Albany-born fashion designer Kathleen Rourke, owner and designer at Kathleen Maeve, always dreamed of being a business owner but didn’t know what kind of business she’d have. After graduating from The College of Saint Rose, she worked as an accountant for four years before taking some time off to raise her son, who was born in 2019.
On a trip to Cape Cod in the fall of 2021, the Saratogian was inspired by the business owners she met who had opened shops right after graduating college. Having a penchant for “girly style and pastel-y” fashions, she was in pursuit of a pink Cape Cod souvenir sweatshirt, but couldn’t find one. It turned out to be the lightbulb moment that led to her flipping the narrative of her life. “Wait a minute,” she thought to herself. “I don’t have to be an accountant. I can do whatever I want to do. I live in a tourist town. I’m going to create pink sweatshirts.”
With that fresh mindset, Rourke began looking for opportunities. Instead of a pink sweatshirt, though, she progressed to dresses with bow-tie straps. She had a sample dress created, and nine months later launched Kathleen Maeve, a brand named after her then-18-month-old daughter.
Rourke knew from the moment she held the sample dress in her hand that she could sell it; her cotton linen dresses are versatile and can be worn for weddings or dressed down with sandals for a day at the track. “These are my true designs from scratch,” she says. “Pattern, design…the artwork that’s on the dresses is also from my ideas.” On April 21, 2022, Rourke unveiled a 20-piece collection of dresses, tops and accessories on kathleenmaeve.com that were immediately scooped up by those who had been anxiously awaiting the drop on social media; of @shopkathleenmaeve’s 200 followers at the time, 70 bought a dress. Now with nearly 3,500 Instagram followers, Kathleen Maeve has caught the attention of national fashion influencers including the popular Teggy French, who placed a large order of rainbow plaid dresses for her online shop.
New for her second year of business? Downtown’s Caroline + Main will be carrying Kathleen Maeve products beginning later this spring, and the designer plans to host more pop-ups like the one she held at The Adelphi last July. Oh, and she’s designing. “I plan to add more types of garments to my brand,” she says. “Slow growth is important to me and I want to enjoy the process. I currently have 14 new dress styles in production, in addition to replenishing my stock of top sellers from last season. I am so eager to launch these designs this spring, and even have a dress that is specific to brides.” Another project that’s in the works? A new dress that will be sold at a lower price point on Amazon.
And while she loves the fact that she achieved her goal of being a business owner, Rourke is especially happy that she’s living out that dream in Saratoga. “My husband was born and raised here, and we love SPAC, the lake, the racetrack and Bolton Landing,” she says. “It’s been so much fun connecting with the other business owners in Saratoga. I feel like I’m in a special club.”