Syracuse University alumna opens eco-friendly boutique

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WRBL) – Syracuse University alumna, Caeresa Richardson, worked in corporate America as a mechanical engineer for over 10 years, but always with an idea in the back of her mind of opening her own clothing boutique.

Last fall, that idea became a reality when Gypsy Freedom opened its showroom in downtown Syracuse. The eco-friendly and “socially responsible” store began as online only in Dec. 2019
and Richardson popped up in different areas of Syracuse, Skaneateles and Buffalo to test out the
market.

“I was not sold on Syracuse,” Richardson said. “I did not believe that this store would do well
here. … I was like, ‘I don’t know if people are really shoppers here.’”

Before opening Gypsy Freedom, throughout her professional career, Richardson learned how harmful the fashion industry is to the environment. According to recent research, clothing manufacturing is responsible for 8.1 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, the same as the entire European Union’s climate impact. For example, the annual per capita water consumption for apparel production is 6,313.7 gallons of water, or the equivalent of 150 baths. In the United States, one garbage truck of clothes is dumped in a landfill every two minutes.

“Almost every process of the fashion industry is destructive in some manner, and it’s such a giant industry that’s so unwieldly out of control in terms of trying to protect the environment,” said Todd Conover, a SU Associate Professor of Fashion and Design. “There’s a very large movement in trying to create more sustainable practices in the fashion industry.”

Richardson said she was having trouble finding brands that focused on sustainability, so she
realized women like her must be having the same problem.

“As I personally began to learn more about it, and I also was trying to look for styles and
clothing that I could wear in my everyday life to work, to class, I recognized that there’s an
underserved market here,” Richardson said.

Conover explained this movement needs to start local and then move global.

“Anytime a little store like this raises this awareness and suddenly there’s consumers that are
purchasing these goods because of this, I think it can only help,” Conover said.

The new business owner researches and hand picks every brand personally, so she’s not just picking them out of a catalogue. She chooses brands to feature that are fair trade certified, and clothing and accessories that are made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, hemp, recycled polyester, and tencel (a fabric made from eucalyptus pulp). It’s also important that the brands are socially conscious, Richardson said, so many of the brands partner with charities.

Despite her initial nerves, Richardson has no regrets.

“I love watching this little itty-bitty idea that I had that became this nagging voice in my mind, that eventually sparked into this store,” she said. “I love watching other people come in here, learn about the materials, learn about the brands, and take the brands home, and the information that they learn home.”

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