Casey Kelly and Joanne Fredo

When Joanne Fredo and Casey Kelly go shopping, their arms start to ache from swiping hangars across the rack while on the hunt for vintage finds. But for the fashionistas turned ambassadors for sustainable clothing, it’s a joy to give high quality clothing a second life.

Hand sewn beads are the spotlight Joanne Fredo’s mother’s dress from the late 1960’s.

Celebrating the one year anniversary of their clothing shop, The Conscious Outfit, this month, the business partners have scoured thrift stores, estate sales and more for pre-loved styles with potential. Fredo, with her fashion design background, up-cycles clothing as needed while Kelly, with a background in fashion retail marketing, pairs pieces to create one-of-a-kind outfits.

The Conscious Outfit is joining the sustainable fashion revolution that has exploded in the past five years. The fashion industry has been ranked as the second largest polluter, from the amount of cotton produced to emissions of shipping overseas. With sweatshops and child labor still on the rise, consumers have started to find fast fashion not worth the low price tag. “I’m not going to get pleasure out of wearing something if I know someone had to live in disparaging conditions in order for me to pay that lower price,” Fredo said.

With the fashion industry less than transparent about their practices, consumers have started looking for clothes through thrifting and consignment. Resale has grown 21 times faster than the retail apparel market over the past three years. “The way [fashion] is going to change is by consumer lead initiatives to demand to know where the clothes come from,” Kelly said. “Women’s Wear Daily talks about it every day in their headlines, and it’s changing.”

A vintage Whiting & Davis snake necklace was the treasure found in an Atlanta thrift store.

Advocates of second hand styles often fall more eccentric than elegant on the fashion spectrum, but both Fredo and Kelly bridge trendy and classic fashion. The Conscious Outfit has many contemporary designers scored from estate and prop sales, often with the tags still on, and keep many basics – jeans, t-shirts and hoodies – in the inventory.

Fredo studied design at SCAD and Kelly’s background in high-end, luxury apparel brands keeps the mannequins looking modern. When the two met at Inman Park Ladies’ Social Club, they knew they needed to pool their closets and host a pop-up shop of vintage styles.  Compliments from the party turned into clients, which quickly grew into a business model to sell and rent sustainable clothing.

Worn at many galas in Egypt, this dress is still for rent for formal events in Atlanta.

The Conscious Outfit sells, rents and offers subscriptions for clients. For a monthly fee, members can mix and match items on the shop’s racks, trading out items to always keep their closets fresh. The first membership starting point is $20 a month and provides a selection of clothing and accessories valued up to $100.

“A cool side effect of the renting service is the opportunity to take more fashion risks. You might try something you might not have necessarily tried before,” Kelly said.

The Conscious Outfits racks can be perused in the guest suite of Fredo’s home in Inman Park, but often roll all over Atlanta for pop-up shows. This summer, The Conscious Outfit provided a fashion show experience at Argosy Market, the Summer Block Party at The Shops of Buckhead and at a Self-Love health conference. Wherever they go, they share that sustainability is in style. “Starting this journey has not only changed the way we shop, it’s changed the way we live,” Kelly said. “I think more sustainably about everything.”

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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