Twins Allyson and Whitney Smith are identical in appearance, but their distinct personalities contrast in more ways than one. Whitney is an avid shopper, and Allyson prefers spreadsheets. But what they share is a passion for environmentalism.

Their diverse preferences, fueled by a common goal, have shaped their success as co-owners of Rom Shop, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle boutique opened last year in downtown Albany.

“Whitney and I complement each other very well in the business, in everything from ideas to execution,” Allyson said. “It’s not always easy to be in business with the family, but as twins we have a natural partnership. We’ve been best friends all our lives. “

The couple, who both work full-time in the music industry, launched the business when the pandemic cut off job opportunities and left them with a surplus of free time. In the frustration of online shopping and endless returns, the 29-year-olds decided to create their own brand, drawing inspiration from years of traveling beyond the capital and identifying small, successful clothing stores.

Growing up in Albany, Whitney said she often traveled 90 miles out of town to find items that interested her and brands that didn’t contribute to “fast fashion,” referring to the rapid production of high volumes of cheap clothing that produce an exorbitant carbon footprint. . The fashion industry contributes 10% to annual carbon emissions, more than all international flights and shipping combined, and uses 93 billion cubic meters of water per year, enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Rom Shop was born with the mission of providing customers with high quality “slow fashion” clothing that minimizes damage to people and the planet and is in line with the values ​​of buyers.

“Slow fashion is a whole lifestyle based on being aware of your consumption habits and how they impact not only you but also the people who make your clothes,” said Whitney. “Many up-and-coming designers who center slow fashion in their clothes make small, truly unique batches by hand.”

The twins officially opened the doors at 472 Madison Ave. last November, with Allyson taking care of operational duties and Whitney taking care of the collection available at the store, formerly the Olive & June Floral Company.

In building the inventory, Whitney began by filling the collection with items she owned and brands she loved before shifting the focus to working with more diverse brands, bringing extended dimensions and focusing on fostering an environment of inclusiveness that appeals to all. body types and gender expressions.

“We really focused on unique, high-quality pieces, but also on basic, affordable pieces that you can change inside and out in your wardrobe,” said Whitney. “Every time we travel, we observe what people are wearing on the street, which models and this informs a little about how we store the store.” Some of the brands available at the store include Jungmaven Clothing, Le Bon Shoppe, Rita Row, Donni, and Atelier Delphine.

Allyson’s motivation in starting the business stems from personal frustrations in buying T-shirts or pants from popular local retailers and with the seams ripped after a few wash cycles. “I realized that I was constantly wasting money replacing products because I couldn’t get durable, high-quality parts in Albany,” she said.

The company’s clothing, made with organic or sustainably harvested materials and non-toxic dyes, have a variable cost but are priced higher than other “fast fashion” stores. Whitney said they are focusing on identifying more realistic price scales and working with more accessible brands to avoid preventing certain demographic groups from participating in sustainable fashion. They attend events like Albany Business Improvement District First Friday with store-wide discounts and even have a fully stocked drop shelf.

A community closet is also in the works that will allow people to bring their old clothes from the store or similar brands to sell at lower prices in exchange for an in-store discount. It is expected to officially open early next year.

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