The Inspiring Journey Of Tam Senior. Kate Rosegard and Kirsi Harris. Founders Of KK Swap.
Kirsi Harris and Kate Rosegard are Tamalpais High School seniors and part of the 2023 graduating class. The two have been best friends since elementary school, and now call themselves business partners. Harris and Rosegard established KK (Kate and Kirsi) Swaps, a clothing store that focuses on reusing and recycling fashion.KK Swaps primarily conducts sales in Rosegard’s driveway, attracting individuals from all over Marin who are interested in shopping secondhand. Sellers can drop off their clothing items before a specific deadline. Those clothes are modeled on the KK Swaps Instagram, then tagged and displayed by Rosegard and Harris for the next sale. Once the sale is over, the seller will receive profit from whichever items are sold.
KK Swaps originated during the Covid lockdown when the graduating class of 2023 started high school. Rosegard and Harris were freshmen at the time and came up with the idea out of boredom while being confined to their homes.
“When people were in lockdown our friends were always posting on social media trying to sell their clothes, there was nothing else to do. Kirsi and I realized we could make that into something, which was KK Swaps”
Over the course of four years, the initiative has evolved into a community event. In the early stages, the sales attendees were solely friends and family.
“It was hard to get people to come in the beginning, we sent out a text on Snapchat to around 50 girls, and only five people got back to us. It was also hard because it was Covid, and everyone was kind of skeptical. We had to make sure everything was spread out, and everyone wore masks. Although Covid probably contributed to the difficult start, “I think we would have had a slow start with or without the pandemic because KK Swaps was kind of an unfamiliar idea, it was a little hard for people to grasp at first.”
Harris and Rosegard only received 15 bags of clothes to sell on the first sale, but currently, they receive hundreds.
“It started as a fun idea and has turned into a whole community event. It is a great way to help build a stronger sense of community throughout Mill Valley”
As the event has gotten larger, the girls are constantly meeting new people.
“Every sale we see so many unfamiliar faces, and we always ask how they heard about us. Normally, people hear about us through friends, social media, or the Tam News, and then they tell their friends, it just keeps growing,” Rosegard said.
“There are always new people, KK Swaps is continuously growing, it is not like we have hit our peak yet. Even on our Instagram, we are gaining followers every single day. We recently hit 1,000 followers which is huge.”
Alongside the growth in size, the mission of KK Swaps has also transformed.
“Our initial goal was just to have people come. Now our goal is to educate people on the issues of fast fashion through a community building event,” Harris said.
The abundance of clothing and fast fashion consumption has detrimental effects on the environment as people constantly buy and dispose of items, which is what motivated the girls to advocate for sustainable shopping. “In Marin especially, people have so many clothes and buy a lot of fast fashion, which is horrible for the environment, people are constantly buying things and throwing them away,” Rosegard said.
Harris conducted a research project on fast fashion during her junior year at Tam, which inspired the girls to apply their knowledge to KK Swaps. They aim to raise awareness about the potential use of child labor practices, the pollution caused by dyes in the fashion industry, and the improper recycling of clothing. “Being able to realize the extent fast fashion has impacted our community just here in Marin, was shocking,” Harris said.
The girls hope that these sales can encourage their peers to shop more sustainably. “It is not like these sales completely stop fast fashion, but it provides a great alternative for people to shop more sustainability. There is kind of a stigma when it comes to shopping at thrift stores, some people think it is not clean, or for whatever reason they have personal biases, but with KK Swaps we want it to be cool to be “sustainable.”
Through their expansion, they have discovered other brands and worked with them to be more environmentally friendly. KK Swaps partnered with Madewell, and at the end of their most recent sale donated 100 pairs of jeans to their program, Blue Jeans Go-Green, where they turn denim into housing insulation for third-world countries.
“Every person who shops at KK Swaps is already making a difference by buying second-hand,” Rosegard said. “Things that someone is throwing away to be dumped in waste could be loved by someone else, and that is why KK Swaps is so successful. There is such a range of ages, and so a lot of the older girls will donate clothes that they do not like anymore, but the younger generation of students love.”
On the KK Swaps official Instagram account, they participate in something they call “Fact Friday.” Every Friday they post a fact trying to educate on the harms of fast fashion.
The sales have evolved into more than just a shopping experience; they have become significant community-building events. Students of all ages gather monthly on Saturday mornings not only to shop but also to socialize. “Every sale there are more people showing up. We started having to do a rope drop outside of the sale because people are lined up around the block,” Rosegard said.
The attendees range from first graders to college students returning home. “It takes endless hours to collect, tag and set up the event, but the most rewarding part is at the event seeing girls from all over the county show up. We have had so many students tell us that they love to come and hang out with people they never would normally see. Girls will stay for hours just chatting in the dressing rooms, catching up. Coming out of Covid everyone was isolated and having this huge community event as a kickoff to transition out of quarantine was a positive experience for everyone,” Harris said.
In addition to the sales, KK Swaps actively engages with the outside community. They have been featured in publications such as The Redwood Bark from Redwood High School and the Tam News. The girls have also visited underclassmen classrooms to share their journey and how they started KK Swaps.
They have partnered with Athleta to organize fashion shows that showcase the clothing available at upcoming sales. The girls chose to partner with Athleta because of their sustainability practices, such as their leggings being produced from wood chips and recycled materials.
Rosegard and Harris are excited about their second fashion show, which serves as a farewell event before they head off to college. “It is going to be our goodbye fashion show, so a little bittersweet, but four years ago we would never have imagined that people would be buying tickets for a fashion show hosted by us,” Rosegard said. Students purchasing a ticket for the fashion show will receive 15-minute early access to shop their sale on May 21, before the rope drops.
The business has been a significant learning experience for Harris and Rosegard. They have discovered that pursuing something they are passionate about is worthwhile, despite any challenges they may encounter along the way. “If I were to give my freshman self advice, it would definitely be that although there are so many difficulties and bumps in the road, it is so important to keep pursuing what you are passionate about because it can turn into something amazing.” The girls have also learned skills that are vital to running a business, such as marketing, management, and even finance.
The lessons learned from having a successful business at a young age is something they will both value as they continue their education in college. Rosegard will be attending the University of Vermont and majoring in Studio Art, continuing her passion for fashion. Harris will be across the Bay Bridge, at the University of California Berkeley, majoring in Media Studies.
As they prepare to embark on their college journeys, they are entrusting the business to Harris’s younger sister, Layla Harris, who is currently a sophomore at Tam.
“It has gotten so large she will definitely need one or two business partners. It takes a lot of time to do this and she is still figuring out what direction she wants to take it. Lyla is going to interpret it a little differently and change it to the way she wants it to be,” Harris said. “I am interested to see what she is going to do with it.”
Harris and Rosegard will take the experience of KK Swaps with them forever, but they are ready to leave the business behind to the younger generation and hope that it continues.