As an artist and designer with a penchant for Coco Chanel, JC Cirese has always had a passion for fashion. Clothes started off as a hobby — JC worked full time and on the side he printed T-shirts for his friends. He liked to experiment with wearable designs and high-end fashion.
It was only after he rescued his English Pointer, Brooklyn (also known as Fish), that his fashion sense gained exciting new direction. Fish had been abused ÔÇô- she’d been chained to a tree for so long that her collar had become embedded in her neck. Adopting Fish changed JC’s whole perspective on life, and on fashion.
"She changed my life in so many ways," JC says. "When you adopt an animal, it’s truly like having your own child. Every decision I make revolves around her, and she truly inspires me to appreciate life in a way I never did before."
JC’s fianc├®e, Madeline, is also a fashionista, and she also has a rescue pup named Bella. When the couple started talking about their shared interests and goals, two themes stood out: fashion and animal rescue. It made perfect sense to start an animal-conscious line of clothing.
Utilizing the couple’s combined creativity and design sensibilities, about eight months ago, Re5cue Clothing was born. The number five in their brand name harkens back to JC’s love of Chanel, but it also has a deeper meaning.
"It’s everything from the five oceans, five commandments of Buddha, even down to the five senses," JC says. "For us, we see it as a symbol for balance and harmony integrating with high-end fashion."
For Re5cue Clothing, aligning with the nebulous, benevolent forces of the universe is more than just talk: This is a brand with a conscience. Twenty-five percent of proceeds of all sales go to animal shelters and rescue groups in need, as do 25 percent of proceeds from events and pop-up shops in JC’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
Re5cue Clothing partners mostly with small, underfunded shelters, where “every penny counts.”
“So many shelters are doing amazing things with little support by people who devote their time and efforts with the simple intention to help animals in need,” JC says. “People don’t realize what goes into operating and running an animal shelter — everything from vet costs to paper towels.”
Re5cue Clothing has even gone international — they have an online vendor based out of Singapore, where, shockingly, there is only one animal shelter in the entire country. For JC, partnering with this shelter was a no-brainer, but in general choosing which shelters to donate to can be challenging.
"No one wants to decide which pets get help or a chance at life and which ones don’t," JC says. "Every time we enter a shelter, I have to remind her, ‘Madeline, we can’t take them all home.’ It’s the hardest part of our job -ÔÇô everyone needs money, and we’re simply doing our best to make a difference within our means."
One reason for the brand’s success is that, in addition to being animal-conscious, they are also design-conscious. The duo produces mostly T-shirts, hoodies, and tank tops that are edgy and stylish, incorporating images of cats and dogs and the Re5cue Clothing logo. The images are frequently striking -ÔÇô these are shirts that get people talking.
"It’s not often that you find an animal activist-related company that is striving to produce high-quality, intricate designs in a viable fashion sense," JC says.
Re5cue Clothing’s designs often require trial and error, necessitating the input of both JC and Madeline. They’re both inspired by animal rescue stories and pop culture, which can lead to an interesting intersection of ideas. When JC was designing a Ziggy Stardust-inspired graphic called "Kitty Stardust," Madeline was the first to call him out when it wasn’t working.
"Madeline hated it, and at the time I was blowing her off, thinking, ‘You’re too young; you can’t appreciate it,’" JC says. "Looking back, the shirt I was trying to create was just horrible."
Using Madeline’s input, JC was able to rethink his plans, and one of Re5cue Clothing’s most popular designs, the Material Girl, was born.
"I threw together a Madonna-inspired graphic (to antagonize [Madeline], honestly), tossed some cat ears and whiskers on it, MS Paint-style, and laughed as I showed her," JC recalls. "She stood back, smiled, and said, ‘Yep, that’s it.’ And the rest is history."
As the company continues to grow, JC and Madeline plan to continue experimenting with new designs, while their rescue dogs keep them inspired and grounded.
"Maybe it’s just our experience, but we feel like our rescue dogs appreciate life in a different way," JC says. "You can tell that they are truly grateful just to be in a loving home. As humans we all experience dark and stressful times, and through that, they give us a purpose. They remind us that the world is much greater than our own personal problems, which, in return, gives us the drive to make it a better place."
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