Spotlight Series

About Nancy Rhodes

Nancy Rhodes completed the Master of Science in Sustainable Fashion in March 2020.

Nancy Rhodes is a design insider with nearly two decades of fashion industry experience and a passion for making fashion more affordable, sustainable, circular, and body positive. She has exclusive insight into mass production, having designed footwear for big names such as Beyonce’s House of Dereon, Kenneth Cole, and multiple private labels for stores ranging from Nordstrom to Target. Her years adding to the wasteful overconsumption of fashion led her to GCNYC where she received her master’s degree in Sustainable Fashion in March 2020.

Nancy is also the founder of alternew, a service she conceived out of her unique research at GCNYC and her own experience struggling to find clothes that fit properly and the process challenges of having clothing altered. alternew is an on-demand, tech enabled alteration service guided by circular economy (CE) principles and fueled by the belief that if we can extend the life of the garments we own, improve their fit, and make simple updates to keep those clothes on-trend (even as trends change), then we can reduce the 80 pounds of clothing the average American throws away each year.

alternew believes the fashion industry must change, and they are actively working to do that. Driven by the belief that if alterations can be more convenient and body-affirming, then more people will want to alter their existing clothing, in turn reducing consumption and keeping clothing in use for longer. With a few simple adjustments, mass-produced clothing can have a bespoke fit, offering clients a luxury experience that doesn’t come with a high cost to the planet or their bank account. alternew’s tagline is: “Clothes are mass produced, bodies are not!”

How did you decide on your thesis topic?

My background is in volume product and throughout my career, I created footwear for Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Burlington, Target, Payless, and others. I understood scale and I understood the need to have scale in order to drive impact. What I didn’t know was how I was going to personally create impact. Through my Values Based Leadership course led by David Grad, I had the opportunity to do a case study on Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Her process really resonated with me; she was constantly journaling and searching, asking the question “is this my big idea?” about each potential business idea she considered. This made me wonder how could I, in that same way, find my big idea? An idea that I could be passionate about and that could fulfill my need to contribute to the greater good?

I was taking different classes, trying to figure out what my next steps were. One day I was catching up with a classmate and we were (naturally!) talking about sustainability, circularity, and impact. She happened to mention how when she was in college, she did clothing alterations as a way to make money which led to us asking the question “is there an Uber for alterations?” I left that conversation, did some research, and realized that there was a huge white space in the market for a convenient alteration service. I realized so many people had a pile of clothing in need of alterations that was going nowhere fast.

For every class I would find a way to use that case as my project; whether it was a marketing project or an entrepreneurship project. When it came time to consider my thesis, it was a super easy decision. Democratizing Fashion Customization: Accessible Alterations, Sustainable Practices and Consumer Needs is something I am so proud of and so pleased to have accomplished; it became my ‘big idea’ and the green light to start my business.

Why choose alterations as your means of tackling sustainability and circularity?

Globally, 80 billion new pieces of clothing are produced each year, an increase of 400% from only 20 years ago. Consumers purchase double what they bought 15 years ago but keep garments only half as long. The fashion industry continues to produce at exponential rates and the average American consumer now disposes of 80 pounds of clothing annually–clothing that can take up to 200 years to decompose. Many innovative solutions are required to reduce the detrimental effects of the fashion industry to the planet.

Clothing alterations and re-inventions are a significant pillar in the circular economy of fashion. Alterations are currently an underutilized service, but with alternew, we have designed an experience that makes alterations accessible, convenient, and empowering. alternew leverages technology to bring our tailoring experts to you. We believe that the combination of convenience, transparency, and skilled experts will make alterations the new fashion wellness experience for clients who want to have a dynamic relationship with their clothing.

Have a pair of jeans that need hemming? A sleeve that is too long? A much loved little black dress passed down by your grandmother that needs updating? alternew alleviates the hassle of finding an alterations expert and the tendency to leave a pile of items in need of alterations wasting away in the back of your closet by making alterations a seamless experience. We are passionate about the value of the wardrobe you already own; your ‘alternew’d’ garments will be better than before and you’ll feel great knowing that as a mindful fashionista you’re setting a trend to consciously curate your closet.

What’s next for you?

I am excited to share that I was recently chosen to participate in the Fall 2021 Ellen MacArthur Foundation Linear to Circular Programme. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) is a world renowned organization known for accelerating the transition to a circular economy across many industries including fashion. The ten-week opportunity has included sessions with CE experts and collaborative team projects aimed at providing more tactical skills for implementing CE practices in our own organizations. It has been such an invaluable experience so far!

alternew has been steadily growing both in mission and revenue since I started the business last year. A few of our successes include partnering with Reiss for a month long pop-up and continuing to work as recommended tailors to their 5 New York stores. We also had the opportunity to work with the MTV VMA’s to alter the clothing of Camila Cabello’s backup dancers, a project that took 4 of our tailors over 12 hours to complete!

alternew has been self-funded to date and we are excited to begin our funding journey with both a friends and family and an angel pre-seed round. We have seen a steady interest from those that hope to invest in alternew since we hit the ground running last year. We continue to think big about all the ways we can make a meaningful and measurable positive impact on the world through alternew!

Alberto (Beto) Monteiro

Beto Monterio's Impact

Beto Monterio is completing the Master of Science in Impact-Focused Business and Investment. 

What are you currently working on now that’s related to sustainability and social impact?

I’m Head of Sourcing at Veja sneakers and one of my main responsibilities is to manage the supply-chain of native latex from rubber trees in the Brazilian Amazon. In the picture, I’m with Sebastião from my team that lives in the region and where we work with over 1,200 families and 22 Cooperatives.

Analynn Salvato's Impact

Analynn Salvato is completing the Master of Science in Business for Social Impact and Sustainability.

What are you currently working on now that’s related to sustainability and social impact?

During the last week of June, I biked 530 miles from NYC to Buffalo, New York to raise awareness and advance Acumen’s mission to change the world tackles poverty. My bike tour helped raised more than $3800 for Acumen to invest in their entrepreneurs in 14 different countries that are providing low-income consumers with access to healthcare, water, housing, alternative energy, and agricultural inputs.

Kiki Van Son, alumna of GCNYC
Kiki Van Son

Kiki Van Son - Dissertation Excerpt

Kiki Van Son completed the Master of Science in Business for Social Impact & Sustainability. The following is excerpted from the Introduction to Kiki​’s Thesis.

I am both a consumer who uses social media personally, and a marketer who uses social media professionally as a communications tool for businesses. In my experience, social media platforms benefit me the marketer more than they benefit me the consumer.

For my dissertation, I hypothesized that having an intent while using social media results in active engagement on the platform, and more positive influences on well-being as a result of one’s time being spent mindfully. Therefore, I suspect marketers or consumers who exhibit a similar level of awareness of social media as a marketing channel, such as consumers with a professional account rather than a personal profile, are the most likely to have positive associations with social media.

People who use Instagram for professional purposes configure their accounts and go about their activity similarly to the way a social media advertiser would—with clear objectives, a thoughtful plan of action, and measurement tactics to determine if their activities are working for them.

Alternatively, people who use Instagram strictly for checking in with friends are more likely to spend time on the app passively engaged. Without clearly defined reasons for being on the platform, they are more likely to get lost in the frictionless motions of the feeds, killing time scrolling through other people’s lives instead of doing things that matter to them.

Additionally, they are more likely to experience FOMO (fear of missing out) or poor self-esteem as a result of comparing their lives to others, leading to negative feelings associated with the platform and negative impacts on well-being, such as anxiety or depression.

For my research, I considered the distinct differences between social media and traditional marketing channels of the past, and caution, as the research suggests, that all users, including those who perceive social media platforms as marketing channels, are subject to some degree of worsened well-being as a result of using social media.

 

To hear from Kiki directly, Kerri Quinn, PhD, Director of Academic Engagement has conducted a full interview or consider learning more about Kiki and her master’s thesis.

Angela Rodriguez
Angela Rodriguez

About Angela Rodriguez

Angela Rodriguez is a recent graduate of the Business for Social Impact and Sustainability program. She currently works at the New York State Assembly, 69th District, as the Director of Community Affairs, and is responsible for community outreach, constituent services, and stakeholder engagement. Angela loves hiking and has recently taken up meditation.

How did you land at GCNYC?

I first attended a master class at GCNYC. The guest speaker spoke about her career transitions, which was inspiring because she found a career that aligned with her passion. The fact that GCNYC’s curriculum included sustainability – I found it was an important topic to immerse myself in, the integrated approach with business interested me, as well. It was delightful to learn alongside professionals in different industries; I’ve learned a lot throughout the whole process and journey.

Tell us about your thesis.

My thesis title is, Holistic Understanding of Urban Innovation Districts: Navy Yard, Brooklyn and Medellin, Colombia.

I knew that I was very interested in livable communities and finding out how to create a thriving environment. I started looking into urban innovation districts. It’s a new topic that has emerged from many broader trends and changes in urban population needs.  I wanted to research more about Medellin, Colombia, because my family is from Colombia, and I wanted to look at a closer location to home base, being Navy Yard, Brooklyn. I wanted to do a comparison of the conditions of both places to find out how to rebuild local urban resilience using urban innovation districts. I feel that communities, especially those in urban areas, need to have resilience in order to make sure quality of life is met for the local community.

Was there anything surprising you learned through your research?

The way local urban reliance manifested itself in Navy Yard, Brooklyn- repurposing the whole area and the function to modern use. The local economy is growing, and there is a lot of innovation coming from that area, evident of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

Medellin, Colombia has drastically changed the quality of life for their citizens, through specific interventions with both small and large scale projects. The changes that occurred in these two places met the community’s needs.

Going forward, how do you plan to implement your research?

My research aligns with the kind of career I see myself having, which Is being able to make a positive change, while also making sure communities are being impacted and the end users’ needs are being met in a sustainable and just environment.

student in chair
Diana Purcell

About Diana Purcell

Diana Purcell completed the Master of Science in Sustainable Fashion. She first discovered GCNYC when she was invited through Eileen Fisher to listen in on guest lecturer Helen Crowley (Head of Sustainable Sourcing Innovation at Kering). “Everyone here [at GCNYC] was casually brilliant and also trying to save the world,” Purcell told us. She knew from that masterclass that she wanted to be a part of the GCNYC community.

When asked why she wanted to pursue a Master’s at this point in her career, Diana said that after 12 years in the fashion industry she was still in her learning phase and wanted to get her hands dirty, digging in to the areas of the fashion industry that are often out of sight and out of mind.

We asked Diana what drove her get out of bed every morning – or in other words, “what’s your purpose?” – she answered simply and perfectly, “The status quo. The fact that there are people out there that think we can’t do any better than we’re doing right now.” She’s here to prove those people wrong: build things, gather knowledge and then give them away.

Earlier this year, Diana ventured out of the brand world and started her own business, leading sustainability consulting for fashion start-ups. You can read all about her new ventures on her websiteIn addition to her consulting business, Diana recently co-founded a sustainability book club with Megan Meiklejohn, the head of Sustainable Materials and Transparency Manager at Eileen Fisher. They are still in the early stages but growing rapidly and excited to gain new members. Be sure to get in touch via her website if you are interested in joining!

student
Jessie Brenner

About Jessie Brenner

Jesse Brenner completed the Master of Science in Sustainable Fashion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Jessie Brenner and I am the Associate Manager, Yarn & Fabric for Women’s Sweaters at Ralph Lauren. I am 26 and from Norfolk, Virginia.

Can you give us the highlights of your career thus far?

I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2014 and started an internship at Spanx on the raw materials team. While I studied Industrial Design and Design for Sustainability, what drew me to Spanx was Sara Blakely’s mission to empower women and her philanthropic work. It was important to me to work for a company whose values were in line with my own. I ended up staying on fulltime for 3 ½ years. This past February I moved here to pursue sustainable fashion. Currently, I’m working for Ralph Lauren in yarn and fabric for the women’s luxury sweaters team.

What made you want to pursue a Master’s degree at this point in your career?

Out of college I knew I wanted to pursue a career in sustainability I just didn’t expect to end up in the fashion industry. My time at Spanx really opened my eyes to the opportunities for sustainability within the industry. I never imagined I’d go back to school, but after speaking with some of the students in the first cohort I was convinced this Master’s would be valuable to me by providing the tools needed to prove the business case for sustainability in fashion.

Why GCNYC specifically?

I didn’t consider any alternative programs when I decided to pursue my Master’s. The students from the first cohort were incredibly enthusiastic about their experience and that was all it took for me to be convinced!

What makes you get out of bed in the morning – driving you to affect change? What’s your purpose?

I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be working on sustainability in fashion, and I feel confident this investment in myself will help shape my career to positively impact the world around me. Every day I progress closer towards this goal.

student
Amanda Moretz

About Amanda Moretz

Amanda Moretz completed the Master of Science in Sustainable Fashion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Amanda Moretz, I am the Manufacturing and Sustainability Administrator at Theory. I grew up in a ranch outside of Kerville, TX, but have lived in Brooklyn for ten years now.

Can you give us the highlights of your career thus far?

Before Theory, I worked at Tiffany and Co for 2 years which was incredible, as part of the visual merchandising team who makes those famous windows come to life. I’ve been with Theory now for around 5 years, and it’s been fascinating. Every year my job changes just enough to stay vibrant.

What made you want to pursue a Master’s degree at this point in your career?

I wanted to learn. I didn’t take my undergrad very seriously, and waited quite a long time to start a Master’s program because I wanted to make sure it was a really dynamic and educational experience.

Why GCNYC specifically? Did the mission have an influence on your decision to come here?

One hundred percent. My goal is to be a leader in driving the fashion and textile industry to being less harmful, and I felt like this program and this organization align perfectly with that goal. Plus, I wanted a program where I could go to class on campus and interact with my fellow students. I really lucked out because my cohort is 100% composed of amazing, intelligent, insightful people.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning – driving you to affect change? What’s your purpose?

There’s so much potential right now to create change, and I love that through my daily work and through my studies at GCNYC I’m at the forefront of this change. It’s FUN!

 

Write Your Own Story in Sustainability and Social Impact at GCNYC!

Our transformative Master of Science programs at Glasgow Caledonian New York College offer a unique opportunity to engage in applied research in a supportive academic community. After their graduate experiences, many of our students and alumni have built fulfilling careers in the social impact and sustainability space. 

Take the next step and contact us to learn more about how your GCNYC degree could advance your career aspirations.