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, http://www.weardonaterecycle.org. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

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

“Fast Fashion.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Inc., www.merriam-webster.com. 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, www.nytimes.com. 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, eds.b.ebscohost.com. 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, www.msnbc.com. Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

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Intern Style

After spending the summer as the National Retail Federation‘s Communication Intern, I am now officially a retail advocate. I truly enjoyed my eight weeks with the NRF and gained so much insight into the retail industry and established great relationships with colleagues.

One of my favorite parts of heading to work each day was getting dressed in the morning! I loved utilizing the more conservative pieces in my closet and mixing different garments to create appropriate work outfits. Take a look at some of the ensembles I put together each day.

Trend Alert: Gingham

Although this pattern makes me feel somewhat like the tablecloth at a picnic in the park, I am loving summer’s hottest print— gingham. Most commonly found in black or navy, gingham has exploded throughout the racks at various stores. Because the pattern, itself, is quite loud, wearing one gingham garment can truly let your ensemble do all the talking. Therefore, it is wise to pair gingham with more understated pieces and solid colors, especially white.

I paired this black and white gingham top from T.J. Maxx with white jeans and pink statement earrings from Bauble Bar x Target. Aside from the fun earrings, I kept my outfit more simple and allowed the gingham top to be the focal point.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.


Want to hop aboard the gingham express? Take a look below to get some inspiration and find out what retailers are stocking gingham. Each item is under $100, because who doesn’t love a deal!?

Ear Candy: Mignonne Gavigan’s Mini Madeline Earrings

Want to make a statement with your jewelry? Look no further than the beautifully-handcrafted pieces at Mignonne Gavigan!

In 2014, designer Mignonne “Maggie” Gavigan saw a “void in the marketplace for eye-catching jewelry that incorporates elements of couture beading and artistry.” According to the brand’s website, Gavigan’s most notable piece is the Signature Scarf Necklace, which began by chance. After accidentally tearing a couture gown, Mignonne “tied it around her neck and wore it with a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.” Soon after, the collection evolved to include earrings, bracelets and scarfs, all “define by ornate details, elevated craftsmanship and luxe materials.” Even Mignonne’s loft reflects the aesthetic of her brand, take a tour here.

One Kings Lane.

As someone who spends a good portion of the day on social media, I first discovered the brand through Instagram. After exploring the Mignonne Gavigan’s profile and stumbling upon retailers that stock the brand, I began to consider a purchase, for myself. When exploring the product line, I gravitated toward the earrings; partially because I love a good statement earring and partially because unique, colorful earrings are especially “in” right now. Aesthically, the Madeline Earrings spoke to me, but I ultimately turned my focus to the Mini Madeline Earrings, as they are more in my budget, as a college student.

After more time spent on Instagram, I came across a promotion for all Mignonne Gavigan pieces sold at Gena Chandler, a boutique in Raleigh, North Carolina. With a few Instagram direct messages about the colors and the discount and a quick phone call to the store, Gena Chandler sent a pair of Mignonne Gavigan Mini Madeline Earrings in White & Gold to my doorstep.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Personally, I get quite excited when I receive an online order, as I truly do not do much of my shopping online (I prefer the brick-and-mortar shopping experience). Therefore, when I unwrapped my very own pair of handcrafted Mignonne Gavigan earrings, I resembled a five-year-old on Christmas morning. in fact, I received a notification from FedEx that my package had been delivered at 1:19pm, so I raced home from work to find the newest addition to my jewelry box.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

With the discount I received from Gena Chandler and my choice of a neutral color, I feel as though these earrings are an investment that I will wear for years to come. After all, couture items rarely go out of style.

Honoring Elle Woods

Sixteen years ago on this very day, one of my greatest idols was born. She may technically be fictional, but we share a love of fashion (both Fashion Merchandising majors!), being a member of a sorority, female empowerment and- most importantly- the color pink! Believe it or not, Legally Blonde premiered sixteen years ago, which also means a four-year-old Mary Kate discovered her fascination with Elle Woods.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

*Disclaimer: Legally Blonde was the only PG-13 movie I was allowed to watch at age 4. Thanks mom!

Despite our different hair colors, I idolized Elle Woods. On the surface, Elle can often be mistaken for a shallow sorority girl who only cares about clothing and her boyfriend, Warner. However, Elle certainly is a woman of much intellect and drive. After a harsh break-up with Warner, Elle is determined to win back his love. To do this, she studies hard, masters the LSAT and eventually follows Warner to Harvard Law School. Although her efforts may be propelled by a man, Elle eventually realizes that she has potential and self-worth as a single woman.

My favorite part of the iconic film occurs toward the end. Elle, given a chance to hold her own in the courtroom, uses both her training in law AND her background knowledge of hair care to win the case. Notably Elle states, “Because isn’t the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the immonium thygocolate?”Because Chutney Windham’s alibi involved her showering during the time her of her father’s murder, Elle was able to prove that Chutney was guilty. Her intact curls were visible proof that Chutney killed her father; after all, “the rules of hair care are simple and finite.” Certainly Warner would not have been able to win this case!

She taught us the “bend-and-snap,” imparted the importance of a good manicure, celebrated the vibrancy of the color pink, displayed the value in education and hard work, and most importantly- how to command the respect that a woman deserves (even when your law professor thinks differently).

I think y’all know what movie I’ll be watching this evening! Cheers to sixteen years of Elle Woods!

Beaded on a Budget: DIY Necklace

From a 14k carat gold bangle to a homemade necklace, jewelry completes any woman’s ensemble. Personally, I love receiving a compliment from a friend and being able to say that I actually made the item, when they inevitability ask where I purchased it. 

After seeing several jewelry retailers (primarily those gaining popularity throughInstagram), I have pondered the idea of making and selling jewelry. In the meantime, I simply make some pieces for myself from time to time. Most recently, I ordered pearl beads with large holes from Etsy and picked up some brown leather cord from Michael’s. Then, I just strung the beads on the leather cord, with random spacing, and tied knots on either side of the bead. After about 15 minutes, I was left with a simple yet striking piece of jewelry. 

Bridget Donahue, 2017.

What I love most about the newest DIY addition to my jewelry box is twofold. First, it only cost me about $15 to purchase the supplies (including shipping on the beads!). Secondly, I love that there are so many different ways I can wear the piece; whether I wrap it around my neck twice or tie the excess length in a knot, it always looks fabulous and carefree. 

Bridget Donahue, 2017.

Teeney Bikini

Happy National Bikini Day! The bikini was created on July 5, 1946; therefore, women have doned this style for over 70 years! I am lucky enough to celebrating from the sand, while wearing one of my favorite bikinis and catching some sun. In honor of #NationalBikiniDay, I have assembled a few of my favorite swimsuit styles and brands.

As someone who has never been stick-thin, shopping for swimwear can often be quite the burden, and sometimes leave me feeling insecure. In recent years, I have become more aware of my body, learning to accept my curves and imperfections. However, this summer I am feeling particularly more confident, as I have shed just over fifteen pounds since returning home from college. Although I still look at myself in the mirror and critique various aspects of my body, I have realized the need to love the body I have, while working for the body I want. Wearing swimwear that accentuates the aspects of my body I like has helped me feel empowered, while walking down the beach.

In terms of shopping for swimwear, I have three basic guidelines. First, always try on at home. The harsh, fluorescent lights in retailer’s dressing rooms often can dim one’s confidence; therefore, whether you purchase in-store or order it online, be sure to try on the garments in the comfort of our own space (and with your own undergarments for hygiene!). Second, try on every style. Even for a piece of clothing that covers so little of the body, bikinis come in all shapes and sizes. Tops—halter or bandeau, padded or unpadded, tie closure or hook closure—and bottoms—cheeky or full coverage, low-rise or high-waisted, ruched or flat—are designed differently and suit diverse body types in unique ways. Therefore, try on a variety of styles to better assess what you like. Third, be a little narcissist. Once you have found a style you like, spend time with the mirror. Examine how you look in the bikini, particularly commenting on what you like about the style and how it accentuates your body. If you can recognize how those cheeky bottoms make your booty look great or that triangle top gives the illusion of a more lifted chest, you will feel incredible when wearing the swimsuit in public. After developing and following these three guidelines, I have become partial to specific styles loyal to particular brands. Take a look!

STYLES

When it comes to tops, I have learned that I really like longline halter tops. With that extra band of fabric below my bust line, I feel as though I am secure. Also, I rely on padding in my bathing suits. Because I do not have the largest chest, I enjoy the added lift that pads can provide.

In terms of bottoms, my favorite pairs tend to be those that are more cheeky. Because my booty is not the most round, the cheeky cut accentuates my butt. Also, I will not purchase a pair of bikini bottoms that do not hold in my love handles. Whether the bottoms themselves are wider or there is a wide band on the side, I feel most confident when I know I have a bit more coverage around my hips.

BRANDS

Take a peek at some of my favorite swimwear brands and the bikinis that I own from each of them.

Target

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Maaji

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

O’Neill

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Victoria Secret

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Aerie

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Trina Turk

Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

Patriotic Picks for the Holiday Weekend

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, the looming dilemma of choosing clothing for the holiday weekend quickly arises. Often, it can be difficult to show patriotism, while remaining chic and fashion-forward. From a navy gingham shift to a pair of red tassel earrings, there are plenty of ways to be festive, regardless of your weekend destination. Take a look at some of my favorite  patriotic pieces and silhouettes for the holiday weekend and explore my tips on how to style them.

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TIPS

  1. Red, White & Blue: Choose Two. To honor America, most people opt to cover themselves in any and all shades of red, white and blue. With the intention of elevating your Independence Day style, try choosing two colors from our nation’s trifecta.
  2. Denim, Denim, Denim. A pair of white skinny jeans, a distressed jean skirt, a pair of dark wash flare jeans—the options are endless. Any wash or shade of denim is sure to give your 4th of July outfit, a laid-back patriotic vibe.
  3. Pop of Color. Summer whites are always in style, and luckily the hue is one of our nation’s colors. Consider an all-white ensemble and use accessories to add a pop of color. Perhaps, try a pair of white flare jeans, a white blouse and blue tassel earrings or a white frock with a red lipstick.
  4. Let Your Flag Fly. While it may usually be best to save the most patriotic symbol for children’s clothing, using the American flag sparingly in accessories can work—with the right styling. Look for understated accessories, such as a scarf or a clutch.
  5. Play with Patterns. If you prefer inspiration from American flag rather than actually wearing it, play with its two dominant patterns—stars and stripes. A navy sweater with a singular white star would shine, it paired with white denim jeans; a red and white striped tote bag would be the added spark to an all-white outfit.

Seamless Fashion: Prime Wardrobe

From food to fashion, Amazon has done it again. After announcing their purchase of Whole Foods last week, Amazon quickly introduced another new component to their growing empire— Prime Wardrobe.

Amazon capitalized on the main reasons many consumers do not purchase clothing online- fit and sizing issues, complicated returns and hefty shipping fees. By eliminating all these risks, Amazon Wardrobe appears to be seamless. According to Amazon, the service will include products from brands outside their private label, such as Calvin Klein, Levi’s, adidas, Parker, Milly and Theory, among others.

Aside from clothing, shoes and accessories delivered directly to your door, Prime Wardrobe includes other unique features. According to Lauren Thomas of CNBC, there is “no upfront charge,” and customers only pay for the products they keep. In addition, Nick Wingfield of The New York Times reports that “customers can return the items they don’t want in a resealable box with the preprinted shipping label that the order came in.” As another component of Prime Wardrobe, discounts are central to the service. Wingfield shares that Amazon will offer “10 percent off the purchase price of an order for anyone who keeps three to four items, and 20 percent off for anyone who keeps five or more items.”

Although I personally value and thoroughly enjoy the process of shopping in-store, the introduction of Prime Wardrobe has certainly peaked my interest. Often, I purchase clothing from local department stores and boutiques, but take them home to try on with my own undergarments, shoes and jewelry and assess if I truly will wear the item. If Prime Wardrobe provides me with that same experience but eliminates my time spent shopping in-store and the hassle of returning to a physical location, I may become a convert. I cannot say definitively, but it may not be too long until Amazon delivers my first Prime Wardrobe order.


Works Cited

“Prime Wardrobe.” Amazon, Amazon.com, Inc. amazon.com. Accessed 26 June 2017.

Thomas, Lauren. “Amazon announces Prime Wardrobe, tackling fashion retail head on.” CNBC, CNBC LLC. 20 June 2017. cnbc.com. Accessed 26 June 2017.

Wingfield, Nick. “Amazon Will Let Customers Try On Clothes Before Buying.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company. 20 June 2017. nytimes.com. Accessed 26 June 2017.

A Maxxinsta’s Delight

While shifts in consumer tastes and technological advancements have reinvented the face of retail, we are certainly not in a “retail apocalypse,” contrary to popular belief. According to Mark Matthews of the National Retail Federation, “the narrative that retail is struggling — or even dying — is significantly overblown.” Furthermore, one retailer in particular is consistently thriving— T.J. Maxx.

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Mary Kate Donahue, 2017.

As a self-proclaimed Maxxinsta, I believe that I may be partially responsible for T.J. Maxx’s continued prosperity. According to Fox Business’s Suzanne Kapner, T.J. Maxx relies on creating a “constant treasure hunt.” By rapidly turning over merchandise, T.J. Maxx is able to capture the consumer and keep them coming back. Personally, I frequent the T.J. Maxx closest to my home once a week, or every two/three weeks when I’m trying to watch my wallet. To uphold Kapner’s point, the uncertainty and thrill of searching through the merchandise is one of the reasons I enjoy shopping at T.J. Maxx.

Low prices— another ingredient in T.J. Max’xs recipe for success. After purchasing a pair of Jack Rogers for $60, a Rebecca Minkoff bag for $99 and a Trina Turk bikini for $40, T.J. Maxx has set a standard for me. Knowing that I can find designer items for half the retail price at T.J. Maxx makes me less likely to ever pay full price from the original source, hence why I have become loyal to T.J. Maxx.

Who does T.J. Maxx attribute majority of its success to? According to Kapner, it’s their buyers, as “each buyer controls millions of dollars and has authority to cut deals on the spot, unlike most department stores, which can take weeks to review and approve orders.” After intensive training for several years, T.J. Maxx buyers are given an immense amount of responsibility yet freedom to bring sellable merchandise into the stores.

T.J. Maxx currently operates “3,800 physical locations and plans to open 250 stores this year,” as cited by Kapner. Even in the dawn of the e-commerce age, T.J. Maxx (and similar retailers, such as Marshalls, Saks Off 5th, etc.) still reap the benefits of a unique, bargain business model. Clearly, Maxxinstas everywhere are rejoicing.


Works Cited

Kapner, Suzanne. “How T.J. Maxx is Bucking the Crisis in Retailing.” FOX Business, FOX News Network, LLC. 20 June 2017. foxbusiness.com. Accessed 25 June 2017.

Matthews, Mark. “Retail’s Reinvention Story Is Just Getting Started.” The National Retail Federation, National Retail Federation. 14 June 207. nrf.com. Accessed 25 June 2017.