Love List: Christina Getachew

To Christina Getachew, being fashionable isn’t just about the clothes — it’s a means of human connection and environmental change.

Feb 5, 2014 at 10:28 am
click to enlarge Christina Getachew
Christina Getachew

Name: Christina Getachew

Age: 45

Title: Founder and CEO of Substance

Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Why we love her: She’s on a mission to create sustainable fashion sans burlap sack and crunchy granola stereotypes — and she gives back to the community in the process.

To Christina Getachew, being fashionable isn’t just about the clothes — it’s a means of human connection and environmental change.

After more than a decade in New York City, Getachew had a hand in every aspect of the fashion industry, from design and merchandising to management and everything in between. But it wasn’t until she left the industry that she could explore what fashion meant to her. 

“In the fashion industry, I learned a lot of great things, but I knew I wanted to create something about more than trends,” she says.

When her husband snagged a new job in Tennessee, Getachew traded her Manhattan management position to launch a line of organic T-shirts, taking her work in a greener direction. 

After selling the shirts almost exclusively online, Getachew missed the ability to connect with her customers, so upon relocating with her husband again — this time to Columbus, Ohio — she turned over another new leaf in her career. Getachew created Substance (, a brand and boutique committed to sustainable fashion and charity; a portion of its earnings go directly toward causes like public education.

“I built my brand in a way that had more substance to it — hence the name — and decided to go down a less wasteful, more meaningful path,” Getachew says.

Less than two years later, another move led to putting down new roots in Cincinnati. Inspired by its creative energy, Substance found its second home in Over-the-Rhine. 

“I saw this incredible revitalization in Cincinnati, and I wanted to be part of that and to contribute to it,” she says. “It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.”

It’s Friday night after a long week. Where would you love to be?

Because I run a business and manage two locations in two different cities, I feel a pull from my family. My day-to-day keeps me out in the city, so I love being at home with my family. ... I feel the need to be with my family on a Friday night, curled up on the couch with a movie, popcorn, my husband and our 9-year-old twin girls.

What do you love about Cincinnati?

I love its diversity, its energy and its creativity. Cincinnati is at this point where everybody is exploding with ideas and starting new things.. ... It’s such a reawakening. When I was living up in Columbus, I would have people tell me that they used to drive all the way down to Cincinnati to do their shopping, and now I finally get why. Cincinnati is coming back. And I think it’s becoming stronger than it ever was. 

Do you have a favorite place in Cincinnati? Why do you love it?

I love Washington Park. It’s so inviting to all walks of life and all kinds of people, families and even dogs. … I think Cincinnati’s revitalization has been under a lot of criticism for its displacement of folks and for changing the way of life downtown, but I think Washington Park makes up for that in a sense. I’ve been to parks in NYC, D.C., Paris and Chicago, but I’ve never been anywhere with a park filled with such thought and purpose. It’s a success story. It’s a great foundation for revitalizing the downtown area.

What is the best lesson life has taught you about love?  

You’ve just got to love hard in this life and not worry about getting hurt, because it makes you better and stronger. And it’s what makes everything worth it.

What is a phrase or motto you live your life by?

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I just roll with it. If I run into failure —into something that feels like failure — I see it as an opportunity for success in the next step or the next try. I see it as an opportunity for success when I try again.