Brandee Castle and Sara Graf — founders of Judith & Joe Boutique — believe that ethical fashion is for everyone. Shopping sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive, according to the two business owners who have been in the fashion business in Colorado since 2013. As Denver evolves in the fashion scene, so does its core values of what consumers expect from brands big and small. In this case, ethical fashion is becoming more and more of a requirement that consumers want from fashion brands, and Judith & Joe provides just that.
Castle believes that everyone can do their part to be more sustainable and ethical. She stated, “Every little bit helps. It isn’t all or nothing. It’s something or nothing.” What started as a brand “made by accident” has now become a leading local business on the journey to sustainable fashion in Denver.
303 Magazine: First, tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into the fashion industry and how did you get to the point of starting your own fashion-based business?
Brandee Castle: Purely by accident. My business partner, Sara Graf, and I worked together in an office and were always talking about style and fashion. We both had a heart for entrepreneurship and we wanted to create and own something one day. We both also wanted our business to positively impact others, so it was a stroke of luck that our goals, interests and vision lined up. My background is actually mostly in radion and journalism.
303: For those who have never been in, describe Judith & Joe and its style.
BC: Everything at Judith & Joe is ethically or sustainably made. We lean towards classic, clean styles that you can keep in your closet for years. We love our little spot on Blake Street and try to keep it a haven in the middle of a rapidly changing area.
303: We understand that the concept behind Judith & Joe is carrying ethical clothing, tell us more about that and why it’s important to you.
BC: Fashion is the second dirtiest industry right now. Our fast-fashion consumptions create so much waste and demand, so people and the planet get hurt along the way. We don’t think it has to be that way, and that ethical fashion can also be affordable and approachable.
303: How do you think fashion retailers can be more ethical? What does it mean to be ethical?
BC: I think it can mean many things! We have this mentality that you’re all in or you’re not good enough. Every little bit helps. Retailers could seek more small-batch manufacturers that create less waste or clothing lines that utilize domestic factories. There are so many brands that give back or use eco-friendly practices. It could look like bringing in the fully sustainable and ethical B-corp brands, choosing more local artisans or even just eliminating as much waste at their shops as possible. It isn’t all or nothing. It’s something or nothing.
303: Tell us about the process of finding clothing and styles you want to carry in-store.
BC: I guess we’re lucky that our options are more limited than more shops. It used to be frustrating, but now it’s liberating. It helps us quickly weed out brands that don’t fit into our values. We ask a lot of questions about the brand’s factories and processes and read labels. Then, we pick pieces that fit into our aesthetic that we think our community will love. While we have different roles in the business, Sara and I buy everything together, so it’s always been a mix of our styles, refined by our customers and our amazing employees over the years.
303: Anything you can share with us about the future of Judith & Joe or your work in Denver’s fashion scene?
BC: We love our community in Denver. I’m a Colorado native and Sara has lived here most of her adult life. Denver has been really good to us, so we hope to be fighting the good fight in fashion here for years.
All photography by Ashley Kidder.