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From Campus to Runway: Two College Students Create Sustainable Clothing Brand

From August 31 to September 2, Union Station in Kansas City became a bustling hub that attracted fashion lovers into the city. Kansas City Fashion Week (KCFW) brings local, national and international designers to the runways around the metropolitan area. Models made their way down the catwalk, showing off the work of all the talented designers. One lineup in particular made a statement by using warm colors and various patchwork to give a retro chic aesthetic. The best part? The clothing was made from recycled materials, making it not only fashionable but sustainable. The brand Reduce was created by fashion design students Hannah Klemen and Katie Ciolino. In just a matter of months, an idea formed in a coffee shop ended up on the runway. 

Reduce is a sustainable clothing brand made with recycled materials in an attempt to cut down on textile waste. Clothing from Reduce is crafted with various thrifted items and recycled scraps of fabric that are hand-sewn into creative patterns. 

“We like to think it’s the brand to help you stop shopping. We want to encourage people to buy well-made clothes that are made with love and made sustainably. What we want is for people to wear their clothes until they give out, mend them and then wear them some more,” said Klemen. 

Both girls knew they wanted to pursue sustainable fashion. Klemen had originated the idea of Reduce, and one of the first people she went to was her father. 

“My dad’s been a big help with everything, he was like, ‘This is a good idea, you should go with it,’ and I definitely didn’t know where to go with it at first,” said Klemen. 

Klemen collaborated with Ciolino, and the two of them worked together to help build Reduce’s brand. They had participated in a runway show through their college where they became experienced with the inner workings of a fashion show. They decided that the best way to get their brand out was through KCFW. KCFW hosts shows in both the fall and spring, giving local designers the chance to showcase their lineups for different seasons. 

“Our ideals line up very well since we have the same values in fashion. So it just kind of came together,” said Kleman. 

The application process for fashion week extended over two months. They waited weeks after completing the online application to receive a response. Eventually, the girls were interviewed and presented their ideas along with some clothes. After the lengthy process and more wait time, Klemen and Ciolino found out they made the show. 

In preparation for the show, the girls drew up various designs. They selected possible fabrics and combined materials together on a mood board. The duo spent numerous hours planning their lineup. 

“Everything was very tedious, time-consuming. And everything that you see in our collection is completely thought out to a T. Everything was strategized and like what we wanted. It was all very well planned,” Klemen said. 

Klemens and Ciolino had a roster of about 600 models to choose from. Once their selection was made, they began making their clothes. KCFW followed up with another interview where Ciolino and Klemens would show their progress. 

“It was definitely a really positive environment. Going into it was really intimidating, but everyone was so kind and helpful,” Kleman stated. 

The countless hours spent planning, designing and sewing had helped Ciolino and Kleman bring their visions from sewing machines and coffee shops to the runway. 

“Our favorite part is when it all comes together. When you’re first designing you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but seeing it all in the end makes it so worth it,” said Ciolino.

Although not everything from their brand is 100% recycled, Klemens and Ciolino hope to one day make their brand with completely recycled materials. They hope to make sustainable fashion more affordable since it is currently difficult to purchase because of its price. Klemens and Ciolino are focused on running a clothing business and being full-time students. Reduce will be a part of the Kansas City Fashion Week Spring 2023 lineup this coming March. 

Hi! My name is Emily Long and I am a freshman here at UMKC. I am studying Business with a minor in International Studies. I love exercising, traveling, reading, baking, movies, music, and everything Trader Joe's. I am so excited to be a part of Her Campus!