“Safe Styles” Separating on Cultural Lines

“Safe Styles” Separating on Cultural Lines

Whether or not we mean to, we are constantly judging, stereotyping and labeling and then making assumptions based on fashion. These standards then play a part in defining who we are as individuals. “Stereotypes exist because there are people that would rather create labels and groups then get to know someone,” said apparel and textiles sophomore, Bennedy Kennedy. Not many of us choose to categorize people like this, and many of us would change it if we could, but it is an ongoing fact of human nature that has little hope of fading. “I don’t think it will ever go away, but it will get better,” said apparel and textile instructor Rebecca Schuiling. One of the many ways this stereotyping and categorization expresses itself today is in the fashion industry.

Certain brands of clothing are often associated with a specific cultural group and there are a number of reasons behind this. “You see repetition in the street and you start to notice certain categories of people wearing certain things over and over again,” said Schuiling. When people see this repetition in dress, it becomes an association. When one thing becomes associated with another, it often sticks and even gains prominence.

At this point, it’s possible for a brand to be strictly associated with a certain type of person, group of people or cultural group. Some groups desire this – they want to be noticed for something specific or have a desire to be viewed a certain way and use appearance as an outlet. They may wear certain brands because they’re high end and are associated with class. “No matter what neighborhood you live in or what race you are, a lot of the time it’s a status thing,” said mixed raced business owner Jeremy Scott. “People wear things to communicate to their peers. No matter what race [you are], people treat you differently for what you’re wearing. Its about respect.” Many feel when you wear something high end, you become high end yourself – you are what you…wear.

On the other hand, some people may not be going for attention at all and are even perhaps going in the complete opposite direction. “It’s painful for them,” said Schuiling. “They want to wear what’s acceptable to wear.” They may not want any association with labels and thus steer clear of them, but then the fashion industry sees this, places a label on this without-a-label way of life and it becomes another style in the world of fashion.

These people may not want to be stamped, but through the process of avoiding this, it’s possible they are actually attracting it. “Reverse adoption is where people are wearing things in the streets and designers take ideas from that,” said Schuiling. Take the grunge look for example – without a desire to belong to anything specific, people created a style of their own (now, the grunge look). This style became a look and the designers took notice of it. Once this happened, designers began to mimic the street style doing precisely what was trying to be avoided in the first place – the creation of a new label.

In all these different labels, groups, classes and categories like to use a term that is widely known and often used – individuality. The scary fact is that, in the fashion world, none of us is completely our own. “It’s almost funny when people think they’re creating their own styles,” said Schuiling. “Everything is done over and over again.” Designs are used and then recycled. Styles go through changes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the new product of sheer imagination – instead, the new and improved product of a past product. One thing comes from another and it continues. “But as long as you feel good in what you wear,” said Kennedy, “that’s what I’m going to see.”

Schuiling said that by nature, people want to have a sense of individualism while simultaneously being accepted by everyone. That’s where people go their separate ways. For some, even just a small sense of belonging will do, so there’s a smaller class of people that turn to sub-cultures. That way, they still maintain this strong feeling of individualism, but at the same time are being accepted by this group of people that they are able to relate to. For others, the feeling of being accepted may be more important and they have no desire to stand out.

It’s weird to try and imagine a world without all this labeling and stereotyping. “Everyone would have to create their own clothes to be entirely original,” said Schuiling. Not to mention the size of the roll the fashion industry plays on our economy. “It’s a fine line,” she said.

A company’s success is greatly affected by its target market. If a brand strictly markets to a specific group of people, they’re going to have a significantly smaller amount of people that will even consider their product. “Every brand markets and designs for certain people,” said Kennedy, “it’s a fact.” However, if a company has no limits, neither do its customers – they have that many more possible sales. “It might shy people away from buying a product if they don’t feel like they can be a part of that tribe,” said Schuiling. People aren’t going to buy a product if they don’t feel comfortable in it.

It’s a whole new ball game for the designers. “Good designers keep in mind all of their clientele,” said Kennedy. “You have to if you want to be successful.”

“If I’m a designer designing high-waisted poofy minis, there’s a target customer that I’m designing for,” said apparel and textiles junior Alissa Seymoure. They might create a line with no intention of a target clientele, but if a group of people adopt this designers look, that look can quickly become associated with that group of people. “Other people might get left out and it could hurt sales,” said Shuiling, “particularly if [the line is] tied to race, it might be uncomfortable or strange for a designer if it’s not what [he/she] intended.”

The upside of this grouping of people based on style and appearance is that most of the time it gives us a good idea of where we fit in. It would be wrong to make assumptions based strictly on appearance, but it sometimes is an aid on say…the first day of school. “You kind of know where you belong,” said Schuiling, “it’s almost a safety thing.” This is not to say (at all) that two people of two entirely different cultures, backgrounds or styles couldn’t become the best of friends. Simply stated, it just gives a little sense of comfort and belonging.

These specific categories of people associated with a certain style might be difficult to take in for someone who is more of an experimental dresser. Not that he or she has the desire to fit into every cultural group, just that he or she doesn’t feel that he or she really has anywhere that he or she belong. “It can be frustrating if you like to explore new styles,” said Shuiling.

It may seem to be dictated by the consumers, but there are a number of designers that create styles specifically for certain cultural groups. “Style should be able to be unique and show your personality,” said Seymoure, “but it shouldn’t affect how people treat you.”

Initially we all may want to believe that fashion is completely separate from who we are as people but the truth is, it is inevitably associated with exactly who we are.

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What’s with the new Museum? Six Questions Answered

What’s with the new Museum? Six Questions Answered

With a brand new year here, everyone seems to be off to a fresh start – including MSU. Construction will start on a new art museum for the University this spring. So while all of us are busy rethinking, reevaluating and then completely disowning our new year’s resolutions, the MSU campus and Art Department are preparing for a leap into the future with a new building.

This video on MSU’s YouTube channel provides an illustration of what the Museum will look like:

But how did this futuristic building land at Michigan State University?

WHAT:
In the summer of 2007 MSU announced that a new art museum would be built on campus. “The museum outgrew its facility decades ago,” Director of Kresge Art Museum, Susan Bandes said. “This building will help put mid Michigan on the map in a way that we are not already.”

The decision for a new art museum was definitely not an abrupt one. “The current Kresge Art Center had been looking to expand and after numerous conversations between President Simon and museum donor Eli Broad a rough plan was made,” said Linda Stanford, professor of art and art history, and associate provost for academic services. She said Eli Broad is very supportive of the university and the new art center. Stanford said that Broad was even quoted as saying, “you need to do something transformative and if you do I’ll give a gift to help.”

Having previously taught architectural history here at MSU, Stanford said it hits close to home. “It’s something I actually know about,” Stanford said, “its fun.” The university is hoping the new museum will aid in linking campus life to the community. The museum’s placement on campus as well as it’s modernity and educational and creative opportunities will allow it to thrive in both campus and community involvement. The importance already being placed with the new museum coming to campus allows us to understand the significant roll it will soon play in the arts.

WHO:
In June of 2007 philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe donated $18.5 million toward the university’s new museum. With an additional $7.5 million for a signature sculpture and other operations, their $26 million gift to the university is the largest monetary gift ever made. “Without the Broad’s gift, we wouldn’t be talking about transformation for Kresge,” Bandes said. “Because of their generosity, we’ve leaped into a whole new world.” Bandes also said that the Broads are listed among the top ten art collectors in the world and have always been avid museum and contemporary art supporters.

The estimated cost of the project is said to be about $30 million. Additional money for the project has come from MSU fundraising which raised about $6.5 million and also a $2 million gift from MSU alumni Edward and Julie Minskoff.

It was anything but a simple process when world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid of London was chosen to design the building. In June 2007, MSU began an international design competition to choose the architect for the new project. Hadid was announced as the winner of the competition in 2008. President Simon and Eli and Edythe Broad joined Hadid in accepting and then a presentation and celebration of the decision at the Kellogg Center. Renowned architect and design critic Joseph Giovannini was chosen by MSU to officiate the contest. There were ten finalists chosen from a group of about 30 international firms. From the ten, five were then chosen to present ideas to a jury and the public on campus in July 2007. The job of the jury was to simply make recommendations to President Simon and the university’s design committee. From there, President Simon and the committee reviewed the concepts of the five finalists and made their final decision.

WHERE:
The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum will stand on Grand River next to Berkey Hall near the Collingwood entrance to campus. The museum will have two entrances – one from Grand River, the other from campus. “It stands as a sculpture itself without really a front or back,” said Stanford. The goal of the building’s unique appearance and placement is to visually represent how the university is linked to the community. “We’re trying to make people understand that this museum could easily be a part of their life,” Stanford said.

Inside, the museum will feature some major exhibitions and collections that will come in and out, shows that are created by the art museum staff as well as some of the work from the university’s permanent collection that is currently housed at Kresge. “This is the transformative part,” Stanford said, “We’re not just moving things from one place to another.”

By and large, admission to the museum will be open to the public. This will allow students to linger in and out of the museum between classes with community members. “It could be closed for special events, but it would be highly unusual,” Stanford said. “That’s how most university museums function.”

WHY:
The museum’s board of directors hopes that it will do much more than just serve as the university’s new art museum. “President Simon wanted us to think in a bigger way,” Stanford said, “and not only about the building, but about expanding our international reach.” Many aspects will play a role in internationalizing MSU’s new museum from the architect being internationally known to the museum’s specific placement on campus.

“The university museum right now is sort of out of sight, out of mind,” Stanford said. “The state doesn’t have an art museum – it’s here to serve the mid-Michigan community. When we expand our world, it becomes international.”

Bandes seems to think the actual museum itself will be the largest attraction. “The architect is internationally renowned and her work is not well represented in the U.S,” she said, “so people will certainly come just for the building.”

The board is hoping to attract major exhibitions and collections, and become recognized around the world. With the additions in artwork that the museum will be able to hold, they are eager to enhance student and community art appreciation. “We will finally have a fitting home for the collection as well as having a significant architectural building,” Bandes said.

As far as the space that will open up in the Kresge Art Museum, there are no definite plans yet, but the area is assigned to the College of Arts and Letters.

WHEN:
Groundbreaking for the museum is scheduled for March 16, 2010. “Once we have the groundbreaking, they’re going to come in and dig up the ground the day after,” Stanford said. Stanford further explained that the groundbreaking and construction can be done one of two ways: groundbreaking, wait, build or wait, groundbreaking, build – MSU has chosen the latter. “In the mean time, we’re getting questions answered,” Stanford said.

WHAT STUDENTS ARE SAYING:
“I think the museum will be able to give the art students a wider range of subjects and medium to explore,” said Jessica Ford, freshman studio art major. “It’s going to provide more opportunities for us to not only learn about art but creating inspiration for our own work.”

Ford also said that she thinks the new expanded and updated museum will be able to attract more people to come and experience the art. “Open events and exhibits are a chance, for not only the art students here at MSU, but for anyone who wants to go.”

There are a lot of students unaware that they should even be expecting a new construction site this spring and when it pops up they’ll be shocked by its appearance. It’s a project the University has really put a lot of thought and energy into and the administration is really hoping to change not only the art program here but the community as well. “I’m really looking forward to it,” said Ford. “Being an art student, it’s important to have an effective museum available to learn more and create more.”

The new museum should open sometime in 2012. So if the world doesn’t end first and you’ve already graduated, come back and check it out.

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Working It Off the Runway

[[fashion3]] Flipping the TV channels makes people think that having a career in the fashion world involves a lot of drama, unrealistic deadlines and an instantly glamorous lifestyle. Between America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and the latest competition, Stylista, fashion on TV has become more about entertainment than an accurate view into the career world. Outside of designing, the average person has probably only heard of a couple of careers in the fashion industry, if any at all. However there are aspects in the world of fashion that even some fashion students are unaware of, and most of them do not involve a panel of judges.
“There are so many other things you can do with a fashion degree other than designing,” said Amanda Briglio, president of MSU’s Student Apparel Design Association (SADA).
The Unfamiliar Jobs
The Accessory Assistant
If picking up accessories from public relations companies and organizing them for photo shoots sounds like your calling, an accessory assistant is the job for you. Even though accessory assistants do not get to make a lot of their own fashion decisions, they get hands on experience right in the heart of the fashion industry. This sometimes even means getting to meet celebrities and other important people in the fashion world. Plus being an assistant at any big fashion company is a great foot in the door. Rachel Wilkerson, a 2008 MSU alumnus, is an accessory assistant at ELLE magazine. She said that she has enjoyed being so immersed in the fashion world. “The best part about the job is just getting to be in the center of it all,” Wilkerson said. She also said that a perk of being an accessory assistant at ELLE is getting to live in one of the fashion capitals of the world, New York City. “It has a lot of aspects to it and so many different things that you don’t even realize exist until you get out here,” Wilkerson said. [dream]
Apparel Manufacturer
There are several stages a designers and their teams go through to produce a collection. The manufacturing phase is one that is relatively unheard of. The apparel manufacturer does everything from creating product concepts, which are ideas for garments, to delivering the garment to the retailer. In between those steps, the manufacturer creates a financial plan for the design and finds the perfect fabrics to use. The job may not be as dazzling as toasting champagne with Oscar de la Renta, but it is another way for those starting out in the fashion world to get the necessary experience to move up in the ranks.
“Introductory level jobs are easier because they don’t necessarily need you to be as strong creatively,” apparel and textile design professor Lori Faulkner said. “You’re going to do more of what the designer has drawn already and just interpret it.”
An apparel manufacturing firm is made up of three different departments – design, production and sales. The design department is directed by a head designer or a merchandiser and is in charge of trend research and creating sketches to produce between four and six collections per year. The production department’s main responsibility is to mass produce a collection. This department is who middle class America depends on for everyday work and casual wear. They are also responsible for the actual construction of the garment – the sewing, finishing and pressing of different pieces. The final department, the sales department, serves as an intermediary between the designer and the buyer and markets the line for the designer.
Forecaster
A fashion forecaster does exactly what you imagine. They forecast the trends. Based on the hot trends from seasons’ past, forecasters predict what stylists and buyers alike will be dying to get their hands on during the upcoming fashion season. Being “fashion forward” is to being successful in the job. Forecasters travel to fashion capitals around the world like Milan, Paris and London to keep track not of what is in style now, but what will be fashionable a few months in the future.
“They set standards for what’s going to be popular. They usually work two to three seasons in advance,” Briglio said. To make it as a forecaster, an eye for style, a sense of fashion history and a love for travel are required.
Assistant Designer
An assistant designer is a starter job for those aspiring to make their name in fashion design. Assistant designers usually work in a room with at least one head designer and other assistant designers. Their everyday tasks depend on the company they are working for, but generally assistant designers help the head designer create color stories, which involves selecting the 8 to 10 colors used in the designer’s collection. They also research fabrics and choose the best ones to make the designer’s garments out of, create or buy the printed material used in a collection and attend model fittings. [Wilkerson]
Most careers in fashion do not leave time for twiddling thumbs, and working as an assistant designer is no different. “I work 10, usually 11 hours a day,” said Mikey Novak, MSU alum and assistant designer at Forever 21. “It’s very fast paced and extremely time consuming.” Novak said she works on color specs, graphic art, trend reports and color palettes, which are all integral parts of creating a collection. But the job is not complete stress ridden and there are some non-monetary incentives, Novak said. “The best part of the job is that I have a lot of creative freedom. It’s really rewarding to see your own designs out in such a big company,” Novak said.
The Popular Jobs
When most people think of a fashion career they do not think of being a forecaster or an apparel manufacturer. Instead they think of how glamorous and exciting it would be to become a fashion stylist, merchandiser or designer. But those jobs are extremely competitive and they have unforeseen aspects that magazines and television do not highlight.
Stylist
One of the most popular careers in the fashion industry today is a fashion stylist. However, even some who put it on their list of dream jobs do not fully understand what it is.
“I get so many people who want to be fashion stylists, and when I ask them what a stylist is – they can’t answer,” Faulkner said. The main responsibility of fashion stylist is to put together looks for photo shoots and runways, Briglio said. While this may sound just as easy as picking out an outfit for a night on the town, there is a lot more that goes into choosing that perfect look than making sure your colors don’t clash. On set for a photo shoot, the stylist has to create an image that appeals to their boss but also to all viewers. There are also plenty of errands like running around the city for one scarf or that missing right shoe involved in the job. To a lot of students hoping to get into the industry, the job of a stylist sounds both exciting and alluring.
“It’s two fold. On some levels the job is easy but you definitely have to have a savvy about the industry – it’s difficult but it’s doable,” Wilkerson said.
Merchandiser
Another familiar job in the fashion industry is a fashion merchandiser. Merchandisers handle the business side of fashion in addition to some creative aspects. A merchandiser normally will work with the designer on a variety of things which differ depending on the company. Merchandisers research fabric trends, promote the line, track sales and profits and work with stores to identify best seller items. “They are responsible for buying the merchandise to sell in the stores,” Briglio said. A merchandiser can also be in charge of pulling a certain look together to display in stores. [fashion2]
Designer
Though most people are familiar with the job title, a lot of people realize that it is impossible to jump from college graduate to couture designer overnight. As the most common career in the industry, it may also be one of the most difficult to get into.
“It’s very competitive. It depends on what you want to do though – it’s going to be easier to find a job in product development than as a fashion designer,” Faulkner said.
Designers hold major creativity tasks such as planning the silhouettes, color schemes, materials and details of each garment. Their responsibilities range from sketching the original designs to working with patternmakers to make samples of the garment. As sensational as it may seem, the job is dramatic, stressful and very fast-paced.
“You can’t be lazy. It moves so fast and you can’t get burnt out,” Wilkerson said.

If you think you are ready for the challenge of Project Runway or America’s Next Top Model, keep an eye on audition times. However if competition outside of the job market is not what you are looking for, consider one of the many career paths in the fashion industry. Your dream job might be at the end of long, hard road lined with broken stiletto heels and model catfights, but in between starting off and scoring your spot lie opportunities to get some valuable and fashionable experience.

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All Eyes on the Mitten

Who is the Michigan voter? That is one question presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have been entertaining since the race to the White House began over a year ago. Deciphering the hearts and minds of Michigan’s residents is a vital aspect to both candidates’ campaigns because what the voters want to hear is what McCain and Obama want to be heard saying in every campaign commercial that flashes on televisions across the state. What Michigan voters want to hear is not the same as what California voters or Connecticut voters or Georgia voters want to hear. Issues like the shaky economy set Michigan apart from all other 49 states. As a state that is being looked to as potentially deciding the election, Obama and McCain are using their advertising campaigns to speak directly to Michigan as much as possible. With the 2008 election coming down the home stretch, those messages tailored to residents of the Mitten State continue to change, but can be heard loud and clear from both parties.[Gerdes2]
It is important for campaigns to change their advertising priorities based on geographic area because tapping into the important issues for varying communities emphasizes a candidate’s broad reach and their ability to get to know America rather than just Washington D.C. “Every voter wants to feel important. They all want to be able to say, this is the change I want,” advertising professor Linda Gerdes said.
As a state that could swing toward either candidate, Michigan voters are a bigger campaign advertising target than they have been, especially as election day gets closer and closer. The Michigan-Ohio swing state combination is being compared to the Florida-Ohio pairing of 2004. “Politicians should recognize that Michigan is an important state and our concerns are to be regarded,” Clay Dedeaux, a Ph.D. graduate assistant said.
So what are the concerns that Michigan voters need candidates to address in order to win them over? The overriding issue is the state of the economy on a statewide and national level. Leaving Michigan to cope with its own economic distress is not acceptable for some voters. “We’ve been ignored and to some degree taken for granted. We literally help keep the country moving and we’ve been down for a long time and it’s almost as if we’ve come to accept that,” Dedeaux said. All signs point to a statewide consensus that the path of Michigan’s economy must be turned around. “People are just mad. We’re losing jobs, and jobs are going overseas, people don’t seem to understand why though,” economics senior John Hubbarth said.
Recently released Census information confirms the failing state of the Michigan economy. According to the Detroit Free Press,the median household income for Michigan dropped by more than $7,100 to $47,950 while the national average dropped by just over $1,000 to $50,740 this year. The manufacturing sector, which has been one of the industries that has shaped Michigan’s economy for years, took a cut with nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs lost from 2000 to 2007. With many people being forced to take lesser paying service jobs, Michigan’s economy continues to suffer more than the many of the other 49 states. The way our economy is going right now, a lot of our youth are planning to go other directions — and not Up North. “As of right now I don’t want to stay here,” Hubbarth said. “I wish I didn’t feel that way but I go to other states and like them more than my home state.” Allowing a statewide brain drain to take place will only hurt the economy more and voters are urging the presidential candidates to take note of their concern. “Politicians recognize that we’re concerned about our kids leaving the state. The best and the brightest will soon be gone,” Dedeaux said. [Dedeaux3]
Based on Obama’s slogan it is safe to say that he thinks what not just Michigan, but the entire country needs is change. In Michigan, he is looking to the younger generations to bring that change. Obama’s Michigan campaign set a goal of registering 150,000 new voters by the Oct. 6 voter registration deadline. According to the Detroit Free Press, Obama has a 15 percentage point led in popularity with younger voters, which could be the key to winning Michigan.
Unlike the numerous Obama campaigners covering campus campus, clipboard in hand, ready to register students, an influx of McCain campaigners will not be found on foot. Instead, the McCain campaign is targeting the working class in Michigan, rather than the youth vote, and is using the ailing economy as a major issue. McCain has been making his way through the state promoting change for Michigan workers. He recently visited the General Motors Assembly Plant in Lake Orion, where he made pledges to revitalize the auto industry. “It’s great to be here today with the assembly workers of this GM plant,” said McCain in a speech he made at the GM plant according to transcripts from JohnMcCain.com. “I’m here to send a message to Washington and Wall Street: We are not going to leave the workers here in Michigan hung out to dry while we give billions in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street. It is time to get our auto industry back on its feet. It’s time for a new generation of cars and for loans to build the facilities that will make them.”
Looking at the dollars and cents, it seems that candidates are fully aware of Michigan’s importance in the upcoming election as well as the importance of the economic issues plaguing the state. According to the Detroit Free Press, campaign advertising spending has increased 40 percent for Michigan since the 2004 election.


We have all seen McCain show up in between segments of our favorite television show to star in his two commercials airing specifically for Michigan. It is no wonder that these commercials have become so familiar when the McCain campaign spends $500,000 per week on the two Michigan based ads, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN).
“Michigan families depend on the auto industry,” a Michigan McCain commercial said. “John McCain and his congressional allies know it.” Here McCain is clearly cutting right to Michigan voters.
“Barack Obama will make energy independence an urgent priority,” an Obama ad stated. “A real plan and new energy.” Obama’s “New Energy” commercial was played in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan in response to negative attacks made on the Democratic Party by McCain.
According to MCFN, Obama began advertising in Michigan around June 20 and has spent an average of $548,000 per week since then. With the election getting closer, Obama stepped up his advertising and began a new ad campaign. According to the Detroit Free Press in a Sept. 23 article, the new Obama ads will air only in Michigan and will focus on McCain’s car ownership record.

What are the billions of dollars being spent on advertising actually doing? Some say just slaughtering the opponent. Many voters do not appreciate the negative campaign strategy and prefer the commercials where candidates simply state their beliefs and goals. “I really detest negative campaigning. I hate it. I lean right and I even had to turn off the RNC (Republican National Convention) because of it! It’s worse than I’ve ever seen,” Gerdes said.
Dedeaux summed up the Michigan voter by saying, “We represent middle American values. We’re stable but we want more for ourselves and our children. If they don’t take care of Michigan now, there may be no Michigan.”
“We’re struggling for the most part. Fearful of how we’re going to put food on the table,” Gerdes said. With election day approaching, the economy in crisis and a population of undecided voters who will be the tipping point to coloring Michigan red or blue, Obama and McCain’s debates over who will take better care of Michigan are holding more weight than ever. It may be a toss up now, but when all of the votes are tallied we will know who the Michigan voter is, and hopefully so will our next President.

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What Not to Wear, East Lansing Style

We’ve all experienced the “I have nothing to wear” dilemma. But instead of throwing out your clothes and criticizing your sense of style, read on for some dated fashion trends, taken right from campus. I began my journey with a keen eye out for those irritating trends that are usually overplayed. After observation, especially on the first floor of my dorm, I’ve created a list of ten fashion “don’ts.” If you’re a sucker for some of these things, get out of your comfort zone, because it’s about time these bad fashion habits change.
Uggs: Okay fine, in Michigan’s fine winter season, go ahead and wear your Uggs, but when the sun starts shining and the birds start chirping, it’s time to put them away. “I think Uggs are pretty ugly, I am not going to lie…I am very guilty of sporting them around campus,” design freshman Tommie Mianecki said. “They are just really comfortable and practical in the winter.” Keep in mind though, fashion is sometimes very impractical. Look around you, everyone has them! What ever happened to uniqueness as fashion?
[feet]Tennis shoes with jeans: I like to think we all have at least a small amount of natural fashion do’s and don’ts. If you’re going to dress up, it needs to be done from head to foot. “Wear shoes that compliment the cut of the leg,” design junior Alison Olex said. “Cute heels or flats look great with straight leg or skinny leg jeans.” Just because you walk all over them, all hours of the day, doesn’t mean your feet don’t need fashion attention. And tennis shoes usually don’t cut it.
Denim Capris: When I see them, they sort of shout “middle school,” to me and other students. “They can look a bit trashy and ‘7th grader-ish,'” no preference major Amanda Thompson said. Though they can be practical when it’s kind of warm, but not really warm enough for shorts, stick to the full-length blue jeans and throw on a cute summery shirt – works every time. “I just don’t think they are the hot new pant,” Mianecki said.
White Cami as an undershirt: Most of the time you can get away with showing a little skin, especially when the temperature starts to rise. Although I’ve worn my fair share of white undershirts, seeing this takes me back to a place in my childhood where fashion didn’t have many highs. A straight neck, white cami is a little on the boring side. “It’s okay,” Olex said. “Nothing special.” There are tons of choices, color never hurt anyone and plus, it’s spring. Flashy colors are always in style during the spring and summer. Even a black cami under low cut shirts is a much better option. You can never really go wrong with black.
Patterns: They can be done brilliantly or made an absolute mess. Many people make this mistake in an attempt to make their own style bold, but it often ends up looking gaudy as opposed to tasteful. “It shouldn’t be done for the most part,” Olex said. We’ve all seen the pictures from New York’s fashion week filled with bold patterns, and it very rarely looks like a disaster. “Designers learn about what shapes and colors go well together,” Olex said. “They take courses on design elements.” If you want your outfit to be bold, you only need one bold piece: for example, a gaudy necklace, colorful shoes, a patterned shirt or colorful tights.
Overalls: I know, I haven’t seen them in a while either. I do see that one pair once in a while, and normally I do a double take. “Everything seems to make a comeback,” Mianecki said. “But I think overalls are going to stay put in the closet for now.” So don’t even put them in your $1 bin at this summer’s garage sale – no one should be wearing them. “Some people can pull it off,” Mianecki said. “But most of the time, it seems like they are trying too hard.” And most fashionistas make style look effortless.
[boldness]Sparkle, Glitter and Sequins: For this fashion, we have the devoted – “Love, love, love them all,” Mianecki said – and we have the uncommitted, or those that can’t really stand it. “I think that wearing sparkles is really elementary and shouldn’t be done,” Thompson said. “Designers place them well on garments and use little amounts,” Olex said. Sequins are actually very in right now for a lot of big time designers. There seems to be a right and wrong way to play with these things, but if it’s done the wrong way, it makes the top ten “don’t” list. Do it the right way by using these scarcely.
Gauchos: Who doesn’t want to look 10 pounds heavier walking down the street? “I think that gauchos make girls appear to be larger,” Thompson said. “The cut of the fabric is not flattering to anyone’s body.” Gauchos had their time to shine and for now they’re out of the game. If paired with the right top, they could work, but it’s just a safer game to stay away from them. This spring and summer, go with dresses instead.
Jeans without back pockets: It may seem like you have to look for this fashion disaster, but believe it or not, they are still around. Just like shoes, they are sometimes looked at as a “help or harm” item. “If you have a small butt, they make it look flat,” Olex said. “If you’re a little more gifted in that area, it could help tone it down.” Jeans without back pockets are different from some other trends in that it kind of just took a straight shot right out of the fashion world. I’ve never once met someone that truly believes they’re cute.
Skirt with Leggings: My initial thought is this style is slightly overplayed. “I’m kind of over that look,” Mianecki said. When it was first introduced, girls everywhere loved the idea of being able to play with the average jean skirt. I guess the style just overstayed its welcome by a little, because now it comes off to me as a bit cliché. “My 9-year-old little sister wears skirts with leggings,” Thompson said. “People my age should not be doing the same.” All in all, don’t cover up so much.
So for all these fashion don’ts, try their counterparts this spring and summer. Go with riding boots instead of Uggs to make a statement. Put away that old worn out white cami and show some skin. If you love the idea of sparkle and sequins, buy products that use them sparingly, and avoid wearing the garments during the day; it’s more of a “night on the town” look. And instead of the traditional pair of capris, go with a stylish jean skirt – without the leggings of course. “People don’t realize that when it comes to boldness, sometimes less is more,” Thompson said. After all, knowing what not to wear will make solving that constant wardrobe question a little easier.

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Playing the (Energy) Field

It’s no shock that athletes are a superstitious crowd. Whether it is wearing a lucky pair of socks, eating a certain meal before the big game or listening to a favorite song, athletes are notorious for pre-game rituals. And perhaps the most superstitious sport of all, baseball, is turning to a new method. The newest forms of a “lucky necklace” in baseball, and other sports, are the nylon, titanium-soaked necklaces and bracelets that offer magnetic therapy. [baseball]
And magnetic necklaces and bracelets aren’t just popular among the pros. Even at MSU, athletes can be seen sporting the newest trend, with baseball players leading the way. “I wear one of the bracelets and a lot of our players wear them, too,” said David Grewe, the head coach of the baseball team.
The trend seems to be hitting high schools and colleges throughout the nation, including MSU’s rival school, the University of Michigan. “I know a lot of guys wear them on our team,” U-M freshman football player Stevie Threet said. “I rarely see players that don’t wear them. The higher up you get, the more common it is.”
So what exactly do these items do?
The “science” behind it
Allegedly, when the titanium is broken down in these bracelets and necklaces and fused into the nylon fabric, it releases energy into the muscles. The products purportedly strengthen how energy is utilized in the body, thus increasing the effectiveness of each cell in the body.
Phiten Titanium Products is one of the many corporations that manufactures and sells these products. Yoshihiro Hirata, Phiten’s president, states their goal is to “provide users with health-promoting technologies and products,” according to the company’s Web site. The researchers for Phiten attempt to make their products maximize the body’s natural healing power and thus balance the body and mind.
According to Phiten Titanium Products at YOLKshop.com, these products have the “capability of enhancing athletic performance by relaxing the muscles and balancing the body and mind to increase flexibility, stamina, strength and healing ability.” Grewe said the magnetism is already in the body, but the magnetic bracelets relax and energize the athlete.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet evaluated Phiten; this process would likely take up to six months. This doesn’t seem to bother many athletes, however. “[They’re] not going to harm anyone, so they don’t need to research it,” said Ryan Anetsberger, a business administration graduate from Illinois State University and minor league baseball player for the Florida Marlins. “Scientific research is done for stuff that’s potentially harmful.”
So what’s all the hype about?
[ryan11]”Athletes are always looking for that extra edge,” MSU associate athletic trainer Sally Nogle said. And many athletes feel as though magnetic therapy, which is legal and relatively cheap at about $25 a necklace, is their answer. The only proof that most athletes need is testimonials – and there seem to be plenty of them. “I had upper back pain and I don’t know if it’s the necklace or it’s mental, but it’s a lot better now and I don’t take it off,” Anetsberger said. Threet agreed. “One of the guys wore one on his pro day and ran his 40-meter dash faster than he was supposed to and now refuses to do any competition without it on.”
According to YOLKshop, New York Jets trainer David Price has been using the products for more than a year. Price used Phiten products as well as conventional therapeutic methods to speed up cornerback Donnie Abraham’s recovery time.
Besides the alleged benefits of magnetic therapy, the products also are on the rise among college and high school athletes because of the popularity of the bracelets among professional players. When professional players are seen sporting the necklaces, sales undoubtedly increase. “I think a lot of high school guys look at professional players and decide, ‘Well if he’s doing it, why not me?'” Grewe said. “It really didn’t hit until about three years ago, when it started to take off in minor league baseball.”
Products like the Phiten necklaces and bracelets got their big break among professionals in the 2004 World Series, when some of the Red Sox players added them to their uniforms. “I saw a bunch of major leaguers wearing them and went to the Web site,” Threet said. Companies selling these products have an advantage in the marketing aspect because they have the professional players nearly selling the products for them.
Anetsberger agreed. “A lot of the younger players are picking up on it. “They see major league guys wearing them and they want them too. I think as long as big league guys are wearing them, they’ll continue to rise.”
Additionally, one of the main reasons for using magnetic therapy goes back to superstition. In baseball, a lot of players think stepping on the chalk lines of the field while going out to play defense is bad luck. So it only makes sense that if players try their new magnetic necklaces and end up playing horribly, they will place the blame on the necklaces. Likewise, a good game with the bracelets will lead players to keep using them. “Baseball is such a superstitious sport,” Anetsberger said. “Some guys might take them off and throw them in the garbage [if they play bad while wearing them].”
Questions behind the science
Because of the lack of concrete scientific evidence, many are still skeptical about magnetic energy’s use in sports. “There have been articles but I’ve never seen any scientific studies,” Nogle said. “[The] latest I saw was that they didn’t work.” Nogle said there have been a lot of magnetic items used in sports over the years, including the titanium products, and they all seem to eventually die off. [stevie]
Scott Fisher, an employee with Gary Gray Physical Therapy in Adrian, Mich., agrees the lack of research makes the therapy questionable. “I’m certainly not an expert, but at the time, our common opinion was its lack of scientific supportive documentation,” he said. Fisher explained the small exposure he has had to the Phiten necklaces was primarily from sales representatives going into his office. “I’ve not seen the marketing focus on the medical providers,” Fisher said. “Mainly the holistic and alternative practitioners are involved.”
Even some athletes question the bracelets’ credibility. “It’s supposed to increase circulation of oxygen in the blood,” Threet said. “[But] you think it’s helping you more than it actually is.”
According to seattlepi.com, Phiten sales support manager Scott McDonald said he is aware of the skepticism, but the company continues to do well.
The pull of magnetism
While some question the validity of magnetic therapy, it does not diminish its popularity. Even Nogle, who does not necessarily agree with all the alleged benefits, does use magnetic therapy on a case-by-case basis. “If we use it, we use it to help [the athletes] try to heal faster,” Nogle said. “But we’re not going to take away regular therapeutics.” While the new product acts as an aid for athletes and trainers alike, it is not the only method for healing. Whether it truly works is really in the hands of the consumer. “I think a lot of it is a mental advantage for them,” Grewe said. “Because there’s no risk, I think there’s no harm in doing it.” With this in mind, the solution for forgetting that lucky pair of socks could rest in donning a magnetic necklace before game time.

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Fashion Bandits

In 1999, when the United States was introduced to Napster, a huge wave of unforeseen dogfights came along with the downloading system. Let’s face it, the idea of free music is seemingly harmless – that is, unless you are Kanye West or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The colossal issue of illegal downloading in the music industry is like the issue of knockoffs in today’s fashion industry. “It’s the same thing. It’s all integrity to oneself,” said Tony Gianacakos, design senior and MSU’s Student Apparel Design Association president.
“We talk about knockoffs and what they are; it’s like cold water in your face,” said Rebecca Schuiling, a human environment and design professor about MSU’s involvement with knockoffs. When Schuiling entered the design school at MSU, she thought she’d be creating designs from scratch. What she found is professors and students have a much more cavalier attitude toward using someone else’s ideas for inspiration. “This is reality,” design professor Carol Beard said, “What I’d like to do is teach them how to do it right as opposed to exactly copying.” [couch12]
There are several high-end fashion designers that, if referenced in everyday conversation, could be recognized by the average person – Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Marc Jacobs, to name a few. Compare this number to the thousands of no-name fashion designers across the country. Smaller designers that will never become as high-scale fashion as Gianni Versace simply attend New York Fashion Week – scamming the latest designs directly from the catwalk. “People would rather get knockoffs because they’re cheaper and practically the same thing,” nursing freshman Brittney Singleton said. “Designers aren’t getting back what they put into it.” Much like music artists’ fight against illegal downloading, the fashion industry has an uphill battle. Music, though, has the RIAA to help crack down. Where is fashion’s enforcer?
Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents, Oh My
[cheap]There are ways by which inventions, logos, movies and books can all be protected. Whether by trademarks, copyrights or patents, creators have means of shielding their work from the prying eyes of would-be mimics. It has only recently been brought to the attention of many that those producing the inventions of the fashion world do not receive the same treatment. “It’s always going on – I think it’s always been in place,” Gianacakos said. However, because of the lack of creative protection, people who can’t afford the $1450 shirt dress in the front window of a Dolce & Gabbana store can go out and buy a shirt dress for $30 from everyday retailers like Target or Kohl’s. “[Knockoffs] are never going to stop because people want that look,” Gianacakos said.
According to an article from National Public Radio online by Rick Karr, under current law, a design cannot be copyrighted. What these smaller designers are doing is not illegal, unless they are claiming that the knockoff design is the real thing. If it is stated it’s a fake or a knockoff, no law is broken. “The legal type is great. I don’t think that’s copying. It’s a way of business,” Gianacakos said. The issue for designers, however, is not losing money – it is protection of their own ideas and designs.
To the Senate
A version of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, a bill to amend Title 17 of the previously created bill to protect designers, is currently on the Senate floor. Through all the scandal related to knockoffs, what designers seem to have found is the original bill needed a little adjusting and clarification. The goal is simple: the protection of designers. This bill proposes to protect original fashion designs for a period of three years after the design is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Similar legislation is already in effect in Europe, Japan and India. “If the legislature passes it, it’ll have a negative effect on the economy because mainstream fashion is such a large market,” Beard said. “They can’t legislate it.”
Copying in the fashion industry fuels the innovation and demand for more. The fact that copying moves the latest designs from the catwalks to the masses in a period of two weeks allows the consumer to quickly demand newer looks. Each market is only attempting to give their buyers exactly what they want. “Until the consumer stops purchasing, they won’t stop creating [knockoffs],” Gianacakos said. One of the key elements of the bill is that copyright registration is mandatory, which is a provision that is not required for most other protectable works. Designers must register a design within three months of a design being made public. This brief filing time could pose problems for smaller designers because they would need to create internal systems for filing that have not been needed in the past. The bill might also restrict the ability of designers to be inspired by and use ideas from one another – the creative give-and-take that is now prevalent, even among high-end designers.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
[smart]So is the knockoff phenomenon ultimately a good or bad thing? It would, of course, depend on whether you are the customer or the designer – that is, the high scale designer. For a small designer, it’s less expensive, less risky and takes less time to simply recreate a style that has already done well. “Designers are getting smart and knocking off themselves,” Beard said. Designers are now starting to understand the most consumer spending in the industry is in mainstream fashion, so they’re now making more affordable pieces that showcase some of the ideas seen in their expensive designs, and they are selling them at retailers that ordinary people frequent. Designers like Vera Wang and Isaac Mizrahi have successful lines at Kohl’s and Target, respectively. In some cases, a knockoff can be out on the shelves before the real deal. Schuiling said of the possible production time for a knockoff product, “Fourteen days! I was shocked!” “I think knockoffs will always be around, it’s so easy to do,” Betsy Johnson store manager Katie Weigandt said. “I don’t see why it would ever go away.”
However, the sad, or possibly exciting, fact about this situation is copying in an industry like fashion is inevitable, and designers have grown to accept that. “In fashion, there’s nothing new under the sun; it’s a fresh rework,” Beard said. Designers like BCBG’s Max Azria and Oscar de la Renta still reap benefits from their dedicated – and not to mention extremely wealthy – shoppers. “It’s hard not to keep making the same thing again,” Schuiling said. “It’s almost like you have to have blinders on to the world.”
Part of the controversy is that it is nearly impossible to set an exact line between what is a “copy” and what is only “motivated” by a catwalk look. “Some knockoffs are so closely related that when you see someone carrying a Coach bag, you still don’t know whether it’s real or fake,” psychology freshman Cassie Whitcher said. “So, what’s the difference?” Filing lawsuits against other designers is a long, difficult and expensive process because it’s difficult to prove a particular product was actually copied. And often, the designer is unsure of whether they will win the case. And in the case of an industry characterized as being “over the top,” many designers do not want to take this gamble with their profits. [knockoff2]
The issue of real versus fake isn’t entirely about money, but also about status. “You can tell they’re fake,” Singleton said. “I think they’re gross.” There are people who think they need to have the real deal. Whether it is for social purposes or personal reasons, the designers have the loyalties of those shoppers. “There are still people willing to spend money on the actual designer’s work and support them,” Singleton said.
We’ve all seen the commercial on TV: “You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a television. Downloading is stealing!” Well now we’re seeing these same kinds of advertisements, but for the fashion industry. With the Senate bill in the works, it’s only a matter of time before those fake Coach bags and Ugg boots become the subject of investigation. Better wear them while they’re still legal.

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Green is the New Black

Who knew purses made from old seatbelts or a tunic from a cut-up plastic bag could be one of the hottest additions to your wardrobe? These days, designers are including different pieces in their collections, made from recycled and organic materials, and suddenly celebs everywhere are flaunting their eco-friendly outfits and their “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” bags.
The abuses from the fashion industry on the environment are generally unknown to the world’s population. For example, many pesticides used on cotton fields contaminate the surrounding groundwater, making it non-viable. There are, however, a small percentage of cotton farms that grow organic cotton where pesticides are not used – to be exact, one percent. [tencel12]
According to an article on E-WIRE, an online environment, health, science and technology site, the fashion industry is only second to the chemical industry in the production of environmental pollution. As much as cotton may be viewed as environmentally friendly, this perception is not entirely true. E-WIRE also reported a third of a pound of pesticides is used to produce one cotton T-shirt. Imagining the cotton T-shirt collection of one college student is startling. But to add up the world’s population and all the cotton clothing we own, and figure out pesticide use, would be unbelievable.
Bamboo, on the other hand, is entirely biodegradable, producing very little, if any, environmental pollution. According to Joyce Smith, a clothing specialist from The Ohio State University Extension Family & Consumer Sciences, the Federal Trade Commission designated lyocell into its own fiber group. Nearly all of the chemicals used in the production process of Tencel (lyocell’s trade name) are reclaimed, making lyocell both biodegradable and recyclable. According to Hemp Traders, hemp is now one of the fastest-growing crops, producing more fiber per acre than any other crop. The growing of hemp actually improves its soil; it protects the topsoil from runoff and adds nutrients to the soil with the shedding of its leaves. About Organic Cotton, a Web site devoted to the selling and education about organic cotton, compares conventional and organic cotton. While conventional cotton is typically treated with insecticides, organic cotton fields go untreated. Also, conventional cotton fields remove weeds through chemical processes, whereas organic cotton fields physically remove weeds, eliminating more pesticides from its soil.
[connell]While some parts of the fashion industry recognize the environmental benefits of manufacturing organic clothing, the benefits don’t always translate to a similar support from the average shopper. Some people believe that the eco-fashion revolution is purely a popular fad. “It’s definitely faddy right now. However, it’s a good fad. I think the fact that people are being exposed to it is good,” said Kim Connell, an apparel and textile design graduate student.
Connell is researching economically conscious clothing on campus. “I hope to see more people make [the clothing] so that prices come down and it’s more readily available, and in a wider range of styles,” she said. Connell expressed her hope for the growing eco-fashion industry and notes the idea of eco-fashion should stay around. “I think it will [stick] and I think people might embrace it more because it’s still affordable.”
MSU’s apparel and textile majors are required to take a class on eco-conscious fashion. All the pieces produced by students for the class are made of organic materials. The eco-fashion revolution is moving beyond classroom walls. In East Lansing, some of American Apparel’s shirts are made from a small percentage of organic cotton. Also, Foods for Living, an organic food store, features some organic clothing. “It’s easier to find organic clothes,” Connell said. “Wal-Mart even has them.”
Hemp, bamboo, lyocell and organic cotton are the major products being used in today’s “green fashion” revolution. This revolution is shaping today’s fashion world into something it’s never been – environmentally friendly. “We all tend to be very apathetic when it comes to the environment,” said Selyna Perez, an assistant hall director at Holden Hall. “I feel, honestly, that it’s a lot of talk.” [hemp]
During the interview with Perez, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, a major conclusion was drawn. There are many environmentally conscious people, but not many that do anything about it. However, L.A.’s tendency to set rapidly popular fads could give hope to the eco-fashion movement. “L.A. is very weird in the sense that trends pick up very [quickly],” Perez said.
The environmental movement arguably began in Santa Barbara, Calif. in the late 1960s, when there was an oil spill. Since then, the nation has slowly become more environmentally conscious. From climate change and energy conservation to pollution and sustainable development, it was only a matter of time before this trend of being environmentally conscious was introduced into the world of fashion.
According to an article written by Jane McConnell in Mothering Magazine, the early eco-fashion trend began in the early 1990s, and Connell agrees. The fashion industry has been experimenting with eco fashion for “at least 10 years,” Connell said. In 1996, Patagonia, a popular outdoor clothing brand, switched to all organic cotton. Following this action, Nike replaced some of their commercial cotton with organic cotton in 2000.
[theisen]It is common knowledge organic food is more nutritious for us to take in – whether we choose to do so is an entirely different matter. The main idea of organic foods is their intake is beneficial to health. And as the modern world is constructed today, personal health seems to be at the top of everyone’s list. “Our value system has to radically change,” Connell said. Aside from the environmental benefits, there is often little external reward for purchasing eco-friendly clothing. Consumers usually end up paying more money for an (undoubtedly cute) eco-friendly dress, but only receive internal satisfaction in return.
“In a decade, I think organic will be the new norm,” Holden Hall Director Josh Gillespie said. “I see more companies recycling…As people become more aware, there’s more funding.” Although he had not heard of eco-conscious fashion, Gillespie provided a sense of expectation about the issue. “I think the fashion industry will follow suit.”
Whether people like to admit it, fashion is a huge part of our world. In addition to media and cultural influences, we make material decisions on a basic level, choosing what to wear every day. Many fashion designers are following the lead of other environmentalists by gradually transforming the production of everyday fashion. So whether you’re a fashion guru or just a student looking for something new and exciting in terms of apparel, check out the eco-fashion revolution. Dressing with the environment in mind isn’t just for the fashion-forward.

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