Alumna turns honors thesis into successful business plan

Katie Moats
January 27, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jordan Pietrafitta, a 2020 Penn State graduate in advertising and English, addressed the lack of diversity in the fashion and modeling industries in her Schreyer honors thesis. As part of that experience, she created an advertising campaign for a fake company that placed an emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and product sustainability.

Less than a year after graduating, Pietrafitta has turned that concept into reality by launching EARTHLY: For the Planet, a clothing company that promotes diversity and creates completely sustainable products. She designs, promotes and distributes every piece of clothing herself.

Pietrafitta said she believes that being a student in the College of the Liberal Arts has created a lasting impact on the way she thinks and has helped shape her overall perspective of the world.

"I think being a Liberal Arts student provided opportunities for creativity and flexibility that I may not have had, had I pursued other majors,” she said. “I felt like I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, in a sense – not necessarily in the sense of taking advantage of or doing anything bad with that freedom but just being able to be creative. Even more specifically, in English, I had the opportunity to be creative and think things through in my own way with my professors pushing me in the right direction.”

Pietrafitta said it didn’t take long for her to realize while working on her thesis that there wasn’t a lot of diversity and inclusivity, or the use of sustainable products, within the fashion industry. “There was especially [a lack of] brands that did all three really well, she said. “After graduation, I had a really strong feeling that I needed to make EARTHLY a real thing.”

Pietrafitta said she hopes EARTHLY can essentially “close the loop” in clothing production by repurposing fabrics that would be harmful for the environment if they ended up in a landfill. Rather than buying new fabrics from retail or thrift stores, EARTHLY operates solely on donations. Pietrafitta also donates a portion of every EARTHLY sale to various activist and relief organizations in the hopes of having an even greater impact on the world.

In terms of promotion, what started as a small Instagram page featuring her close friends as models has expanded onto other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. EARTHLY also now has its own website.

“I know [right now] I’m probably reaching at least one thousand or two thousand pairs of eyes based on my Instagram, Facebook, email list, and TikTok account,” said Pietrafitta. “I actually just had a TikTok video blow up, so that was really cool.”

Despite not having any previous business experience, Pietrafitta has managed to create a process that works for her and has been successful so far. Because she receives most of her materials through donations, she has structured the business in such a way that the only new materials being used are thread and elastic. Her design process is more “spur of the moment” – when she gets an idea about a design, she thinks about a way to bring it to fruition with the material she has and then spends anywhere from an hour to half a day creating the unique piece.

From there, Pietrafitta then finds a model, schedules a photoshoot, shoots and edits the photos, and uploads them onto EARTHLY’s Instagram page and website. After an item’s been sold, she ships her piece using newspaper. She also sends a handwritten note and stickers of the brand’s logo printed on recycled paper with each package.

As EARTHLY continues to grow, Pietrafitta is just beginning to consider the company’s future. “I would love for EARTHLY to be a worldwide thing – not just a select few [countries], but so that people know it everywhere,” she explained. “But not in the way that other name brands are where it’s fast fashion. I want people to know about EARTHLY, but I want that name to remind them of sustainability and doing good for the world instead of putting thousands upon thousands of tons of garbage into landfills.”

For other Penn State students looking to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality, she has one piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to fail.

"The fact that I pushed myself to do this in the first place is something to be so proud of,” she said. “If you have an idea, just do it. I get so frustrated when failure is [seen as] such a bad thing, or such a stigmatized thing, because it can be really helpful. Taking your ideas and just going for it — even if you fail, you still learned something.”

  • Pietrafitta_Jordan Fashion Loop

    Pietrafitta hopes EARTHLY essentially “closes the loop” in clothing production by repurposing fabrics that would otherwise be tossed in landfills and harm the environment.

    IMAGE: Jordan Pietrafitta
  • Pietrafitta_Jordan 2

    Jordan Pietrafitta displays some of the clothing/fabric that she will repurpose into her own creations.

    IMAGE: Jordan Pietrafitta
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Last Updated February 02, 2021