Lip Gloss Heroes- Meet Nancy!
Kinnelon, New Jersey
When we received the nomination for Nancy of alternew we were immediately intrigued! Her passion for fashion and sustainablity is something we admire but when we heard how she hopped into action when the pandemic hit NYC, we knew that Nancy was going to be one of our Lip Gloss Heroes 2020. Welcome to the SaltyGirl family, Nancy!
Here's what was said about Nancy in her nomination: Nancy Rhodes spearheaded the NYC FACE MASK INITIATIVE, mobilizing men and women in the fashion industry to make more than 30 000 masks for caregivers and hospital staff in New York City! https://alternew.com/nyc-face-masks-initiative She not only mobilized her network to MAKE the masks she also was able to secure donations to pay for all of the materials required. She is an inspiration to me and many people that contributed to this amazing cause.
So we asked Nancy to talk a little but more about her journey, because it's too interesting a story not to tell!
When I was three years old, my babysitter invited my mom and me to her college fashion show. I don’t remember a lot about the day, but I can vividly recall watching an ethereal velvet green cape floating down the runway. That was it. I was hooked. I knew at once that I needed that kind of beauty in my life forever. At the age of seven, I decided on the name and the nature of my first brand. Pink Lemonade, as my young imagination conceived it, would be a clothing line for kids like me. When I was twelve, a school assignment that involved the creation of an imaginary place inspired me to create Zapatos Isle (the name derived from the Spanish word for shoes). At fifteen, I moved beyond my childhood fantasies and began to think seriously about my future life as an adult. I informed my parents that, in order to succeed, I would have to find a niche – and that I had determined that shoes would be my path to success. To this day, I have no idea where this epiphany came from or why I was so certain that it was the correct path to follow. Needless to say I’ve always had a passion for fashion.
The majority of my career has been in volume footwear, but after 15 years in the industry, I found myself unfulfilled and wondering why pursuing my dreams had resulted this way. I had my first "aha moment" for alternew at the end of one of my production seasons. Once again overburdened by work that I had far too little time to complete, I hired a TaskRabbit to help me declutter and reorganize my small New York studio apartment. My hope was that I would become a more zen-like and calm human if someone helped me create the right space (still working on that!). As Ali, my TaskRabbit, began to take me through the items in my overstuffed closet, she pulled out a bag that I barely recognized. Once we deciphered that the mysterious contents of the bag were actually alterations that I had originally intended to take to the dry cleaner, I quickly made the decision to donate them to charity – rather than taking the time that would be required to re-purpose them. When I purchase clothes for myself, there’s always a real sense of excitement as the potential starts to unfold. Will this be my next “little black dress”? Will this be the top I wear when I get my next job? Spoiler alert: I still have the houndstooth short sleeve blouse that I purchased when I successfully interviewed for my first big job. Conversely, I immediately threw away the floral tank I was wearing at the time of my first big layoff.
Through a series of happy accidents compelling me to obtain a Masters in Sustainability while working full time (which I finished in March), I came up with the idea to launch alternew, an on-demand alterations and repairs platform. Alternew is focused on providing accessibility, convenience, and affordability to the alterations experience in order to increase body positivity and inclusivity through fit and customization. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to engender sustainable practices and re-invigorate a declining industry by giving our wardrobe a second chance.
alternew was set to launch on March 13th but like so many other businesses, we were forced to postpone. One week after our launch party was postponed, I saw the needs for ppe and realized we were in a unique position to engage with our tailors and provide opportunities to make a real impact. Isabel, our master tailor, and I started recruiting within our networks, sending out a call to action and creating a GoFundMe. On March 26, we sent out our first 450 yards of cotton fabric and 4500 yards of elastic to 45 sewers. Thousands of yards of materials later, hundreds of sewers, daily and weekly drives to pick up and drop off masks and materials and we've hit our goal of making 35000 masks for frontline providers, health organizations, immunocompromised, and marginalized communities. Some sewers made 20 masks while others made 1,000. Some drivers volunteered once while others made weekly or daily runs. Some donors gave $10 and others gave $600. And we wouldn't be at the number we are today without each and every one of them! Inspiring doesn't even begin to describe the community we built, the new friends we made, and the willing of individuals to come together in times of crisis. It truly shows that there is no task too small to make a big impact.