“Vegan clothing store” might bring to mind tie-dye, hemp necklaces and “organic brownies.”
But at 11:30 a.m. today, just such a store will celebrate its grand opening on the corner of York and Elm streets. So in addition to vegan jambalaya at their college dining halls, Yalies will be able to get upscale, meatless fashion from Kerin.
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“It’s a three-pronged idea,” said Andrea Kerin, who co-owns the boutique with her husband, Chris. “We’re animal-friendly, earth-friendly and people-friendly.”
The Kerins said the boutique sells “high-fashion” items for men and women that do not contain any animal products. They said the store targets all fashion-conscious men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, not only vegans and vegetarians.
“They’re just beautiful clothes that happen to have less of a negative impact,” Andrea Kerin said. “The vegan [aspect] is not how we draw people in.”
New Haven was a logical locale for the boutique, said the Kerins, who live about 35 minutes away in Easton, Conn. Chris Kerin thought of the idea of the store more than two years ago with his 20-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, because they both are vegan and had difficulty finding clothing free of animal products. But it was not until Jacqueline spent the summer in New York City researching designers of vegan clothing that the store started to become a real possibility., they said.
Once they had a business plan, the Kerins had to decide whether to launch the store in Westport, where they said they would have been able to charge higher prices, or in New Haven. But when they found out that the PETA’s young adult division, PETA2, had ranked Yale as the fourth vegetarian-friendly university, they knew they that’s where they had to be, Andrea Kerin said.
Chris Kerin said the York Street building was an ideal location for other reasons as well: the Broadway district has plenty of foot traffic. He and his wife also hope to invite Yale students to help select the next season’s merchandise.
But most of all, the Kerins said they want to appeal to socially conscious Yalies.
“A lot of [older] people are already set in their ways,” Chris Kerin said. “When people are college-age … they’re investigating the world, willing to learn and change.”
Andrea Kerin, who said she is vegetarian and “almost vegan,” said the store will make shoppers more aware of buying products with wool, leather or silk in them. Andrea said even shearing sheep for wool can include “unkind” practices that injure the animals.
“[There is] an impact on animals,” she said. “They aren’t living on green hillsides leading happy, unmolested lives.”
Everything about the store, from its construction to its merchandise, is not only animal product-free, but also environmentally sustainable: the floor is covered with recycled porcelain tiles and the clothes are all organic or fair-trade certified. A display table is even made out of a reused red Volkswagen Beetle hood.
New technology has made vegan clothing possible, Chris Kerin said. For example, instead of leather, the shoes Kerin sells are made from man-made microfiber fabrics.
Shebani Rao ’12, the president of the Yale College Student Animal Welfare Alliance who said she leads a vegan lifestyle, said that though she is excited about Kerin’s opening, it is really individuals’ food and lifestyle changes that will have the biggest impact on animals’ welfare.
“The number one thing you can do is change how you eat,” she said. “Awareness shows in making difficult lifestyle changes.”
Kerin has been open for business since Nov. 24.