Upshift was established March of 2009 by me, Lindsay Leno, an avid thrift shopper and fashion expert. I achieved my Bachelor of Science degree in Apparel Design and Manufacturing at UW-Stout in 2001 and honed my fashion skills while working as a clothing developer and trend forecaster at Maurices, Inc. for over 6 years followed by 2 years in the retail industry as the Visual Manager at Forever 21. While working in the industry the idea of offering women a venue to exchange and upgrade their wardrobes was conceived. It was during my time as a designer and stylist that I saw thousands of garments developed only to be discarded on the cutting room floor or shoved to the back of a storage space. I knew their fate was to eventually end up in the garbage to overload landfills or sent to a thrift store to be lost in the mediocre rounders that plainly sit amongst thousands of tattered used clothing. I realized that fashionable garments, even if they have been previously worn, are a hot commodity that any trendy woman would want in her own closet.
I have always had a passion for clothing and style that was especially heightened while attending high school in Minnesota where I became aware of the reality that my family lacked a disposable income for school clothing. It was during this time I discovered that fashionable pieces lived outside the average retailer such as the then popular American Eagle or Gap. I built a wardrobe with items from Goodwill, The Salvation Army, local thrift sales, and cast-offs from my sister's closet. I added flare to this wardrobe by creating my own garments from scratch, but found the used items to fulfill the immediacy and fast-paced nature of fashion. I was able to find and wear the latest fashion for a fraction of the cost of items witnessed on the runway and in magazines. My goal was to offer this same ideal to other gals by opening a boutique.
I knew in order to achieve my goal of opening a boutique I needed a formal education followed by several years of experience in the industry. While I was patiently acquiring the needed skills to create the ideal business model for a boutique a new and urgent topic was making headlines; environmental awareness. I was born into a family that always held sustainable standards to its highest criteria by practicing a green lifestyle on a daily basis, and I continue to do so even into my adult life. While I was working within the fashion industry it quickly became obvious the clothing design world had a long way to go before meeting requirements of being gentle on resources and the earth. This culmination of events sprang the mission for Upshift; an exciting experience to refresh, recycle, and renew your wardrobe in a festive venue to “borrow from your best friend’s closet” with the benefit of a constantly changing wardrobe while maintaining an eco-conscious lifestyle!
I set to work developing a business plan and searching for a venue with the hopes of offering the unique Upshift concept to the Madison community, the model city to bring together sustainability and fashion. However, due to the economic climate, banks were hesitant to offer financing to a business model that had not yet been proven, sustainability is a concept that financial institutions don't see as profitable. I was not in the business to place profit as the number one priority, my main focus was to bring a sustainable lifestyle to the women of Madison all while making fashion a driving force. I decided that Upshift was going to open its doors even if it meant opening my own doors to accomplish the mission of the clothing exchange concept. Upshift officially opened on June 28th of 2011 in the lower level of our apartment building on the Eastside of Madison. Word quickly spread and women started showing up to exchange their wardrobes ultimately adding diversity to the inventory of the boutique and subsequently determining that sustainability is in fact a proven business model. The clothing boutique is 100% sustainable and is always at 100% capacity with fashion forward inventory. Upshift has garnered a cult following that depends mainly on word-of-mouth marketing as well as articles in local magazines such as The Nature's Pathway, Brava, Isthmus, State Journal, and local news bits. Madison and Upshift verify that sustainability, eco-awareness, and fashion have a proven place among the community of women that share these values, especially since moving to a new location in 2013.
Upshift needed to expand, which has always been an ongoing mission, so we researched locations and decided on 836 East Johnson as the ideal spot. The East Johnson neighborhood is a quaint little destination neighborhood that has seen some resent growth and revitalization. Our neighborhood hosts Johnson Public House, Salvatores Pizzeria, La Tiguara Restaurant, Sophia's Bakery, The Good Style Shop, Bernie's Rock Shop, Robin Room Cocktails, Cork N Bottle Liquor Store, and Macha Tea. It's clear to see that we fit perfectly amongst these quaint businesses and we are so happy to be a part of this area. Since opening in 2013 we have cultivated a foundation of loyal customers that keep our inventory fresh and continually updated. Our space is over 500 square feet of cutting edge trends. We will always stay in this location with a men's concept, but plan to move women's to a larger location where we can then carry sizes 0-24. Our concept is always evolving to cater to the customer's needs all while honoring our core values to refresh, renew, and recycle within the community.