Shop With Sheila

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am rarely seen without Sheila Fajl’s Everybody’s Favorite Hoops in Brushed Gold dangling from my ears. Thick yet lightweight and , these hoops are so versatile, look fabulous with every ensemble and can easily translate from day to night.

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2017. 

Sheila Fajl, a Brazilian-born and Californian-raised woman, stands for beauty in all of her jewelry products. “Beauty, to her, is in the soul. It is in how you wear your body, and has nothing to do with standards or size,” according to the designer’s website. With a focus on Sheila’s roots, all of the products are handmade by artisans in Brazil, and are, in fact, some of the most “eco-friendly” products in the jewelry market.

As an avid Sheila Fajl wearer, I have been given the unique opportunity to serve as a Sheila Fajl Brand Ambassador. Along with that privilege, I can now offer friends, family and Talk Trendy To Me followers, 10% off of any Sheila Fajl purchase. To shop with my discount, please visit Sheila Fajl’s website via my page. Happy shopping!


Saturday in Athens

Even when the Dawgs are on the road to Knoxville to (hopefully) beat the Tennessee Vols, Saturdays in Athens are still the best. This morning, my friends—Lauren, Annika and Grace— and I hit the Athens Farmers Market to soak in some of the local culture and buy a few fresh treats. For breakfast, we enjoyed organic baked goods from Sanvi’s Sweets and Savories; I savored every last bit of the Indian-inspired Spinach and Ricotta Pastry Puff. After perusing the artisanal jewelry, home-made pottery, fresh jams and authentic hummus, I decided to purchase some organic arugula and sweet potatoes (to share with my roommate Lauren).

However, when shopping for fresh produce at the farmer’s market, it is essential to carry the perfect bag to store all your goodies. When we were headed out the door this morning, I knew exactly which tote to reach for— my pom-pom basket tote, of course! Truth be told, my favorite part about this fun and whimsical piece is the fact that it was a bargain (only $8 at Marshall’s)! With gray-tinted wicker, striped handles, a drawstring enclosure and various-colored pom-poms, it adds pizazz to any ensemble…or serves as the perfect grocery tote at the Athens Farmer’s Market!

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Lauren Linkowski, 2017.

Because pom-pom basket totes are certainly more of a summer accessory, I only have a week or two left to use this playful piece. With temperatures starting to lower (to the low 80s and high 70s) here, in Georgia, it seems as though fall is coming; and what better way to welcome the season, than with a relaxing trip to the Athens Farmer’s Market. Happy Saturday, y’all!

Fast Fashion: Cheap Prices & Steep Consequences

Do you consider yourself a fashionable individual or can you not even remember the last time you stepped foot in a department store? No matter the answer, clothing is essential to our lives. People are always wearing clothing. However, the production of clothing has created numerous environmental and societal issues in recent years, especially with the rapid growth of the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” As a Fashion Merchandising major, the sustainability, or lack-there-of, within the fashion industry is a personal concern of mine. By informing others about fast fashion’s harsh environmental impact, the use of cruel and punitive labor tactics in producing garments and the obstacles to consuming ethically, I hope to shed light on the fashion industry’s growing issue.

According to Michael Shank and Maxine Bedat, “There are few industries fickler than fashion, changing annually and swapping seasonally.” With the fashion industry focused on a disposable model, the mass amounts of textile waste have surfaced many concerns relating to our planet and sustainability. With new trends emerging constantly, fashion retailers are pressured to regularly turn over their products, resulting in leftover product. In fact, the United States generates an average of 25 billion pounds of textiles per year of which only 15% is donated or recycled, and the remaining 85% goes to landfills, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. Additionally, the issue of textile waste has become more and more disastrous in recent years. For example, between 1999 and 2009 the volume of post-consumer textile waste generated grew by 40%, as reported by the Council for Textile Recycling.

Clearly, the fast fashion industry causes issues for the environment, but problems also persist in the societal aspect of the industry, especially in the production stage of clothing. To keep up with the rapid pace of fast fashion, the industry is relying on cheap labor, which causes problems in many developing countries Because the apparel industry has shifted to offering affordable garments, laborers in the lowest end of the wage spectrum must produce these pieces. According to Michael Shank and Maxine Bedat of MSNBC, “The industry has created jobs and lifted some people out of poverty,” but “the hard truth remains that low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and child labor are now rampant throughout apparel supply chains.” Often poor working conditions are overlooked, but they pose a fatal threat to lives of many. Specifically, the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza (a garment factory) in Bangladesh left hundreds injured or even dead. According to Julfikar Ali Manik and Jim Yardley of The New York Times, “An initial investigation found that the Rana Plaza building violated codes, with the four upper floors having been constructed illegally without permits.” Additionally, child labor is a rampant issue in many developing countries. Often, young girls are exploited in the production of cotton seed because of their agile fingers. Particularly, “In 2007, more than 400,000 children under the age of 18 were found to be employed in cotton seed farms” in India, as reported by The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO). Overall, there is a blatant disregard for the humanity and quality of life of many individuals in the production stage of fashion industry.

After identifying the issues within the environmental and societal aspects of the fashion industry, it is important to recognize the consumer’s attitude toward fast fashion. One major conundrum that is often coupled with the fast fashion industry is the public’s perceived obstacles to consume sustainable garments. First of all, various people define “sustainability” very differently within the context of the fashion industry. Also, most consumers are not willing to consciously purchase a sustainable or ethical garment, unless it is convenient for them. Lisa McNeill and Rebecca Moore claim that “With regard to fashion purchasing, the majority of participants in the study tended to favor consumption options which meant they did not have to compromise their own desire for fashion.” Additionally, because fast fashion has overtaken the fashion industry, more ethical options are often limited. For example, on a local level, there are over two-dozen boutiques in downtown Athens. Of the numerous retailers, only a Community, Dynamite and Atomic offer sustainable options, either through the “up-cycling” of garments or the sale of vintage pieces. Therefore, purchasing sustainable clothing comes with a conscious effort; the consumer must be aware and passionate about these purchases. On the other hand, fast fashion purchases are often quick and affordable.

Clearly, the fast fashion industry puts strain on both the environment and society and makes it difficult for the consumer to make ethical purchases. First of all, the exponential growth of post-consumer textile waste poses a major threat to the environment, as billions of textiles are added to landfills each year. Also, the demand for cheap clothing requires cheap labor. This labor, often performed in terrible conditions and by children, creates threats the individual peoples involved in clothing production. Lastly, the ambiguity and limited amounts of sustainable clothing options make it difficult for consumers to easily purchase in an ethical manner. Although fast fashion may be cheap for the consumer, it comes at a steep price to the environment and society.

Works Cited

“The Facts About Textile Waste.” Council for Textile Recycling, 2017, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

“Fact Sheet: Child labour in the textile & garment industry.” SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), SOMO, Mar. 2014, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

“Fast Fashion.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

Manik, Julfikar Ali, and Jim Yardley. “Building Collapse in Bangladesh Leaves Scores Dead.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 24 Apr. 2013, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

McNeill, Lisa, and Rebecca Moore. “Sustainable fashion consumption and the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice.” International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 39, 1 May 2015, pp. 212-22, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

Shank, Michael, and Maxine Bedat. “Analysis: Fast fashion comes at a steep price for the environment.” MSNBC, NBCUniversal Media, LLC, 21 May 2016, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

The Conundrum With Copycat Couture

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 10.17.23 PMIf I told you one of these jackets was an authentic design and the other was an imitation would you be able to distinguish the two? Most likely, you would barely be able to spot the differences. However, the jacket on the left is an authentic Chanel jacket, while the one on the right is a copycat. Within the fashion industry, there is a growing issue with the lack of authenticity, in terms of designers copying each other’s designs and stealing their intellectual property, with little to no penalty. In fact, the overall counterfeit market produces $600 billion annually. According to Chavie Lieber, knock-off and copycat products “represent about 7 percent of the global trade, with a revenue that’s nearly twice that of the illegal drug market.” Although trademarks, patents and copyrights do slightly protect fashion designers, these counterfeits still run rampant. Therefore, there is a blatant need to regulate copycat items in the fashion industry—from their conception, to their creation to the end consumer—with the implementation of public policy.

Before presenting a potential policy to quell the crisis of stolen intellectual property and copycat fashion, let’s take a look at the history of the issue.

 Because there is little intellectual property protection in the fashion industry, fast fashion retailers often copy designs from high-end, well-known designers and mass-produce them for a fraction of the cost. For example, anyone who is familiar with Zara knows that the Spanish brand is infamous for their imitation creations. In fact, Alexandra Jacobs of The New York Times visited the Zara flagship store in Midtown Manhattan and reported, “my friend tried on, and liked, an Alexander Wangish motorcycle jacket made of leather pounded thinner than a veal paillard, but couldn’t bring herself to buy it. ‘It smells like burning rubber,’ she said.” Clearly, these consumers were able to recognize the lower quality of such a knock-off item.

However, a few regulations do exist to regulate copycat items— such as, copyrights, patents and trademarks. Copyrights apply to “anything that is functional, or has a physical function in the real world,” as stated by Tyler McCall. For example, “Jewelry gets copyright protection, in large part because jewelry is a lot like miniature sculptures and art is copyright” according to McCall. McCall also shares that “two-dimensional designs: fabric prints, jacquard weave and lace patterns” can receive copyrights. Patents, on the other hand, have “to be something that is not only useful, but new or novel to all the world,” according to McCall. However, there is a subcategory of patents, called design patents, which McCall describes as “the ornamental aspect of the functional items.” For example, Alexander Wang has several design patents for his handbags, only because of the unique hardware included. Lastly, McCall explains that “lot of fashion companies and designers default to trademark protection.” McCall further explains that “trademark protection typically can’t protect an entire garment or accessory, but at least can protect the logo or the label.” There is also a special category of trademarks known as trade dress protection. McCall offers Christian Louboutin shoes as an example saying, “Even without taking off the shoe. . . you see the red sole, you know it’s Louboutin; therefore, that red sole can serve as a trademark.” Clearly, these copyrights, patents and trademarks are useful to many designers, but actually contribute little in the overall fight against counterfeit fashion.

Now with greater understanding of the limited protections for fashion designers and their creations, we can examine how imitation fashion affects the economy.

Not only is copying and manufacturing another designer’s creation ethically wrong, it also poses economic threats to the fashion industry. Manufacturing and selling imitation fashion impacts the country where the products are manufactured, the country where the products are sold and the end-consumer. For example, countries that produce copycat goods usually suffer “tax losses, since the counterfeits are normally sold through clandestine channels and counterfeiters are not generally keen to pay tax on their ill-gotten gains,” according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Additionally, the OECD states that, “Although many consumers believe they are getting a bargain when they buy counterfeits, the actual value of the product is normally much lower. Hence, they end up paying an excessive price for an inferior product.” Looking further into this issue, the mass-production of replica fashion and robbery of intellectual property has grown so much that several law schools have begun to incorporate programs to train lawyers in this field. In June 2015, “Fordham Law School became the first accredited law school to offer a degree in fashion law,” according to Marianys Marte of The Fordham Observer. Fordham University School of Law describes intellectual property as one of “the four pillars of fashion law,” upholding how vital it is to have trained professionals in this subject.

While Fordham University recognizes the need to solve the problem surrounding imitation fashion and stolen intellectual property, a concrete plan to solve this issue must be developed and implemented.

In order to effectively combat the creation and sale of knock-off and copycat fashion, the best plan of action is to establish an International Trade Association, dedicated solely to the fashion industry. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “There is no international trade association for the fashion clothing industry. Most luxury brand owners employ in-house anti-counterfeiting officers and are members of national pan-industry anti- counterfeiting associations.” However, efforts in recent years have been made to fight the growth of knock-off and copycat fashion. For example, The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) aims to “strengthen the international legal framework for effectively combating global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy,” according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Therefore, the creation of one, unified body would allow for (1) control over the fashion industry, (2) the generation of more agreements such as the ACTA and (3) for legal and financial penalties to be placed on offenders. This association would be formed of key players in the industry—such as, designers, global trade officers and lawyers trained in fashion law. Overall, an International Trade Association would allow global trade in the fashion industry to be closely monitored.

However, with this plan of action, there also come disadvantages and counter-arguments.

 With the notion that the fashion industry should establish an International Trade Association, it is important to understand the practicality of this plan and how it would unfold. The main disadvantage to the creation of one global, governing body would be the limitations it would bear on the creativity of the fashion world. For example, some designs look almost identical, not because one brand copied the other, but because the silhouette is a current trend in the fashion cycle. Therefore, the International Trade Association would need to be careful when distinguishing between the latest trend and a designer’s original creation. Additionally, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presents two valid counter-arguments. First, the OECD claims that “counterfeits actually contribute to the marketing of the brand without causing any significant loss in profits.” More specifically, this insinuates that someone carrying an authentic Louis Vuitton bag and someone carrying a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag generate the same amount of buzz for that brand. Therefore, a counterfeit item does not seem so negative in this context. Secondly, “some consumers buying fake luxury items do so knowingly and would not be prepared to pay the price of the genuine item,” as stated by the OECD. Therefore, these customers actively seek out a faux-designer item to achieve a certain status, without the hefty price tag. Despite these disadvantages and counter-arguments, the creation of a regulatory body remains a viable plan. Coupled with copyrights, patents, trademarks and regulations (such as the ACTA), the creation of an International Trade Association is needed to actually monitor these current regulations, as well as implement more detailed protocols.

Because there is a serious need to regulate knock-off copycat items in the fashion industry, this need can be fulfilled through the creation of an International Trade Association. Counterfeit fashion degrades the authenticity of many fashion designers and their original creations. Additionally, it poses many economic threats—for the manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Although replication may seem like the biggest form of flattery, within the fashion industry, serious action needs to be taken for the future wellbeing of clothing.

Works Cited

“Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).” Office of the United States Trade Representative, Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Oct. 2011, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

“The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting.” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1998, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Jacobs, Alexandra. “Where Have I Seen You Before?” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 27 Mar. 2012, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Lieber, Chavie. “Why the $600 Billion Counterfeit Industry Is Still Horrible for Fashion.” Racked, Vox Media, Inc., 1 Dec. 2014, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Marte, Marianys. “Fordham Becomes First Law School Accredited For Fashion.” The Fordham Observer, Fordham University, 26 Aug. 2015, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

McCall, Tyler. “Copyright, Trademark, Patent: Your Go-To Primer For Fashion Intellectual Property Law.” Fashionista, Breaking Media, Inc., 16 Dec. 2016, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

“MSL in Fashion Law.” Fordham University School of Law, Fordham University, Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.