WSU alumna will not ‘play by other people’s rules’

Seattle-based shop owner started inclusive clothing brand about four years ago

Kelly+Jensen+graduated+from+WSU+in+2010+with+a+bachelor%E2%80%99s+degree+in+apparel+merchandising.+After+working+in+retail+for+a+few+years%2C+she+decided+to+start+her+own+clothing+brand+called+Rollick.

COURTESY OF KELLY JENSEN

Kelly Jensen graduated from WSU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising. After working in retail for a few years, she decided to start her own clothing brand called Rollick.

HANNAH FLORES, Evergreen reporter

When Kelly Jensen attended Catholic school, free dress day once a month was the make or break moment to show off her personal style. 

Although fashion was not always in her career plan, Jensen became excited about the possibilities the WSU Apparel, Merchandising, Design & Textiles program could provide.

“I think the older you get, you feel less inclined to play by other people’s rules, so that’s what shifted my way of thinking,” Jensen said. “I definitely took a lot of what I learned at WSU from the [apparel, merchandising, design and textiles] program, having a world-view of fashion and the industry has definitely helped and served me well.” 

In 2010, Jensen graduated from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising. After working retail for a few years, Jensen felt there was a level of pretension within the fashion industry that kept others out. While struggling to find a job in Seattle, she ventured to create her brand, Rollick. 

“If these people won’t hire me for a job that I know I’m fully capable of, I’ll go start one myself and prove them wrong,” Jensen said. 

When she first established Rollick, Jensen’s goals included establishing a diverse and inclusive space with her brand. 

Because of COVID-19, she has not been able to have photoshoots to showcase her products, so she relies on stock imagery from vendors, which tend to lack inclusivity, she said.

“They use a lot of the same tall, skinny, white models,” Jensen said. “It’s really important for me to find a diverse group of women both from ethnic backgrounds to their sizes, heights, just to showcase who real women are.” 

Jensen said she wants to remain safe and responsible and maintain proper COVID-19 regulations but hopes to produce her own marketing campaigns that properly reflect her vision for the Rollick brand.

Jensen also wants to offer plus sizes in the future. She said she wants to be intentional about the sizing she offers, but it is often difficult because many vendors only sell sizes small to large. 

“I don’t want to just throw in a few styles in plus size, I want it to be across the board,” Jensen said. “It may be a year or so down the road, but I want to be mindful and do the research to find vendors who offer more inclusive sizing.” 

As a business owner, she does all of the purchasing, merchandising, website editing and shipping.

During Jensen’s time in the AMDT program, she modeled in the annual WSU fashion show. She said she witnessed the hard work student designers put into the showcases.

“The program was something like I hadn’t seen at other four-year universities in the state,” she said. “I miss it.”

Rollick is still only a part-time project, Jensen said. Owning the shop has motivated her to continue working hard so that she can eventually leave her current job and work on Rollick full time.

In the meantime, Jensen hopes to build Rollick into something impactful, she said.

“I did some strategizing and realized that people are shopping online, more so now than before, and tried to figure out what people were shopping for,” Jensen said.

Rollick has always been a relaxed brand, however, Jensen said she noticed many of her customers were now working remotely and wanted items to help them feel cute and put together while also being comfortable.

“That’s been my biggest thing with Rollick, understanding who my target customers are and what their lives look like at this moment,” Jensen said. 

During most of last year, Jensen said she hosted pop-up stores and trunk shows where she enjoyed interacting with customers. This inspired her to reach a new goal of opening a brick-and-mortar space for Rollick. 

“The goal eventually is to have something that can sustain my side of the financials for my husband and me,” Jensen said. “We just had our first kid a couple of months ago, and so I would like to be able to spend more time with him and not have to work a 9 to 5 as well.”

She said her time running a business posed challenges, but as she overcame each one she kept sight of her brand’s purpose and positive message.

Tegan Marrs, a long-time friend of Jensen’s, said it has been great seeing Jensen flourish over the last few years at Rollick. 

Marrs, a mother of two, said Jensen has done a great job providing pieces for mothers like her, allowing them to create comfortable and versatile wardrobes. 

Everyone is different and unique, and that is something Jensen tries to convey through her brand and the assortment of clothes she offers at Rollick, Marrs said. 

With the stay at home order being more permanent for the future, Marrs said she likes that Jensen’s pieces can be worn while working at home while also being stylish enough for future date nights when the time comes. 

“I think the whole message of being who you are has really helped me [and other customers] to evolve,” Marrs said. “[Jensen] is a really down to earth person, and her brand, Rollick, really encaptures that part of her personality.”