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Reimagine Fashion sponsors sustainability with business owner spokespeople

By Bella Omar

Asst. Arts & Features Editor

The Framingham State Fashion Department hosted a panel of guest speakers for the Reimagine Fashion and Sustainability competition on March 7 in the McCarthy Center Forum to discuss the topic - “Diversify my Relationship with Fashion: Recycle, Upcycle, Resale.”

The upcycling competition is sponsored by MadaLuxe Group and The Council on Diversity and Inclusion at FSU and will provide students with the opportunity to showcase their designs at the annual FSU Spring Annual Fashion Show and win various prizes.

Fashion Professor Ruirui Zhang opened by introducing the panel - Samantha Marino, a recycling coordinator for Bay State Textiles; Jillian Clarke, founder and CEO of Roboro; and Ian Drake, the owner of Diversity Consignment.

Drake thanked attendees and said, “I'm hoping that what I've learned and what I've done up to this point can inspire some of you guys and maybe create some change in the world. Because I think that the world is an ever changing place and it needs more creativity. And that is hence our purpose, which is to challenge social norms and inspire creativity. So that's what we strive to do.”

The consignment entrepreneur then spoke on his time at West Virginia University where he studied biology until he moved back home to Quincy to “do something practical.”

Drake then began nursing school and a job at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, but he “was always into fashion. I was always into clothing, and my favorite brand was Polo,” he said.

He said he utilized his local Goodwill to find affordable Polo brand pieces and after he became satisfied with his personal closet, he was inspired to start reselling.

“I was just like, why don't I grab these things and then try and resell them. You know, there's got to be someone else out there that would rather buy it from me instead of sifting through all the minutia,” he said.

“And so I started an eBay store and I started selling this stuff on eBay,” he added.

Drake said he soon quit his job at Dunkin’ Donuts and found a South Shore space for rent to open his first consignment shop that focused on menswear.

He said, “The problem was it just had no exposure. Plus, I'm still in school, it's just me and this crazy life, working and going to school. Pretty much 16 hours a day.

“But that was a learning experience for me. And it taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do, but I needed something better,” he said.

Drake said when the pandemic struck, “it was a really, really good time to sit and reflect and think about what opportunities might be out there.”

Looking to move out of the South Shore, he said he began to search for new spaces available in buzzing Jamaica Plain. “It’s very artistic, very creative, and a lot of exposure too. It's a busy place,” he said.

“I'm like, ‘What is lacking here?’ They don’t have a consignment shop. They have thrift stores, which is great because I would go to those thrift stores. I love those thrift stores. But they did not have a consignment shop and there's a difference between a thrift store and a consignment shop,” he said.

Drake then presented the history of consignment shops, and how “it's a very community oriented way of doing business.

“The people who bring [products] in get a percentage of the selling price. … So as far as sustainability is concerned, I don't know how it could be more sustainable. You know, nothing is going to waste, everything is going back,” he said.

Drake explained that his favorite aspect of owning Diversity Consignment is “getting to connect with people and have collaborations with people who are like-minded,” but he also touched on how he continuously navigates the “outright hate” he has received for his pursuits.

He ended his portion of the panel by saying, “So I hope when you guys graduate, that you either find your purpose in life, and you create some true lasting change, because it's needed, and I want to live in a world where things are different, and where things are creative.”

Marino was then introduced and provided an overview of Bay State Textiles and the textile recycling business.

FSU, along with several other schools and municipalities, is home to one of the company’s textile recycling boxes where anyone can donate their unused fabrics.

“We have drivers that go out every single day to each of our collection boxes. They pull a 20 foot trailer behind them and go from box to box emptying them. Our program is based around rebates. So when we work with schools and towns, we're able to pay them a rebate based on the amount of weight of the textiles that we collect in each location,” she said.

Bay State Textiles has warehouses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Puerto Rico and services about 95% of municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Paul Curry launched Bay State Textiles in 2005 after years of working with Japanese retailers on exporting textiles and clothing and developing pilot programs for collection in the U.S.

Later, Curry traveled to Puerto Rico, “where he saw that there was a massive problem of basically just a lot of unwanted textiles with nowhere to go,” Marino said.

“There were no programs in place, laws or anything that regulated recycling or anything like that. So [Curry] was able to develop a pretty similar program there and launch our sister company which is PR Textile Recycling in 2015,” Marino added.

She continued the company’s mission is “just to divert as many textiles as possible from the waste stream while giving back to communities at the same time. Currently, we're partnered with over 100 school districts, over 600 individual schools and over 150 municipalities. We have 800-plus ones across Massachusetts alone. And last year in our facility we processed over 11 million pounds.”

Jillian Clarke then took the floor to talk about her brand Roboro. 

A Massachusetts native, Clarke earned her bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst and went on to become a costume designer in Los Angeles soon after.

She said she was inspired to begin her upcycling design and service studio after being “incredibly discouraged by the amount of waste that I saw on movie sites, everything from my department costumes to catering to scripts. I was shocked at this industry that has more money but couldn't come up with more sustainable solutions. It was just quick turnaround. Just throw it out, throw it out,” she said.

After her first few iterations of the brand Roboro was born in 2017, Roboro being the latin term for “to give physical and moral strength to.”

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