Using fashion as a creative outlet is something Penn State’s Maggie McLaughlin does exceptionally well.
Maggie McLaughlin is a senior from Pittsburgh studying both art and advertising with a minor in global and international studies. Along with her studies, she participates in Penn State’s THON, Ski Club and is VALLEY’s very own fashion director. If that wasn’t enough, she also just happens to run her own handmade sustainable fashion brand: Magg’s Rags.
If you take a quick scroll through Maggie’s social media, you would instantly be impressed by her cool-girl, artistic style and her fashion brand brings all the same vibes.
Magg’s Rags is a sustainable fashion brand made only from thrift pieces or bags of hand-me-down clothing friends drop off at her door. She is constantly repurposing clothing and giving it a new life by adding patches, painting a design on it, or sewing up something completely new.
Maggie began posting more of her handmade clothing during the summer of 2019 as a way to build her portfolio and promote her brand, which many people took notice to and began asking to buy her clothing.
The name of Maggie’s business, “Magg’s Rags,” was a long-running family joke that began an unexpected business venture that, after gaining more and more traction, has now become her full-time job. “It’s been what I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time,” Maggie says.
While tons of people are taking up sewing as a new quarantine hobby or taught themselves over YouTube, Maggie explained that she’s been learning this skill her whole life.
“My mom is definitely my biggest influence on my sewing,” says Maggie. Growing up, she tells us that she and her mom would make microwavable heating pads, Halloween costumes and even costumes for her school’s play. “She’s been my biggest teacher along the way.”
Another one of her greatest inspirations is Nicole McLaughlin, a designer who works to create fashion from everyday items and not only shares the same last name but the same love for upcycling clothing. “I really appreciate her drive for sustainability,” says Maggie.
Being a sustainable brand is one of the most important factors for Magg’s Rags. The damaging effects fast fashion has had on the Earth has become a large and important topic within the past few years, which is the leading reasoning behind why Maggie only produces her products from recycled clothing and advocates for other businesses to do so as well. “Just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it can’t be fashionable,” says Maggie.
From the clothing to the tags, to the packaging, almost every aspect of Maggie’s business is made sustainably, other than a couple of cute stickers she buys to include for her customers.
Running a small business has its challenges and one Magg’s Rags has faced is trying to keep things in stock and making sizing especially inclusive, another characteristic Maggie finds important to incorporate in her own brand.
“There are so many companies that are marketed toward skinny and fit girls and only go up to a certain size,” Maggie says. “I just don’t think there needs to be a separation between plus size and skinny girl brands, I just think there should all just be one makeup like where you include very small sizes but are size inclusive to plus-sized women as well.”
Maggie also explains that due to her creating her clothing from hand and sustainably, most items she makes are one of a kind or only come in a select few. “I think that keeping things unique is super important to my business like no two things are the same, and I think there’s something beautiful about that,” says Maggie.
Looking to other cultures, the outside world and streetwear trends for inspiration, while incorporating her own artistic ability, Maggie is always creating unique pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. “Personally, I don’t love to dress like everyone else; I don’t want the same coat everyone has from Urban Outfitters,” says Maggie. “And I think the fashion world is moving in that direction as well.”
In the fashion age of everything social media, Maggie has been using it to her advantage. She told VALLEY that platforms like TikTok and Instagram have been helping her business a ton from networking to gaining customers. “I just think it’s really cool to see all these different social media’s catapult these small businesses into some huge successes.”
Using TikTok as a platform has gotten the attention of celebrities like Bryce Vine, who bought two pairs of customized pants from Maggie, who is a big fan of his music. Vine followed Magg’s rags after seeing a TikTok creating pants inspired by A$AP Rocky’s full bandana fit. “I just think it’s funny that it came from TikTok because I always look at TikTok as a joke or something to pass time, but it’s like a free form of advertising.”
Creating a handmade clothing business is definitely a lot of trial and error, but Maggie seems to have it down and gives anyone looking to start a small business advice. “Be passionate about whatever you’re doing,” Maggie says. “I really feel like passion is the driving force behind my own company, I wake up excited to make something new each day, and I feel like if you don’t have that passion driving you, it can get really old.”
As a senior, Maggie is looking forward to the next chapter of her life as well as the next chapter of Magg’s Rags. With her growing business and interest in the creative industry, Maggie is working to achieve her goals and continue cultivating her own passions.
To keep up with her and her business, make sure to follow @maggiemac17 and @maggs_rags on Instagram!