This Is Me: Kate Ruggiero

The designer and founder of lingerie brand Gypsy talks listening to the stars, sexiness and living in paradise

Interview by Anna Langer, photo courtesy of Gypsy

I grew up on the East Coast and lived in NY for 5 years, working in fashion photography when I was ready for a change. I always dreamed of living on the beach and came out to Hawaii for a quick trip on my own and fell in love. I usually travel with friends but for some reason I came here alone and when I left to return to NY, I knew my heart was already in Hawaii. It’s the strangest feeling. I have travelled a lot and never felt so connected to a place after a week’s visit. I still have trouble articulating what it is about this place but I just follow my heart and it keeps me here for now…

The sand, bare feet, the moon, the smells of the flowers, saltwater, the colours and the sound of the ocean… It definitely feels like paradise, Hawaii is my place that allows me to daydream and is a place full of romance and a wild spirit. That being said, it’s just like any other place to live – you have the same worries as your friends on the mainland and being here just helps me to handle them with more patience and grace and there are so many outlets here to relax and reconnect with yourself.

I have a background in fashion & photography and when I moved out to Hawaii, I spent a lot of time daydreaming and sketching and for some reason felt like learning to sew again. I knew a bit when I was younger but wanted to really learn again. For my birthday, a few close friends gifted me with a cute little vintage machine and I started learning again. I wanted to make bikini bottoms and started working with jersey fabric & creating my perfect pair. I cut apart several different designs and kept testing out the fit until I created a style I loved. Slowly my friends wanted pairs, and then with the help of my very talented friend, Daeja Fallas, we decided to photograph the pieces for fun for a lookbook.

I honestly had no intention of starting a business. I really didn’t decide to do so until I tried them out on a First Friday event in the Arts District of Chinatown. A small boutique there called ETown studios did a launch party for the pieces and it was the first time I could see how people would respond. They sold really well and sold out within the first few weeks in the boutique. It has been such an adventure and I love that I try to really hold on to the truth of it, that I never really started it with the intention of making money. Simply put, I just want to make beautiful things and enjoy it.

I’m very connected with the elements seeing that I live in Hawaii and it’s a natural part of my daily life here. It is such a magical place here, you can fall asleep under the stars on the sand or listening to the ocean and the wind. I think it’s why I truly fell in love with this place – living so close to the ocean and the land here really helps you keep in touch with the rhythms of life and to remember that there are tides with life and that you simply have to go with them and let go.

It’s easy to live very simply and minimally here. I am surrounded by so many intelligent friends here that teach me something new everyday on how to be more conscious and to live more mindfully, it’s been a real learning experience coming from a city.

Where I get my inspiration from? I want this whole journey to really be a reflection of this ‘gypsy’ girl and to show the many aspects of who she is. Something very important to me was that she is not conveyed as an aimless hippie but rather someone who is very in touch with herself and her dreams. The collections have really shown an evolution of this girl and her story – the story began in her bedroom, then on the beach, then in her tent among the earth & nature and now our current collection shows her among the cosmos on a deserted moonscape. It’s something I love about the collections, they have effortlessly become a shadow of my story and show the many different dreams I have. I want to really do something unique that conveys feeling and makes people feel confident and happy in themselves.

My family and friends are my tribe of people that I cannot live without. I learn so much from my close friends and am constantly inspired by the words they say to me and the lives they live. I am so blessed to have such beautiful strong friends in my life that keep me growing and support my every triumph and failure. I feel rich to have them in my life.

Happiness is sexy to me. There is so much freedom and courage in simply claiming the life you live and the person that you are and staying true to that spirit and I find that kind of happiness to be what’s truly sexy. And to have no fear, but have only love – that is what I find to be really romantic and sexy.



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