Young entrepreneur makes waves with ‘girly’ shirts

Young entrepreneur makes waves with ‘girly’ shirts

Angelique Soenarie, The Arizona Republic
Jul. 14, 2007 08:59 AM

Bethany McNelly likes to think outside the box when it comes to her idea of hip fashion.


"I’ve always been girly," says Scottsdale’s Bethany McNelly.



Frustrated with not enough sassy pink apparel, the 22-year-old launched her own line, called Material Bitch.

Yes. It’s an obnoxious word to sport.

But McNelly’s star-appeal T-shirts is gaining popularity on her online
store (www.materialbitch.com) and on the MySpace.com site. She even
offers a chat room and dictionary for the words printed on tops.

 

"I’ve always been girly," said the Scottsdale online entrepreneur.

"I’ve always had a hard time finding things that were pink and that
were fluffy. And, I always had to go out of my way and dye it myself or
put rhinestones on it myself. And I don’t think it should be that hard
to find. I don’t think girly stuff will ever go out of style."

So far, McNelly has sold nearly 600 T-shirts since the January launch
of her hot pink online store. Her shirts come in hot pink, baby pink
and white with words like (expletive) Fabulous or Gully, which means
"keeping it hoody," she said. The fitted T-shirts sell for $25 a piece.
They are also sold at Underground Clothing in Anthem, and LF in
downtown Tempe. Online the hot pink, Gully T-shirt is sold out. Watch
out, a MB velour track suit come out this fall, McNelly said.

Though McNelly said she is attracting fans from all over, a majority is
from Arizona. She joins other novelty retailers who sell expressive
T-shirts such as No Fear, Yellow Rat Bastard, or French Connection
UK(normally sported on T-shirts as FCUK) to name a few. Plain T-shirts
or designer ones alone are a multi-million dollar industry, according
to retail experts.

Rising expression of T-shirts

From the plain white T-shirt to today’s high-fashion novelties,
the utilitarian top was originally an undershirt to keep your shirt
clean, said Kevin Jones, fashion curator for the Fashion Institute of
Design & Merchandising in California.

"The T-shirt as we know it today stemmed from the military," said Jones, referring to World War II.

He added that the piece of clothing got its name from its T-shape structure.

Gradually the T-shirt made its way into fashion. But it wasn’t until
the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s retro looks, political statements, stencil and
screen prints and slogans were sported on T-shirts. The T-shirt became
a canvas for sorts of expressions.

But today’s novelty wear is different from other generations’. Jones
said it’s a mix and match of fashion of different eras – quite frankly,
with no real meaning.

"Today there is little hierarchy in society," Jones said, comparing the
’60s and ’70s when political T-shirts made fashion statements. "We look
to society and the rich. Every line is blurred so you don’t have to
follow one particular fashion."

For example, look at celebrities like Paris Hilton.

Jones said today’s mainstream novelty T-shirts use fonts and bling to
dress up curse words or explicit expressions, but it really doesn’t
push the envelope.

"It’s a curse word," Jones said. "People are trying to create an individual (look) with today’s society."

He said retailers do just enough to give shock appeal, but hide the
expression under the color of the T-shirt, rhinestone or old English
fonts. Expressions vary, depending on your style and beliefs.

But regardless what you sport on a T-shirt, the plain T-shirt will never go out of style, Jones said.

McNelly’s dream store

McNelly wants to go beyond T-shirts to pink steering wheel covers, sunglasses, microwaves or phones.

"I want everything to be pink and girly," she said. "Eventually, I’d
like to have my own little store where you walk in and the whole store
literally fades from light to dark pink."

But she won’t open a store anytime soon. McNelly said she wants to take
it "slow" and continue to build her line of pink, funky products on her
online store.

Her daytime job is a retail store manager, and at night she packages her fitted T-shirts to be shipped the next day.

"I think I went into retail for a reason. I feel like I understand what
that reason is," McNelly said. "I deal with girls that are 15 years old
and women that are 45. The difference is age, but their mind set is the
same. They have an attitude. They come across very (expletive). They’re
very materialistic and they’re exactly the same."

 

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