about collaborating. I just had an idea that I wanted to grow and knew that I wanted to work with top brands. The first brand that I pitched was a boutique designer denim company called “Jean Shop” that had an awesome line of jeans. The CEO of Jean Shop patiently listened to me as I pitched the idea and at the end, told me that he thought I was on to something special. Since that first pitch, they’ve been an amazing brand to work with both in terms of getting awesome jeans and having someone to talk to about the industry. They were the first brand we ever carried and the first brand to really believe in us as a concept.
How important is shopping local to you?
I like to see things in person when I shop. I’m very tactile and when it comes to everything from the clothing that I buy to the groceries I bring home from the store, there is something about being able to see and touch things first that is very important to me. As such, this more often than not has helped me to be more of a local shopper than if I were to simply order everything I wanted online. I love the experience of strolling down SoCo to bop into various boutiques, restaurants, or shops to experience something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I like knowing that something I buy is unique, that I’m supporting someone, and that I’m out and about with other cool people. I used to not care so much about where something was sourced from when I bought it, but now I’ve realized how cool it is to actually be able to connect an experience or a story with something I’m bringing home.
How has the Austin community supported you?
When I lived in New York City, it was very easy to feel anonymous -- not in a cool, mysterious way, but like you didn’t matter. That’s a really lonely feeling and a big part of why I decided to leave. Since coming to Austin, I’ve felt like I was part of a community, not just a cog in some huge machine. That’s a really amazing feeling: to be walking down the street and see people that I know; to have people show up to support me at events; to be around fellow entrepreneurs building and starting things. There’s just this constant feeling of being embraced here and it’s made it so much easier as a founder. It doesn’t feel as competitive or cut throat. I think we all really look out for each other and want the best for the people who surround us instead of being indifferent. As a female founder of a technology company, I’ve always felt that help and support was just a call or click away here in Austin.
Share about the bond/relationship between Redenim’s team.
When I first started Redenim, I knew that I wanted it to be a company, not just a side hustle while working full time. And I knew that scaling it into something big was going to require help. I’ve always been a very independent person, but I know my limits in terms of what I’m able to do, and I really quickly realized my gaps. I was incredibly lucky to find my team members Ariana Principe and Radhika Patnana when I did. In a way, they just sort of materialized when I needed them and it was hard to ignore a sign from the universe like that. Not only did they come from fashion, but they’ve really taken to the overarching mission of the brand: to make clothing shopping a little bit easier. And more importantly, the understood and appreciated why we do what we do. At the end of the day, I know that women tie a lot of their self-esteem to their clothing and how it fits their body. Our goal is to make that process as painless as possible so women don’t have to worry about their size or feel bad because something doesn’t fit quite right. Over the last year of working together, the three of us have really bonded in that mission whether it’s over our own traumatic experiences in fitting rooms, or seeing successes with our customers as a team.
What do you love most about the local customer + brand shopping experience?
At the moment, we do styling appointments for local customers even though we are an online-only brand. We treat this the way we treat the online experience: we ask our visitors a few questions about themselves and select 3 pairs of jeans that will match their size and style. More often than not, our customers end up with at least one pair that we recommended to them even though here in Austin they have access to our entire collection. I love the feeling of seeing a woman light up when she tries on a pair that we’ve picked for her that she might have never considered herself. This is exactly what we strive to do and seeing it in person really validates that we are on the right track.
What is the one thing you wish people knew about Redenim?
I’ve shared this in bits and pieces, but I want people to know the founding story behind Redenim because a lot of women will relate to it. Years ago I struggled with my weight and effectively grew out of a pair of designer jeans that I’d bought as a special gift to myself. It was devastating because I measured so much of myself against a stupid size on a tag and shopping became a harrowing and emotionally painful process for me. I developed disordered eating behaviors, swore off buying nice clothing, and descended into a profound state of personal misery. I founded Redenim because I know a lot of women struggle with these same feelings that are exacerbated by things like shopping and the numbers on the tag. I want people to know that we are more than just a way to shop. We believe that women deserve to feel happy, comfortable and confident for who they are, not what they wear and if we can make part of the process a little easier for them, then we are doing our jobs.
Why do you choose to invest + build a brand around ethical values?
Sustainability is also a core pillar of what we do because textile waste is a massive problem that’s only getting worse with things like fast fashion. We’d rather get a woman into one nice pair of jeans that lasts a few years than see her buy 10 pairs of fast fashion jeans that don’t fit and end up in a landfill before a year has passed. While body positivity is the leading cause we rally around as brand, we are also dedicated to helping people reduce their fashion footprint. We source from some brands that manufacture here in North America and are transparent about their production standards while making high quality jeans that are meant to last.
AUSTIN LOCAL INSIDER RECOMMENDATIONS
Favorite local food truck(s)
When I first moved to Austin I lived on Rainey Street and my favorite thing about it was that there were a ton of food trucks. This was way before Rainey exploded in popularity so it was actually really quiet most of the time. I remember being blown away by the number of options available because the food truck culture in NYC was mostly street meat. My absolute favorite truck here in Austin is Via 313 which I discovered behind Craft Pride with another location over by me on the east side. I was skeptical at first because I was raised on New York style pizza, but I absolutely love Via 313, especially their Cadillac pizza.
Favorite local curated boutiques?
I actually think this is Austin’s best kept secret so I hesitate to discuss, but it needs to be shared! My favorite boutique in Austin is UAL (United Apparel Liquidators) which used to be on SoCo and has since relocated to 2nd street at Lavaca. It looks fairly unassuming from the street, but it’s really special because all they carry is liquidated designer apparel sourced from showrooms all around the world marked down to insanely low prices. They actually demolished the building where it used to be on SoCo and I had a flash of white-hot panic when I thought it was gone for good. Their buyers scour sample sales or buy off inventory that doesn’t sell from showrooms so super high end stuff just sort of ends up here in Austin. It’s not uncommon to stroll in there and find a Marchesa gown marked down from $1200 to $175 or a pair of Jimmy Choo heels for $100 instead of $900. They bring in new inventory all the time so I stop by a couple times a month to see what’s on the racks. It’s kind of like shopping consignment stores where you really need to hunt sometimes and occasionally you get the heartbreak of finding something amazing that’s not your size. But the thrill is in the chase and I have a few designer pieces in my closet that I would have never imagined owning.
Favorite local coffee shop?
I really enjoy Cuvee over on the east side because it’s awesome for people watching and is obviously on point with its menu. This is a point of debate, but I like that they don’t have wifi there so I enjoy going with a book for some chai tea and down time. It’s a great place to hit if you want a coffee shop that doesn’t feel like a coworking space.
Must-see recommendation(s) for those traveling to Austin.
One of my favorite things to do around Austin is to drive the 2222 while blasting “Ballroom Blitz.” People have this perception that Texas is all flat farmland, but I love that drive up to the 360 bridge area with all the windy roads, hills and scenery. There’s plenty to do, see, and eat around Austin, but I always recommend that drive to anyone visiting Austin.
Where can supporters find your denim shop?
We are currently online at www.redenim.com where you can create a style profile and request a Restyle Box of 3 pairs of jeans sent to your home to try for 7 days. You keep what you love and send back the rest on us, but you get to try jeans on in the comfort of your own home and in the context of your entire wardrobe. We’re working on a physical location here in Austin as well for women to come and get styled personally so stay tuned for that!