Store-ies 08: Ruhling Woven
A visual archive of Pittsburgh retailers & their stories.
What’s the story behind your career, the journey that has led you to where you are today with Ruhling Woven?
It's a bit of a long one, but in a nutshell - I went to fashion school in LA for a graduate program after college. I then moved straight to NYC after graduating and worked as a buyer in the city for 6ish years. I was 0% creative on a personal level during this time in NY. In late 2014, I moved from Brooklyn to the rural suburbs of PGH, on a whim, to ground myself and learn a new craft or two. This led to weaving, which ultimately led to my business name. Then I slowly began painting again, then designing clothes (finally putting my design degree to use). During this creative incubation, I was selling my art and curated vintage collection at local and non-local pop-up markets. I worked 24/7 as I continued to grow my wholesale business. After three years, I burned myself out on the maker end and really just wanted to focus on sustainable apparel as a form of art. One day, I came across a vacant storefront that felt like the most beautiful canvas for a shop/studio. Wheels turned for about a year and by the summer of 2018 I was fully obsessed with opening my own. In a few short weeks, I went all in and found a space, signed a lease, built out my shop, and then opened. I feel like I've reached a lifelong goal with this one.
What's your next big step for the brand?
First and foremost, selling online to reach that non-local audience and focusing on interior design aspects as well as apparel. Bigger picture - I have been ruminating on a second shop offering artistic mid-range shoes and handbags, featuring small modern designers with a sustainability ethos. Thinking big for my 5-year plan.
Benefits and challenges of having a store in Pgh?
This city has afforded me the opportunity to set up shop with manageable rent for commercial space, which is something that would have been nearly impossible for me in NY/LA. There is a lot of camaraderie/support within this community and each small neighborhood. My customers are loyal. PGH has never been a fashion city but there have also been very limited shopping options. This will change!
What's your biggest regret?
I don't feel regret but I will say owning a small business is and has been a ride and I have only grown from challenges/hardships. I have learned to not push myself too hard, and consistently check in with myself and my expectations. I will spin off into some learned tips on how to avoid gross feelings of regret: trust your intuition, be transparent, don't sell yourself short, be proud of/own the work you've done (past and present), be kind to people and most importantly yourself (stop comparing!). Talk to everyone, even if briefly, and make those lasting connections. I am working on taking my own advice every day.
If you could make a documentary what would it be about?
The sustainability of shopping second hand and the impact of fast fashion on the planet (the third most polluting industry). Americans discard over 14 million tons of textiles a year. 99% of this can be recycled or reused, but 85+% ends up in a landfill. Also, climate change is real and the production of clothing is adding mega fuel to this fire. There is so much to learn that so many people do not know. Donating clothing, upcycling clothing, thrifting and buying secondhand is so important. A simple google search will shock you. I recommend so that you can scare yourself into ditching your fast-fashion ways like I did.
Leather or lace?
Velvet or fur?
Which fashion designer or muse (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?
Currently, Sissy Sainte-Marie (style muse). Also, Paloma Wool, Lisa Says Gah!, Maryam Nassir Zadeh are all current young designers doing their own thing with the most unique and fun aesthetic. I am not huge into IG fashion influencers but @maria_bernad is the one for me.