Alumna’s Passion for Sustainable Fashion Comes to Downtown Kent
Kent State University academic programs help students explore their own values and encourage students to live them.
Justine Gallo, a 2022 Kent State fashion design graduate, has taken her personal philosophy and combined it with her degree to launch a new store in downtown Kent. Sun in Leo is a new circularity marketplace located in Acorn Alley that reuses — and responsibly sources — clothing, trinkets and accessories.
The name Sun in Leo is associated with astrology and has a personal connection for Gallo, whose zodiac sign is Leo, also known as the sun sign. The store takes a lot of inspiration from astrology in terms of aesthetic and products sold, Gallo said
“Sustainability is just a vague term that a lot of brands use,” Gallo said. “Circularity, that I use here, proves that I'm actually responsible for where everything goes and how I source it as well.”
The new store is focused on reusing instead of wasting, which is an important part of Gallo’s values that are evident in the shop. Everything in the store is either secondhand sourced or upcycled by Gallo.
“I want shopping here to be a personal experience rather than just mindlessly shopping online,” Gallo said. “I want people to love the clothes they’re in and feel like the best versions of themselves, and astrology has really guided me with that.”
Gallo graduated from Kent State’s fashion school with a degree in fashion design. Sustainability is a fundamental part of Kent State’s fashion program, which sparked Gallo’s inspiration to open her own store.
“During my time at Kent State, I was super drawn towards sustainability,” Gallo said. “The more I learned about it, the more I realized that there's so much more that we all could be doing, but I wanted to be that person to do it.”
And she’s doing it.
The tags for all the items in the store are seed tags, meaning after you buy the product you can plant the tag and a flower will bloom, or you can compost the tag to limit plastic use. Instead of using plastic to attach a tag to items, Sun in Leo uses safety pins. A customer is free to use them in different ways when they are done shopping.
Customers can get points at the store by bringing reusable bags when shopping. In addition, they can receive coupons for donating jewelry, apparel and other items they no longer want. Gallo can also repair all Sun in Leo accessories if they break and she can do any requested alterations.
Sun in Leo has been a year-long journey for Gallo. After applying for LaunchNET funds during her last semester of her senior year, she was able to obtain her LLC (limited liability company), licenses, grants and overall support. Gallo is thankful for Tabitha Messmore who has been her advisor and mentor in the LaunchNET program.
“I feel so grateful that LaunchNET liked and supported my idea for Sun in Leo because it showed me that I could accomplish it,” Gallo said. “Tabitha really helped me on the business side of things, which I really needed.”
Sun in Leo, 154 E. Main St. Suite C, will be open on Feb. 2, 2023, but will have a grand opening on Feb. 4, with special deals.
Throughout the year, Gallo wants to plan events and collaborate with other stores in Acorn Alley, such as Hippie Fox Rocks and Tiger Rae Boutique, to create a fun and exciting culture during the spring and summer.
To learn more about Kent State’s School of Fashion, visit https://www.kent.edu/fashion.
For more information about Sun in Leo, please visit www.instagram.com/shopsuninleo.