Who are you and what do you do?
Colleen Coughlin is a fashion designer and design consultant based out of South Florida who focuses on sustainable fashion.
She’s a graduate of FIT in New York and Buffalo State College where she’s originally from. She worked in the New York City apparel industry for over ten years. She’s worked with big names like Victoria’s Secret as well as independent designers.
She currently works on eco-friendly fashion shows in both New York and South Florida, organizes people’s closets and is doing her part in helping emerging eco-conscious fashion designers in South Florida.
How did you get started in fashion and how did that turn into your current company?
It all started growing up with a mother who sewed and Depression Era grandparents. Her grandparents, in particular, were big on thrift shopping. From there she went to school for design and ended up working with huge companies like Victoria’s Secret.
As for organizing closets, that also started at Victoria’s Secret. When you’re developing a line, like let’s say a T-shirt, there’s going to be about three pieces sent back and forth to and from the factory before you get the piece you really want. But, as a designer, you usually end up keeping a lot of the pieces you created along the way. Collen would go in and help the designers clean out their closets and make a profit selling some of those pieces in New York City.
What compelled you to focus on sustainable fashion in particular?
Like many millennials, Colleen has always been very aware of how we treat the planet. This came to a head when she worked in the apparel industry in New York and saw the amount of waste being produced. For example, there are at least three pieces of garment that get created before you get the final piece.
She started researching how much textile waste is created in the United States. According to the EPA, the average American throws out about 70 pounds of textile waste per year.
Since Colleen is also aware of the process of creating fashion from concept to consumer, she started putting the pieces together that something needs to be done to reduce the waste while still adding value to people’s lives.
How can people start getting into sustainable fashion?
People who are in the industry, like Colleen, have their finger on the pulse of the multiple ways people can reduce their textile waste, so the easiest way is to just contact her.
One example is repurposing your old t-shirts (here’s looking at you conference goers ;)). You can actually make handbags out of them. Below you’ll find a quick tutorial on how to do that.
How big is the sustainable fashion community?
It’s definitely a growing topic because the designer of today needs to know a)how to design something with a particular consumer in mind and b) there’s a limited amount of resources.
Designers are going to need to learn how to create zero waste clothing. They’re going to need to know how to create pieces that can be repurposed into something else.
As for the industry as a whole, it’s kind of like the wild wild west but big brands are starting to get on board. Reason being that fast fashion as a business model isn’t sustainable as it stands right now.
What are some ways that people can look good without running up their credit card bill?
There are multiple ways people can look good without going broke. Some ideas include:
- Buying second hand from stores like ThredUp.
- Buying second hand directly from people like Colleen who often times resell many of the items their clients get rid of.
- Work with a stylist that will give you proper direction.
- Don’t spend your money on crap stuff that falls apart after two wears, no matter how good the “deal” may seem.
For example, take the little black dress or a sports coat. Spend the money on a good quality piece you can wear multiple times.
Sometimes people feel bad about spending money on themselves. How can they get over that guilt?
The first thing Colleen suggests is to never buy anything full price. Turns out there’s a 40% markup on retail so there’s plenty of wiggle room for negotiation. There are also plenty of ways to save money by thrifting and attending sample sales.
The second component to this is to realize that it’s okay – and damn necessary – to invest in yourself. For example, you buy a quality blazer to nail that job interview and make more money.
What’s one tip listeners can implement right away to improve their finances?
Go through your closet right now and see what you can sell. Or, you can donate it and get a tax write-off.
How do you make money your honey?
Colleen never buys anything full-price. She also makes her own clothes all the time.
Where can people find more information about you?
Resources Mentioned Or That Add Value to This Podcast
- The True Cost Documentary on Netflix – Documentary Colleen mentions about the fashion industry and the waste it produces.
- Podcast Episode: How Melanie Lockert Paid of $81k in Student Loan Debt – Podcast episode where we discuss the link between mental heath and money.
- ThredUp Review: How to Save Money on Fashion and My Experience Buying Second Hand
- Side Hustle Idea: How I Make Money Selling Used Stuff Online