Friday, November 12, 2010

Fifteen Minutes with Erin Derge and Kristen Swenson of Ginger Root Design


Erin Derge and Kristen Swenson will preview their fall fashion line and answer your questions on Monday, November 15th at "Green is the New Black: Eco-Consciousness is in Style" at Ray's the Steaks at East River, 6:30 p.m. $30 for Dinner and Biodynamic Wine! Register now!
See photos from Ashley's visit on our Facebook page 

Q: How did you become interested in sewing and fashion?

Erin: I guess it goes back to when I was younger. My grandma taught me how to quilt. There’s actually a picture on that wall of me when I was seven years old, at a sewing machine.
Kristen: My grandma gave me a sewing machine when I was young. I grew up on a farm so there wasn’t much to do (laughs). I would spend most of my time tearing up old jeans and making new things out of them. I remember grabbing an old shower curtain and making a bag out of it with used CDs on the pockets!
Erin: Yeah, I got in trouble a lot for cutting up my brother’s clothes and making pieces for my Barbie dolls! And I would even go to school wearing some weird outfits that I had sewn stuff onto, without my mom knowing (laughs). 

Q: How did you find the space for Ginger Root Design?

Erin: Word of mouth. The business community is very supportive here on U Street.
Kristen: We were next door talking to our friends who own their own business and they suggested this space, which was available at the time. It’s like a big family. We’re in each other’s stores a lot; it’s really nice. Everyone pops in all the time (laughs).

Q: What does your clothing line ReVamp, ReWear mean to you?

Erin: Recycling and also finding a way of unique self expression.
Kristen: Looking in your closet and asking yourself, “What do I have in my closet that I can transform into something wearable again?” We were actually thinking about naming our line “Interchangeable Parts” because our philosophy is similar to an automobile, in which you can interchange the parts. The name was such a mouthful though, so we changed it to ReVamp ReWear (laughs).

Q: Why is it important to include men’s apparel in your line?

Erin: I was especially interested in including men’s clothing because in DC, men don’t have a lot of options. I think there are a lot of men who are trying to get away from the Capitol Hill reputation.
Kristen: I agree. I think men don’t have a lot of options here and it’s cool to bring something new to the table.
Erin: When we go to estate sales, we buy all the stuff that is in horrible condition- the stuff no one else wants - we rescue these damaged items.
Kristen: Completely rescuing items that you would never think would be wearable again. We rework our men’s ties and make them wearable again. 
Erin: We’ve been making a lot of clothing for women using menswear, especially men’s pants because the fabrics are great. But now, we’re creating men’s clothes from women’s clothes. Recently, we made men’s shorts for this weekend’s Tweed Ride from a skirt!

Q: What served as your inspiration for mixing fashion with green practices?

Kristen: We started to become aware of what a wasteful industry this is.
Erin: Like, you look at a shirt that costs ten dollars but, really, there are many more costs to the environment and the people who made that shirt.
Kristen: For me, it was when I found out polyester is the same material used to make water bottles. Thinking about all of that waste and where it’s ending up made me think, “There is no way I can be a part of that.” I had to make the choice between either finding a different field to work in or trying to change it.

Q: What is one thing that you have done in the past couple of years to become more ‘green’?

Erin: Opening this business! (laughs) Also, biking and eating from the farmer’s market. You buy food from the people who grew it, which is great. I also use public transportation, I walk everywhere, and I use reusable bags.
Kristen: I’d never been able to get into going to farmer’s markets regularly, but now that I’m in DC, I go all the time. I’m definitely more conscious about purchasing local food and supporting local farmers.

Q: Tell me about the Tweed Ride going on this Sunday.

Kristen: Everyone dresses up in tweed and fall colors. It’s a very light-hearted event where everyone rides their bikes together. This year they’re showing bike-friendly fashion lines and we’ll be showcasing our new fall collection from ReVamp ReWear. (Pieces from their bike-friendly collection will be on view at Monday's "Green is the New Black" event)

Mingle with Erin Derge and Kristen Swenson on Monday, November 15 at thWorld House Series event, 
"Green is the New Black: Eco-Consciousness is in Style" at Ray's the Steaks at East River, 6:30 p.m. $30 for Dinner and Biodynamic Wine! Register now!

Also meet, Trayce McQuirter M.P.H., who will be signing copies of her book, "By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat." Mariessa Terrell, Esq., founder of Simone Butterfly will moderate the discussion.
For more information on the Humanities Council’s World House Series: The Philosophy of Green, visit

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