Ohio State student transforms passion for sustainable fashion into an online vintage store

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Anna Imwalle, fourth year of marketing and owner of the online vintage clothing store RVVLshop, and her sister Claudia Imwalle chose the used denim to resell it on RVVLshop. Credit: Molly Goheen | Lanterna journalist

Anna Imwalle has transformed a passion that began with sewing classes in third grade into a clothing business, while maintaining her status as a full-time student.

Imwalle, in his fourth year of marketing, is the owner of the online vintage store RVVL shop and mainly sells vintage women’s clothing, as well as its own hand-made clothing made from recycled materials. Imwalle said he started the company in 2016 as a youngster in high school after shopping at thrift stores.

“I’ve just started going to thrift stores to try and find materials to make clothes with because it’s cheaper than buying materials in a craft store,” Imwalle said. “Eventually, I had too many clothes and sewing projects that I decided to start selling them.”

Imwalle said she started her business secretly and completely on her own, but later had to tell her parents, as she was a minor and needed them to log out on her Etsy account.

After orders started going up, Imwalle expanded her Etsy shop to her website and started building it. Instagram even the presence. Since then, RVVLshop has amassed over 10,000 followers, partly through influencer marketing, he said.

Imwalle used to contact Instagram influencers whose style she liked or those she felt had a nice artistic sense, offering to send free clothes.

“They could wear it and hopefully tag me on Instagram,” Imwalle said. “If you only have one really valuable person who puts a really good outfit together and tags you, you can get a lot of followers from it and people will start to think your brand is great.”

When she started taking classes at Ohio State, Imwalle said she ran into difficulties running RVVLshop from her dorm room due to lack of space and time. To remedy this, Imwalle said he recruited her younger sister, Claudia Imwalle, a high school student, to help her with packing and sending orders from their hometown.

But when the pandemic hit, Anna Imwalle said she could go home and had more time to devote to business.

“When we had to go home, I had a lot more time on my hands and I was in my house with a lot more space and my sewing machine and all,” said Anna Imwalle. “I think it was really good because it allowed me to go back to why I started doing it in the first place, which is to create my own clothes and try to design clothes.”

The company name refers to the word “revival,” which means to take items of clothing and revitalize them into something new, said Anna Imwalle.

“She can find things in the thrift store where she could see potential and then come up with what she thinks she or someone else might be wearing,” said Claudia Imwalle. “Like a super long dress, she’ll cut a skirt and top or something that she thinks is cute but may not have come off the rack.”

RVVLshop serves as both a creative outlet for Anna Imwalle and a way she can help protect the environment, she said.

The upcycling and resale of clothing helps reduce textile waste that ends up in landfills. Claudia Imwalle said her sister also donates a percentage of her Earth Day sales to environmental protection organizations.

“That’s why I tried to turn to secondhand because it’s still a way to have fun with your style at an affordable price without, like, causing so much damage to the environment,” said Anna Imwalle.

Anna Imwalle said she believes small businesses like hers can influence larger brands to start using more sustainable practices, such as Levi’s, which Anna Imwalle says has recently started selling recycled denim.

Ana Kasumova, a third year in neuroscience, said she attended the Ohio Vintage Fest in December 2021 and shopped at RVVLshop.

“When I first came to her shop, I was actually really surprised by the good price of everything and seeing the range of sizes she had was also quite interesting because it wasn’t just a size six or anything,” said Kasumova. “She was actually quite inclusive of vintage clothing, which I think is even harder to find.”

Upon graduation, Anna Imwalle said she intends to pursue her love of fashion in San Francisco, where she will work for Gap and continue to run her business.

Anna Imwalle launched her latest handmade collection, Cherry treeon her website Wednesday at 10am, which she says features handcrafted cherry patterned dresses made entirely from recycled materials.

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