The Research Triangle Park

Getting Fashionable at RTP 180

By Sep 21, 2016

I know about as much about fashion as the average Joe. My idea of fashion is wearing the same thing every day. Seriously, my team makes fun of me that I wear my FanBase shirt along with navy shorts and flips flops every single day. I have a closet full of these outfits just like Superman. I’d like to think that really intelligent people decide to wear the same thing every day so that they aren’t distracted with useless details and decisions about what to wear every day. I mean, just look at Steve Jobs. He wore the same thing every day (black shirt, jeans, white sneakers) and he did OK!

This month’s 180 contained speakers who know a lot more about fashion than I do! Read my recaps below or for you more visual folks, watch the videos.

Beth Stewart, Executive Director, Redress Raleigh
Watch Beth’s talk.

Redress Raleigh was born from a desire to wear affordable, fashionable, eco-friendly designs. The term “sustainable fashion” can mean many things. While there is no perfect garment, Redress Raleigh uses general guidelines such as the use of natural dyes, organic fabrics, upcycling, domestic production and fair trade.

Fashion that hits these marks does come with challenges. 97% of clothing sold in the United States is currently made overseas. As consumers, we are often uneducated about the working conditions and wages of those who produce our clothing. As Beth stated, we probably would not purchase a piece of clothing if we knew that it was made by a single mother who was not paid enough to make ends meet for her family. We probably would also choose another company if we knew that the dye used to make that clothing piece polluted the river down the street from where that woman and her children lived.

Another challenge is that new designers lack understanding of the industry. They often enter the fashion world without fully understanding the process of getting their product to market. If this barrier to entry exists, sustainable fashion has a more difficult time making it to the shelves of our favorite stores.

To tackle this challenge, Redress Raleigh is now incorporating classes about business and production for the designers that go through their program. Redress Raleigh is also moving towards being able to sell the clothing that these designers make. These steps help close the gaps that prevent sustainable fashion from becoming more accessible.

Redress Raleigh is currently part of the Creative Startups accelerator program. They were one of ten companies chosen (and the only nonprofit!) out of 100 applicants. At the culmination of the program, they will be competing for $50,000 in venture funding!

To get involved, check out Redress Raleigh on social media. Every month, they share tips that make it easier for consumers to make an impact by being more informed about their clothing choices.

Katie Annett-Hitchcock, NCSU College of Textiles
Watch Katie’s presentation.

Katie teaches in the Fashion and Textile Design program at NCSU. The program is split into two different focuses- Fashion Design and Textile Design. Each program accepts 32 students a year, 16 for each program. The selection process is both portfolio and interview based.

While the program is quite new to NC State University, their students are already showing great promise. Current student Lisa Hoang showed her collection at Charleston Fashion Week in the spring. Over the summer, she was asked to present her collection at New York Fashion Week. She only had about four weeks of notice, but juggled school and preparation for the show. She ended up presenting a collection with 24 looks. Pretty amazing for anyone – especially a college student!

Katie Annett-Hitchcock is also very involved in the university as a whole. She was recently asked to take over an investigator position in a group called AWE, short for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs. The group was assembled to address the statistics that show that women have a more difficult time getting started in the world of entrepreneurship. The group holds workshops surrounding skills required in business. They tackle everything from how to properly use a business card, to legal issues and negotiation. Events are held all over the triangle.

Katie is also pursuing the possibility of opening a fashion incubator in the triangle area. This incubator would help emerging designers learn how to properly source materials and launch their products into the marketplace.

Kate Leser, The Makeover Expert
Watch Kate’s talk.

Kate Leser helps you get the look you need to get the professional results you want. She calls this “purposeful dressing,” which is dressing with a conscious awareness of the messages you are sending. This doesn’t mean needing to wear the most expensive clothes. In fact, Kate is a fan of thrifting and repurposing clothes. She just wants you to get to know your tailor, and make sure your clothing works the best that it can for you.

Kate spoke about avoiding sending mixed messages. This often happens with new college graduates. They attempt to look professional with a suit jacket, but add a baseball cap. The youthfulness of the baseball cap contradicts the professional look of the suit jacket, and can cause others to misinterpret the visual messages you are trying to send.

We can all look our best while sending the appropriate visual cues by paying attention to our unique bodies. Kate argues that contrary to popular belief, black is not the best universal color. She recommends sticking to a color that you notice people compliment you wearing. Work with your face shape to choose fashion that works harmoniously, and again, get to know your tailor! Wearing clothing that is much too big for you can tend to make you look larger instead of disguising what you may intend to hide. 

Whether you’re running to the bank, lunch with friends, or just passing by your coworkers at the office, your appearance is sending visual cues and messages to those around you. Be aware of the messages you may be sending, and be willing to make small changes that can accelerate you to increased professional and personal success.

Jared Childs, Pitch & Primer
Watch Jared’s RTP 180 talk. 

The current shopping experience for men is a broken process. Men tend to put off shopping for clothing until they have exhausted all other options. They then head to, presumably one of the only local shopping options, the mall. Loud music, bad lighting and crowded stores likely await them. What if this experience could be different? What if this $60 billion a year industry was introduced to a convenient, comfortable and enjoyable shopping experience?

Enter Pitch & Primer. This company is looking to recreate the shopping experience for the modern man. With a three step approach, Pitch & Primer is curating an accessible, engaging and affordable approach to men’s retail.  A mobile storefront, ecommerce store, and on demand delivery system will help fit the needs of nearly everyone.

The mobile storefront will be on a 1970s 30-foot Airstream. Five days a week, the Airstream will be hitting the hot spots of downtown Raleigh. This will make the store accessible- Pitch & Primer travels to wherever the consumers are. The interior of the Airstream is designed to resemble your buddy’s living room or favorite local bar. The main shopping area will be a bar top that runs the length of the Airstream. Bar stools will house merchandise. Craft beer will be available in the mini fridge on board. All of these design touches aim to make the consumer have a more comfortable shopping experience.

The Airstream will be launching throughout the triangle in October, with the long term goal to expand to a total of ten mobile units across the country.

Marian McCord, NCSU
See Marian’s describe her designs at RTP 180.

Marian has a passion for global health which jumpstarted 10 years ago when she saw a need for more of a focus on textiles that fight against vector borne diseases. The threat of vector borne diseases are real. In fact, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal and are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

Generally, mosquitoes only bite at night, but her research was telling her this was about to change. Knowing this, Marian started to think if it would be possible to develop clothing that prevented mosquito bites during the day?

Just like Marian predicted, today, unfortunately, we are battling an epidemic that has infected millions of people called the Zika Virus, which is transmitted through mosquitoes. The concern with battling the Zika Virus comes in the form of women using a chemical called DEET while pregnant. DEET is a chemical found in most popular Insect repellents, making it hard for these women to come up with a safe defense. Women are encouraged to apply this chemical directly onto their skin to repel insects such as mosquitoes.

When doing a quick search on Amazon for “Insect proof clothing” – the obvious hunting garments come up. Since camo is not in style for the soon-to-be mom, Marian has set out to create her own line of fashionable non-chemical and bite proof clothing. Marian and her team have devoted the past 5 years to researching, designing, and testing clothing that can be both comfortable to wear and bite proof against mosquitoes.

Although her clothing line hasn’t released, she’s extremely close to helping pregnant women safely fight against vector borne diseases.

We wrapped up this month’s 180 with a preview of the FashionSpark’s fashion show. I hate to tell you that FashionSpark has already come and gone, but it’ll be back next year! Of course, you can always watch the fashion show over on RTP’s YouTube channel

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