Store-ies 11: urbanfitco.

 

A visual archive of Pittsburgh retailers & their stories. 

 
 
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KC Kaluhiokalani

ceo/founder, urbanfitco.

Photography by Rose Colored Creative

What’s the story behind your career, the journey that has led you to where you are today with urbanfitco.?

I didn’t grow up with a passion for fashion like a lot of my counterparts. In fact, growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with fashion. I battled with my weight during my pre-pubescent years and there was definitely an AWKWARD, chubby phase in middle school. This made it difficult to love fashion because I would want certain pieces of clothing, and they just wouldn’t fit. Shopping felt almost like a chore, rather than something enjoyable. There were definitely a lot of frustrating times in the fitting rooms. 

One particular boy also bullied me incessantly during middle school. And in my world, it felt like I was the only chubby girl. It felt like all of my friends were “skinny” and had perfect hair (my hair can be frizzy and it’s brown, OMG not that). As a young girl, I started to think if I could lose weight, or be “skinny”, or look a certain way then maybe the bullying would stop or clothes would fit. Was it really that simple though?

As I grew up, I realized my weight wasn’t the issue—It was my self-esteem. I could become what I thought was “ideal”, but if I wasn’t happy with myself then it would be all for nothing. I would always find something wrong with a piece of clothing. Something negative someone said to me would always affect me. Let’s face it, there is always going to be that “bully” and sometimes a piece of clothing won’t fit.

In the early stages of urbanfitco., when we were developing branding/marketing, people would ask me who my target audience or market is? I didn’t want to define the business by that one buyer persona. I thought back to my younger self, and thought it would be unfair to leave her behind. I knew I wanted urbanfitco. to be a place where all women could have a positive experience.

I realize that there are differences amongst women, in body type and style. And I know that firsthand. My sister has been a 0 her whole life, whereas my weight has fluctuated most of my life. (In my adult life, I’ve been anywhere from a 4 to a 12.) I wanted to create an organization where there was no judgment or set standard, and every woman could feel good about herself. I feel that it’s extremely important to empower women, promote self-love, and a sense of belonging.

 
 

Benefits and challenges of having a store in Pgh?

Benefit—There is a sense of pride and community in Pittsburgh that I haven’t really encountered in other places on the scale that I have here. Before moving to Pittsburgh in 2004, I’ve lived in a few other cities/states and Pittsburgh really tops the scales in hometown pride. Pittsburghers love to support local businesses, and that is really amazing. The relationships I’ve created (because of my boutique) in and around my community really mean the world to me. 

Challenge— Pittsburgh is a little behind when it comes to trends. I will go on buying trips and fall in love with a piece that may not translate here, but is doing well in another market. There are a lot more offerings now than there used to be, so I do see customers taking more risks with their own fashion choices. I see a lot of growth style-wise in Pittsburgh.

 
 

I wanted to create an organization where there was no judgment or set standard, and every woman could feel good about herself. I feel that it’s extremely important to empower women, promote self-love, and a sense of belonging.

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What is one fashion word that you wish people would stop using?

This probably isn’t a fashion word that most people use, but I wish brands would stop with the segregation of fashion through sizing (straight sizes vs. plus sizes). Women are women, and we come in all shapes and sizes. I think sizing should be just that, sizes. Brands should strive for size inclusion.  

What's your biggest regret? 

I don’t really have any regrets. I try not to get caught up in the could haves, should haves, or what ifs. Any “mistakes” or “regrets” are always learning experiences. I believe you should be constantly learning and evolving. The person I was when I opened urbanfitco. is not the person I am today, and I am grateful for that. If I wasn’t learning and evolving, that would be my biggest regret. 

If you could make a documentary what would it be about? 

I would love to make a documentary about starting/owning/operating a boutique. It would probably be an extension of the vlogs we do, with some drama, stress, and not so pretty things that you don’t see. With social media, everyone sees the “perfection” of lives or the finished product. I think a documentary about how a business gets from point A to point Z would be interesting. 

Leather or lace? 

Leather. 100%.

What's your next big step for the brand? 

Loaded question. Do I have to pick just one? My wheels are always turning, so my list of ideas for the brand is long. 

We are currently working on a big project that will consist of building a digital content library for our customers. We are always looking for ways to add value to our customers outside of just selling products. This involves partnering with local businesses to shoot content so our customers are able to access free workouts, hair tutorials, recipes, styling tips, etc. 

Designing our own line is something else I’ve always had on my mind. We’ve already dabbled with our own tanks and hats, but I really want a full collection of activewear and some fashion pieces mixed in. I have a strong vibe and idea for this line, but I just need to find the time. 

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If you were gifted $10,000 with no strings attached, how would you use it for the shop? 

I would start my own line, without question. It is something I have wanted to do for a while. I’ve started the project many times to ultimately put it on hold. I have the vision. I just need to do it. 

Which fashion designer or muse (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

A lot of urbanfitco. is based on community, collaboration, and connection. Ultimately, I think it would be really fun to collaborate with local designers. When I think about creating my own line, I would love to collaborate with the likes of Kiya Tomlin or Diana Misetic. I think their stories are really unique, and I love what they bring to Pittsburgh. 

 
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Elysia Newman