Sisters Of Support | Eastern North Carolina Now | Pirates value time spent at unique womenís resale store

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Ronnie Woodward.

Mason Muskett, an ECU 2022 graduate, sorts through clothes at My Sisterís Closet. The boutique uses its proceeds to support Greenville's Center for Family Violence Prevention. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

    Dr. Runying Chen hasn't bought brand-new clothing in a couple of years. She does love to shop, however, but prefers to do it at the upscale resale boutique My Sister's Closet.

    Chen, an East Carolina University associate professor in interior design and merchandising, is a passionate supporter of My Sister's Closet, which uses proceeds to support Greenville's Center for Family Violence Prevention. Chen is a volunteer and kind of an unofficial partner with the store on Arlington Boulevard in Greenville, promoting it often in class. She encourages her interested senior-level students to perform their required internship at My Sister's Closet.

    "It's very people-focused," said Mason Muskett, one of those students who completed her degree requirements when she finished a My Sister's Closet internship in late July. "I think a lot of women recognize and see how important our cause is to protect women against domestic violence. ... It's all quality items and it makes a difference in the community, especially seeing women who come in and need help."

    Partnering with the Center for Family Violence Prevention - a private, nonprofit agency funded by state and federal government grants, civic and community groups, resale stores and other contributions - is an important pillar at My Sister's Closet that distinguishes it from a traditional retail business model.

    "It's great to be able to offer cheaper clothing that every woman can be able to afford and look fashionable in," Muskett said. "It also keeps the fashion cycle circular. You can find good pieces for less the price."

    The prices might be low, but the quality isn't cheap. Muskett said the high-end nature of donated clothing taught her how to recognize proper standards and brands that use fine textiles and materials for an attractive sell.

    Consumers benefit from the donation and resale process.

    "The full price for a top might be $60 or $80, but over there, you pay $6," Chen said.

    Interior design and merchandising is one of the academic units in the College of Health and Human Performance, which also includes the School of Social Work and Department of Human Development and Family Science. HHP's mission is to discover, motivate and educate for a healthy tomorrow, which in many ways is encompassed by faculty and student impact at My Sister's Closet.

    "When you show and embed into it, you can see the worth of your work," said Dr. Amanda Muhammad, chair of the Department of Interior Design and Merchandising. "And Dr. Chen's passion for it is commendable and admirable. It's a commitment to show up all the time, not just a one-off, but to show up all the time consistently. In addition to her (teaching) position, she is doing a lot to promote not only our program and the college of HHP, but ECU."

    While teaching fashion history or textiles, Chen likes to wear her outfits from My Sister's Closet. It serves as an opportunity to tell students about the store and ECU's involvement.

    "My favorite are shoes, whether that is sneakers or heels they have," Chen said. "Also the high-end brands now I own, also because of the store."

    As an ambitious student with an outgoing personality, Muskett used her internship to grasp a specialized role at My Sister's Closet. She was given the opportunity to take ownership in visual merchandising.

    Having freedom with visual merchandising differed from other internship opportunities, Muskett said, making the completion of her internship a bittersweet moment for the northern Virginia native.

    "They really gave me the reins," she said. "It's basically focusing on the layout of the store and window displays, in general, but it's not just window displays. It's the whole store and layout aspects, so our racks are color organized is how we do it."

    Sorting is a priority for all employees. They sort to first identify which items should be sold to the public at My Sister's Closet. The other items are taken to The Salvation Army.

    "It is very affordable and we are really grateful for all the donations that come in," Muskett said. "We probably go through at least 10 bags per day in donations and sorting."

    My Sister's Closet in Greenville opened in 1994. There also is a My Sister's Closet in Farmville, and a My Sister's Attic on Red Banks Road that specializes in furniture and home decor. All support the Center for Family Violence Prevention.

    Chen has seen students enjoy working on projects and partnering with businesses that promote sustainability.

    "When we talk about circular fashion and sustainability, this helps people, helps the environment and helps the community," Chen said. "Our students love doing these projects and are very passionate about that whenever they feel there is a cause with a nonprofit. As a young student, they became very passionate about doing it because there is a purpose."
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