Last month I got the gift of one-month unlimited subscription of Rent the Runway (RTR). It was exciting as I have been talking about in my classes as a viable option for shared clothing and circular economy. Reading and talking about it is one thing, and a lived experience is another. I enjoyed the experience as it gave me several new to me designer, one of a kind pieces to wear. RTR accomplished its mission; I felt empowered and self-confident every day. The process of finding the styles, sizes and appropriate sizes was an involving but fascinating process. I could not have done it without my fashionista daughter’s help. She showed me the reviews and pictures of others wearing the pieces I wanted, and edit my decisions for size and style. Every time we would get on our devices, heart items, discuss each, and make selections. There was an adrenaline rush for getting the items, and ordering promptly so ensure 12-noon shipping cut off to get the most value of the rental.
Not only I did not buy new but the garments typically came in a reusable bag, that was sustainable too. So RTR is true to its sustainability mantra of rent, reduce, reuse.
I did not renew as I have two more questions and dilemmas – 1. Few of the pieces I received had a musty odor; I could not figure out whether to blame the weather or the cleaning or the packing? Each garment goes through dry-cleaning using green chemicals? Or is it spot cleaning for some? Or some can be washed? I would like to know how the garment was cleaned when it was sent to me. Transparency goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. I gave them the feedback to perhaps give a QR code on the account which tells the user about the maintenance and care the garment received before it is shipped. I think that is a viable solution. Do you agree?
2. RTR gives good data on their carbon footprint, waste reduction, etc. But, I am still debating how to offset the shipping. What is the footprint of shipping multiple times? In my one month of trial, I received four shipments, and I sent back four adding a total of eight times from New Jersey to Minnesota and back. What was the environmental impact of my empowerment? At this time, I do not have a viable solution for this issue. I am hoping that RTR is thinking about it and investing in research to resolve this.
Some key facts that I would like to highlight for RTR in addition to sustainability is community building, entrepreneurship support, and hope that Jenn got my rental feedback and is reading this as well. I believe that RTR will further disrupt and change the world.
Compiled by: Courtney Hrabak, Apparel Design, St. Catherine University;Dr. Anupama Pasricha, St. Catherine University; Ashleyn Przedwiecki, Writer, Sol Inspirations
Following is an excerpt of responses to email interview questions by the ten finalists of the 2017 EcoChic Design Awards. These emerging designers represent the best of the best in sustainable design practices.
Tell us a little about your design process and how incorporating sustainability affected or altered your
On the design and creative process:
Many of the designers spoke to the idea of being flexible with their designs, as the available materials may not work as expected. Because of this, it is important to be able to adapt, or as Designer Candle Ray Torreverde stated, “keep an open mind to other possibilities. Many of the designers start the design process with sustainability at the forefront of their minds, whether this comes in the form of researching sustainable techniques and materials or in experimenting with the materials themselves to discover ways to waste as
little as possible.
What textile waste materials did you choose and what resources helped you define that as the most
These sustainable designers used a wide range of materials, such as damaged or secondhand clothing and fabrics, clothing from impulse purchases, end-of-rolls, fabrics made from recycled materials, and vegan fabrics composed of plant-based fibers like cotton. While most of the designers used one or more of these materials, others added in additional pieces with personal meaning. Designer Ayako Yoshida found her materials through her inspiration, which was Japanese culture, using tatami mats, umbrellas, and old kimonos. Designer Lia Kassif used Israeli military uniforms and extra bridal materials. Kassif says that “everyone in Israel has to serve the army for at least two years and during that time the uniform is the only outfit they wear.” The bridal fabrics provide a contrast, symbolizing the dreams of young Israeli girls. Regardless of inspiration, the overarching theme for sustainable material selections lies in utilizing available resources and working with what is available, which might be what some consider waste or trash.
What all techniques did you use in your work and which one was your favorite and why?
Up-cycling, reconstruction and zero-waste techniques were utilized by almost all the designers and interpreted differently to fit each designer’s unique perspective. Many of the designers enjoyed the experience of using natural dyes, and could witness unexpected color changes with their chosen materials. Others experimented more with the patterning process, challenging themselves to work with the innate characteristics of their materials. Designer Kate Morris has an interest in seamless knitwear and enjoys experimenting with this zero-waste technique to increase efficiency and decrease labor costs. Designer Sarah Devina Susanto used her inspiration of Japanese Hokusai-inspired flower drawings to influence her techniques, and utilized hand painting and braiding. She said that “the ropes and braids details throughout the collection resemble the tug of war tradition on the Independence Day celebration.”
Share some challenges you found in your process and how you overcame them, while keeping sustainability as your focus.
Although all the designers had the same focus on sustainability, each ran into unique challenges. Some designers found that the difficulty of their chosen materials necessitated advice from those familiar with the materials. This was the case for Designer Ayako Yoshida, who found that shaping and dyeing the tatami mats a challenge, and sought guidance from a craftsperson from Kyoto, Japan who had expertise in the dyeing process. Other designers found that time management became an issue, as incorporating sustainability into their usual design process required extra time for experimenting with materials and executing more complex techniques. Some of the materials were also not in immaculate condition from the beginning, so it became a challenge to take those materials and make them into spectacular, flawless final products. Despite the difficulties, many of the designers found enjoyment in the challenge. Designer Sung Yi Hsuan worked with weaving, but said that it provided “peace after a busy working day.”
What was your biggest discovery/most surprising part about the sustainable design process?
Some of the most interesting discoveries the designers experienced involved the reactions of others. Designer Claire Dartigues was surprised by the increased attention to her collection. “People pay more attention when you take time to explain your project,” she said, “The sustainability process makes each piece very unique”. Other designers found themselves examining their own consumption habits, and how strong the influence of “Fast Fashion” has become on the consumer. Designer Kate Morris remarked on “how easy it was to find textile waste and how willing companies are to give materials away”, and was found that she could obtain incorrectly dyed yarn from Filmar, an Italian spinner. “I was really surprised at how perfect the yarn was but was considered as waste”, Morris said.
How does your design challenge the traditional fashion industry process or standards? Where do you see opportunities for your design to push the industry to do better?
Many of the designers spoke about responsibility, both as a designer and a consumer. Efficiency, versatility, and creativity are important to these designers, and each seeks to come up with ideas for how to push the fashion industry to be innovative with materials and techniques so that clothes will last longer while still making a profit. Some designers see the solution in educating the consumer. Designer Lina Mayorga seeks to “challenge the idea that clothes have a limited life cycle and only a few things are recyclable.” Some of the designers also expressed interest in limiting the amount of animal products like fur and leather in the fashion industry by producing similarly beautiful and functional pieces that potentially eliminate the need for these materials.
How do you see fashion and sustainability working together in the future? What are the benefits? Limitations?
Designer Claire Dartigues says that “sustainable fashion needs to be understood as a non-negotiable action” (Claire Dartigues). This means that the pace of “Fast Fashion” will need to slow down significantly, which will require a major change in the perceptions of the designer and the consumer. The fashion industry needs to start producing higher quality clothing that lasts, and the consumer needs to learn proper care techniques to ensure the clothing will last as long as intended. Designer Amanda Borgfors Mészáros added that it is important to encourage collaboration between designers and professionals in other industries, such as biologists. In the words of Designer Sung Yi Hsuan, “The benefits if things change will be a rational and smart fashion era.”
What is the larger message you hope the audience learns or experiences after seeing and interacting
with your design?
A dominant theme among these designers’ messages was that sustainable fashion is not boring, limiting, or impractical. Designer Amanda Borgfors Mészáros “always try[s] to insert dynamism into simplicity, taking a simple object and work[ing] with it until it interacts with me strongly and I believe it will do the same to the person wearing it”. Many of the designers also stressed the seriousness of climate change, and how the fashion industry needs to start working on more positive contributions to the solution. “I create clothes that are aesthetically designed and socially charged”, said Lina Mayorga, “You look good, feel good, and do good by wearing them.”
Being the EcoChic Award finalist, you have demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability. What do you envision next?
Designer Joëlle van de Pavert says that sustainable fashion “starts with me and my consumption” and that the next step will involve “others and continuing the story through my work” (Joëlle van de Pavert). For many of these designers, sustainable fashion has become their focus, with some, like Lina Mayorga and Kate Morris, set on developing brands that are specifically focused on sustainable design. For others, it involves continuing to experiment with sustainable materials and technology. Ayako Yoshida plans to learn more about WHOLEGARMENTⓇ, a knitting technology that makes garments without seams or cutting loss.
If you could give one piece of advice to a designer who is interested in incorporating sustainability into their design, what would you share with them?
When asked to give advice for other designers looking to be more sustainable, the designers spoke about the importance of learning about sustainable practices, as well as the current impacts of the fashion industry on the environment. Designer Sung Yi Hsuan also says “efficiency is still a crucial factor in sustainable design [and] one has to consider the efficiency in time cost, the efficiency between our input and output when producing materials.” Most importantly, many of the designers encouraged those interested in sustainable design to
give it a try.
The EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organized by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste. Each competition cycle takes designers on an education and design journey lasting several theory and design-packed months. Firstly, we educate designers about the fashion industry’s negative environmental impacts and the sustainable fashion design techniques, zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction that can combat this. Secondly, we provide designers with the tools, via lectures, videos, articles and recommended links, in order to develop their understanding of sustainable fashion design. We also challenge them to source textile waste, in its many forms, to enable them to transition towards sustainable design and sourcing. Only then do we put designers to the ultimate test – to cut waste out of fashion – in our standout sustainable design competition. This puts sustainable design talent in the spotlight and rewards the best with career-changing prizes to change the pattern of fashion.( http://www.ecochicdesignaward.com/mission/)
2017 Winners: http://www.ecochicdesignaward.com/2017
By Amrut Sadachar, Ph.D
In the month of January 2017, I submitted an application for the “Summer 2017 Fall Line Project and Faculty Award,” which is focused on “Green Curriculum, Green Campus, and Green City.” This Fall Line Project is in its eighth year, and so far over 100 faculty members from 30 departments on Auburn’s campus have participated in this program. The Fall Line Project application asked a few questions such as “Why do you want to participate in this workshop?”, “What are the types of potential changes you envision making in your course(s)?”, and “How would you incorporate environmental and/or social sustainability issues in the existing courses or develop a new course focused on sustainability?” Based upon my answers to these questions and few other criteria, my application was accepted, and I got an opportunity to participate in this program over the summer. As a part of the Fall Line Project 2017, I was one of the 13 faculty from various departments (e.g., architecture, education, poultry science, civil engineering, computer science, literature, philosophy, and political science) who participated in a two-day workshop (see Image 1). Broadly speaking, the workshop explored how we can meaningfully integrate sustainability into our classrooms, communities, and beyond. Through this workshop, I was able to expand my research and teaching horizons across disciplines, and network with fellow colleagues across campus. This workshop was organized and lead by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs at Auburn University.
The name “The Fall Line Project” is based on the nationally recognized Piedmont Project at Emory University and location of Auburn at the geographic interface between the hard rock of the uplands and the sandy soils of the coastal plains. This year’s two-day workshop took place at the Auburn University Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest. It is a 400-acre woodland area with forest and wildlife. The pavillion (see Image 2 & 3) located in this demonstration forest was an apt venue to conduct the workshop where you are surrounded by greenery and experience the presence of wildlife all around you.
On the first day of the workshop, we started our gathering by enjoying coffee and sharing through exchanging information about sustainability books in our field. We then participated in an exercise to calculate our ecological footprint. Throughout the day, we had experts come and present to us various on-campus resources. These topics included “A Sense of Place,” “Place-Based Learning,” and “Sustainability Resources in the Library.” A couple of faculty members who had successfully developed and implemented curriculum or even taught sustainability in their courses shared their experiences as well as success strategies. A guided wood exercise taught us about the Alabama Woodlands (see Image 4). The first day ended with a small group exercise to create learning outcomes for interdisciplinary insights.
On the second day, we started with a gathering hosted with coffee and pastries. Multiple interactive sessions were held on topics such as “Campus as a Living Laboratory for Course Development,” “Campus Resources and Culture of Sustainability,” “Campus Facilities and Operations as Teaching Resource,” and “Methods of Incorporating Sustainability into Courses.” The workshop ended with final reflections and evaluations. I took away many sustainability resources from this workshop, which I can implement in my teaching and research. I was impressed with how everything in this workshop was planned and executed by taking into consideration sustainability at the core. For example, the food for the lunch was prepared by the Auburn University dining services, which used locally sourced ingredients and healthy food choices. Furthermore, disposable cups and paper plates were not used for serving, nor were paper towels used. It was a great experience partipicating in this workshop and the Fall Line Project.
Amrut Sadachar, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Consumer and Design Sciences Department at Auburn University. For more details, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© All pictures © Copyright of Academic Sustainability Programs at Auburn University.
by Connie Ulasewicz
Chair, Family Interiors Nutrition & Apparel Department, San Francisco State University
The 6th International Fiber Recycling Symposium took place on the 7th and 8th of June in Manchester England at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Attendees included academics, manufacturers and students, with the intent of exchanging ideas and introducing innovative technologies. This symposium began as a partnership in 2007 between the University of Bolton (UK) Georgia Tech University (USA), and Kyoto Institute of Technology (Japan).
One of the objectives of this 6th biannual symposium was to, “generate international cooperation and dialogue in the fibre recycling area.” My colleague Gail Baugh, author of The Fashion Designers Textile Directory, was a Keynote speaker sharing her years of experience working within her topic area on “The New Business Model for Textile & Apparel Industries.” My contribution was the unveiling of a co-directed film, “Towards Zero Textile Waste,” which you may view here https://vimeo.com/195514542.
This film is ground in the hope that given information and a greater understanding of the environmental impact of the production and care of fibers and textile products, people will choose to do “the right thing” with their purchases and creations.
Universities have a compelling responsibility to increase awareness and knowledge amongst students of their potential to be future leaders and professionals for creating an environmentally sustainable future. This film utilizes an experiential approach for exploring students’ perceptions of sustainability and environmental consciousness and their willingness to test and apply and adapt innovative methods of designing apparel by reusing discarded textiles.
The film created much dialogue amongst attendees and supported the need for continued outreach between education and industry.
By Rachel J. Eike, PhD
The Sustainability Issue:
The apparel industry is a major contributor to environmental problems from textile manufacturing through garment production and distribution to consumer discard – donation, landfill, reuse, or otherwise (Gam, Cao, Farr, & Heine, 2009). According to the EPA, 13.1 million tons of textiles are discarded each year, which estimates about 65 pounds per person each year (Ecouterre, 2012). Of this apparel waste each year, 74% ends up in landfills (Vennström, 2012). “In an industry which is increasingly overproducing, very little is being done to highlight how much is discarded… and yet what is being thrown is often intact, still beautiful, and still usable if thought of in a different way” (Brown, 2010, p. 116). This statement from Orsola de De Castro and Filippo Ricci, founders of the sustainable apparel company From Somewhere, influenced the design of the Femme de Pee Pee collection. Carlee Green, December 2017 graduate of the Apparel Design and Product Development program at Baylor University, decided to challenge herself to create a collection that would showcase well-designed products that combat textile waste intended for donation or landfill. Curwen, Park, & Sarkar (2013) point out that the design stage of the product development process has a direct influence on a final product’s environmental impact (approximately 80%) as this stage is where critical decisions are made, including material selection, garment design, and production approach. Green chose to source collection materials from family storage, garage sales, and estate sales to up-cycle or repurpose unwanted textiles and apparel into fresh looks.
The Femme du Pee Pee Collection
The Femme du Pee Pee collection was originally ideated during a study abroad opportunity in Paris, France. While in a history of dress museum, the women in the 18th century whose fashion was defined by extreme hoops and corsets greatly intrigued me. Fashions of this era were so extravagant that it made functions of everyday life difficult. For example, the upper class had bathroom-specific assistants whose only job was to assist in lifting their voluminous hoop skirts so that the restroom may be used. These women were referred to as the “femme du pee pees” or “the potty women”. Intrigued by the individual whose life was solely to help maintain fashions of the upper class, this led to researching what these “femme du pee pees” wore. These assistants were given the hand-me-downs of the upper-class women’s clothing in which they would take, rework, and make something new. This reworking process inspired her collection. Green conducted trend research to create designs that were contemporary and appropriate for her targeted consumer: the woman who prefers to look cool rather than sexy, and is always looking to express herself even when dressing casually - above all she values unique pieces that support environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
The entire Femme du Pee Pee collection was designed using unwanted materials where items were disassembled and then reworked/upcycled to create something new, following the process embodied by Traidremade (Brown, 2010, p. 136) and suggested as a consumer service approach by Ruppert-Stroescu, LeHew, Connell & Armstrong (2015). During this process, a few old blankets and quilts that had been in her family for a several generations were acquired along with some unwanted men’s chambray button down shirts and old denim from garage and estate sales. With these materials Carlee Green was able to learn new patternmaking and construction techniques that included designing for reversibility (quilted coat) and distressing or fraying effect on the denim/chambray.
Before construction, pattern pieces were drafted by hand to fit the models’ measurements, muslins were created, and alterations were performed where necessary. To create boxy silhouettes, elements of fit were excluded and armholes were lowered on the bodice tops to create additional comfort for movement. Slits on the side seams of blouses and dresses continue the same focus on comfort – further emphasized by the use of quilt and blanket materials. Throughout the collection, multiple pattern pieces were created to execute asymmetrical color blocking to create a unique aesthetic for the wearer. Flat felled seams were used during construction when seaming quilt and blanket pieces to accommodate the extra fullness of these thick textiles. Binding edge-finish techniques were used along each edge of the quilted pieces (example: reversible quilted coat) to create crisp, straight lines down the front of the garment while keeping design elements of the original quilt.
The Changing Consumer – Transparency & Sustainability are KEY
Today’s consumers are conscious about their society and environment, demanding transparent and sustainable products (Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire, 2011). This trend leads businesses to openly communicate their operation and business activities to build consumers’ purchase intensions. The Femme du Pee Pee collection was created for this evolving consumer, specifically the optimistic creative female consumer age 18-30 for spring/summer 2018. The targeted consumer desires to look stylish yet comfortable and shies away from overly feminine colors such as pink and purple - gravitating towards more gender-neutral colors. She loves to be comfortable when she is hanging out at coffee shops, creating, meeting up with friends, traveling, and just soaking up life. This target consumer may be a college student, a professional in a creative industry, or an average individual who wants to look cute even when she isn’t at work. The Femme du Pee Pee collection ties into Green’s personal aesthetic of boxy silhouettes, non-traditional fabric pairings, surface design techniques, and passion for sustainably made products. The Femme du Pee Pee collection may be best suited as part of Everlane, as a potential new branch for their online retail stores or complement works of Elise Ballegeer. Currently, Everlane (2017) focuses on transparency and ethical sourcing while Elise Ballegeer’s (2017) merchandise focuses on using organic and sustainable materials – the Femme du Pee Pee collection could add to their products by including garments made by repurposing unwanted textiles to further support sustainable movements in the apparel industry.
“This collection was all about taking something old and forgotten, and creating something new and beautiful” Carlee Green
Carlee Green plans on completing an apparel design internship during the fall 2017 semester with a sustainable-focused company and may continue to graduate school to work towards a master’s degree in environmental sciences. Read more about Carlee and her designs on her website: http://carleegreendesigns.weebly.com/.
Works cited in this article:
In 2015, I was approached by TEDxLA to create a series of sustainable fashion activations to educate Angelenos about their fashion purchases. Imagine is the theme. So we (the Beyond the Label Team) decided we wanted to “Imagine a world where consumers knew the true environmental, social and health costs of their fashion purchases, and felt empowered to write a different story…” essentially creating more conscious consumers. BtL's ultimate goal is to #MakeShiftHappen for a healthier more transparent fashion industry. Fashion Revolution Day, on April 24th, asks people to consider “Who Made My Clothes?” and to think about how “Fast Fashion is not free, someone else is paying for it.” If only human life was valued by all consumers and designers as part of the creation of clothing; how would things be different? What most people aren’t privy to is that Rana Plaza was avoidable. Garment workers in the company saw cracks in the building and yet management still demanded them to go about doing business as usual. The lack of ethical standards in Bangladesh and many other countries has gone unseen around the world...until recently! Thanks to a documentary film called The True Cost. Andrew Morgan has played a major role in the shift of consciousness in regards to the fashion industry. (Available on Netflix).
I do my very best to look for the positive changes in manufacturing, production, and fabric & dyeing standards. I get great joy from sharing Pharrell’s commitment to GStar Raw, with its use of Bionic Yarn, which incorporates plastic from the ocean into the fiber. Kelly Slater’s company Outerknown uses plastic bottle fabric to make boardshorts essentially to be worn in the ocean. And Reformation is by far the quickest growing brand sought by fashionistas, not just EcoDivas. Reformation uses vintage, deadstock and sustainable fabrics to create sleek, sexy, polished looks that have an amazing Wow-factor!
Recently I was invited by MAGIC to do a “Beyond the Label” T-shirt Exchange activation at Sourcing at MAGIC. MAGIC is a major fashion trade show held in Vegas. At the Beyond the Label T-shirt Exchanges, the BtL Team educated attendees about all aspects of clothing (design, production, fabrics/dyes, clothing care and waste management). We partnered with Metawear to do a “bring T-shirt, get a T-shirt campaign”. Attendees are encouraged to bring a gently used T-shirt, which is placed in an I:CO clothing recycle bin, and in exchange they receive a healthy T-shirt with a fabulously designed nutrition label graphic that shares all the great things in the tee (Organic Cotton, Fair Labor & Wages 100%) and all the bad things that don’t exist (Bleach, GMOs, and Formaldehyde 0%).
While at Sourcing at MAGIC there were a select few ethically certified Chinese Production companies in Premiere China. I mention this because as countries get called out for what they have done to be in the wrong, they often work hard to do better to regain lost business. Which is what brings me back to Transparency. In the US and specifically Los Angeles, while basic ethical fashion labor standards may be higher than other countries...the predominantly known manufacturers may outsource to less ethical companies that may not follow any standards. These “sister companies” may only pay workers $4.00 an hour, which is far below minimum wage. Not to mention the conditions can be equally as horrendous as a third world country. Do your research; it is imperative. Unethical production happens everywhere.
The best David Letterman statement in the clip above was…”Let’s just shut down the Donald tie company in Beijing and we’ll put up a tie factory in Jamaica Queens.” To which Donald interjected…”I love it.” Not only did this never happen, recently I had the joy of going to a Donald Trump “Merchandise” Museum that exhibits random pieces of merchandise that has been manufactured all over the world with no transparency on any Trump website that I have found to date. My point is, if you choose not to be transparent or mindful or even be informed of how and where you license out your name or if you produce your own clothing line...please don’t boast about bringing back production to the US or lead people to believe that you are a “good” business person. Good business should be for the good of humans, the earth and future generations. People, Planet, Profit. Side note...climate change and environmental issues are not myths. Fashion is the #2 Dirtiest Industry in the World and so few people are aware of this fact. Huff Post article
So, why Trump vs. Ben & Jerry’s… I know that I could’ve shared Patagonia as the leading fashion company that shares literally almost every aspect of their company so that others can learn from what they are up to (including full transparency of global production)...however I chose Ben & Jerry’s because they figured out how to hypothetically steer the “Titanic” around the iceberg. Essentially, they shifted and consistently continue to shift a big behemoth of a company around scary territories and into safer waters. And I thought the title "Trump vs. Ben & Jerry’s” was far more intriguing. When beginning to learn about better business practices I was told to check out Ben & Jerry’s by one of my mentors. On the Ben & Jerry’s website they share the entire history of Ben & Jerry’s online. Every twist and turn, every choice to become more sustainable and ethical. I personally presume that the move to make vegan ice cream (YAY!) is also a way to reduce cow milk productions, because cow farts are a leading issue for global warming. Yep I said it! Biggest bonus, Ben & Jerry’s lets people take factory tours. How much more transparent can you get. Allowing consumers to come meet the cows and the workers. The actual humans that produce the products that people love.
As consumers become more curious, as mom’s do research before making purchases for their families, and as millennials seek out the truth I encourage new designers and business owners to begin businesses with transparency in mind. It may not be easy or simple. What it does is affect the lives of people we may never meet. It will give consumers a positive relationship to know they also have an effect on people they will never meet. If sustainable clothing doesn’t appeal to the masses or fit the budget or blend in with what’s on trend, then the shift to a healthier fashion industry overall will take much longer. And yes there is a sustainable $3 tank top...available at thrift stores and free at clothing swaps. Save your budget to invest in some sustainable transparent basics and share the stories that you learn from the designers & brands you choose to invest in.
Taryn is from Pittsburgh. She studied fashion design and art therapy at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and screenwriting through the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Taryn wrote, produced and directed sustainability films for Warner Bros. She founded EcoDivas TV and has interviewed celebrities including James Cameron, Jessica Alba and Olivia Wilde. She has hosted EcoDivas/Beyond the Label events at Sundance Film Festival, MAGIC Fashion Trade Show and The Skirball Cultural Center. She has worked for designer Anna Sui, writer/producer David Zucker, and styled for Suzy Amis’ Red Carpet Green Dress Collection with Reformation called No Red Carpet Needed. Taryn was a Los Angeles Business Journal - Women Making a Difference nominee for 2015. She is a Sustainable Business Council - Best Public Advocate for Sustainability Award finalist 2016. Taryn won the eduPOWERED Fashions Against Bullying Award and Green Hero Award...and has recently been named Host and Associate Producer of the Worldwide Sustainability Awards show for EduPowered Media.
As an educator and developer of educational resources, I am always eager to find new professional development opportunities – ones that make an immediate impact on both what I teach and how I teach. I typically find that continuing education opportunities for industry professionals make excellent continuing education opportunities for educators as well. For example, just-style.com and the American Apparel and Footwear Association offer great (and often free!) webinars on current issues in the global fashion industries. When I was taking students on trips to MAGIC or other trade shows, I attended as many of the professional seminars as possible. One of the best professional development experiences I have had in recent years was successfully completing the Lead Auditor Certification offered through the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP). WRAP is an international “non-profit team of global social compliance experts dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane, and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education” (WRAP, 2016). WRAP conducts a number of training programs with a focus on ethical sourcing in the global apparel and footwear industries. The audience for the WRAP training programs is typically industry professionals with offerings held throughout the world but mostly outside the United States. However, with funding from several grants (to both me and to the three student participants), Stuart Webster, [then] VP for Education for WRAP conducted the week-long certification program on the Oregon State University campus.
You might be asking – why would a faculty member or students want to be certified as a factory auditor? In fact, neither any of the students nor I were intending to actually become auditors. But what the program provided was not only an amazing overview of social and environmental compliance issues but strategies that fashion brands can take to assure responsible sourcing and production of merchandise -- topics that are relevant to anyone teaching fashion and anyone who is employed by fashion brands! In addition, the format of the program incorporated what I would call “best practices” for classroom teaching with extensive use of active learning teaching strategies such as case studies, team activities, simulations, individual writing, group discussion, short readings with questions, and videos with questions. The program manual was also an excellent teaching guide that I have often referred as both a content and process resource. Aside from carving out a full week during the academic year to devote to participating in this program, the most challenging aspect of the program was the 4-hour essay exam on the last day! It had been some time since I was on the “other end” of an exam and also felt the pressure to being a role model to the students of successfully completing the exam! Whew! Fortunately, I passed the exam with flying colors!
Upon completion of the certification, I partnered with Stuart to develop and systematically assess three learning modules related to corporate social responsibility in factory auditing that could be used in college and university courses. These modules were selected because of their relevance to inclusion in undergraduate courses; i.e., background expertise of undergraduate students. Specific modes of learning (e.g., listening, observation, writing, group discussion) were intentionally integrated into the learning modules to address a variety of student learning styles. The three learning modules were:
As you can see, completing the WRAP Lead Auditor Certification proved to be an amazing professional development opportunity – one that led to improved teaching from both content and process perspectives.
For those who are interested I am happy to share the details of these learning modules (simply email me at email@example.com) and I will send you the information.
WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) (2016). About WRAP.
Retrieved from http://www.wrapcompliance.org/en/about-wrap.
By Michael Londrigan
Industry veteran Michael Londrigan is the Dean of Academic Affairs of LIM College and former Chair of the Fashion merchandising Department. He was promoted to the position of Dean in January 2013.
Professor Londrigan arrived at LIM College in 2008 with nearly 30 years of experience in the apparel industry focusing on retail, wholesale and textiles. He holds an MBA in Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Professor Londrigan is the author of the textbook Menswear: Business to Style, published by Fairchild Books.
On Wednesday June 15th 2016 the Sourcing Journal (SJ) hosted an educational workshop at LIM College’s Townhouse in NYC. Over 85 industry executives from leading fashion companies as well as students from LIM College and the Fashion Institute of Technology attended the workshop. The level of executives included folks from logistics, sourcing, manufacturing, design and legal to name a few and titles from assistants to vice presidents. The workshop was kicked off with a breakfast at 8:30 am with the program starting at 8:55am. There were four main presentations covering the following topics: conflict minerals, product safety, made in U.S.A., and prop 65.
The speakers included Barbara A. Jones whose expertise in conflict minerals and her interaction with the Conflict Minerals Compliance Initiative provided a great update on compliance and regulatory issues surrounding this important topic.
Ben Mead, Managing Director for Hohenstein Institute Americas has responsibility for OEKO-TEX in the United States and promotes Hohenstein’s expertise as a globally recognized leader in textile research and testing. Ben’s insight into textile research and testing was very interesting especially given all that is happening with high tech fabrics in today’s fashion products.
David Callet is a principle in CalletLaw where he provides comprehensive client representation on all aspects of consumer product safety compliance. This was especially helpful to all those representing the children’s wear industry as we all know those regulations can get complicated.
James Kohm is the Associate Director for the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Very knowledgeable and provided invaluable practical information as to how to stay out of trouble!
All and all a nice way to spend the morning and learn more about the fashion industry and its various working parts.
By Connie Ulasewicz
Dr. Ulasewicz engages with students on topics integrating responsible fashion practices within, visual merchandising & promotion, sustainable production development and the social psychology of clothing. Her research interests include, transparency in supply chain management of sewn products manufacturing from fiber to finished product information to the consumer, and product reuse. She is the coauthor of the recently published 2nd edition Sustainable Fashion: Why Now.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Charu Gupta, an Associate Professor in the Department of Fabric and Apparel Science, Institute of Home Economics, at the University of Delhi. We were first connected through Anu Pasricha, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN., regarding Dr. Gupta’s visit to the San Francisco Bay Area and her desire to discuss our similar research interests in the area of textile reuse. Charu is currently working on 'developing dyes from fungus ' and on 'developing fabric using textile waste and water soluble films,' both the projects being funded by Delhi University.
It is her work with water-soluble filaments that grabbed my attention. Basically shredded fiber from post consumer or post manufacturing garments or fabrics, are placed between two frames of water soluble filament, then machine quilted, placed in water to dissolve the filament, resulting in a quilted fabric. This new ‘wasted fabric’ is substituted for embroidery fabric used with the sleeves, collars or bodice area of garments.
I am reminded of the need to connect with others in our field and share the goodness of our collective work. A take away for both of was the challenges of creating a new product from that which has had a previous life. There are inherent limitations of quantity and quantity based on what is available. For example, an order for 500 bags made from discarded tablecloths finally came my way, but my supply is up and a call out to San Francisco Hotel Industry is finding none. So, do I wait for more discarded tablecloths or begin with what I have? In our global industry, there are not yet storage facilities that inventory that which has been discarded, waiting for a new design or reuse or repurpose. We must continue to proclaim the goodness of textiles rather than their waste.
By Sarah Portway
Sarah Portway has 10 years of fashion industry experience as both a retailer and educator. She has earned a Master’s Degree in Fashion from Ryerson University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from the University of Guelph. Portway has also been honored with several prestigious awards, notably including a current Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Portway is undertaking her Ph.D. in Apparel Design at Cornell University and expects to graduate in 2018.
There is a growing market for organic, fair-trade, vegan, natural, not-tested-on-animals, do-good, and sometimes green-washed products. These products proudly boast the promise of “responsible consumerism” from their shelves to sooth the pain of the 10% premium we are usually willing to pay. But what’s behind these labels? It’s been shown repeatedly that most consumers don’t know. This diatribe will describe why some producers don’t know either, and how their ignorance is keeping them out of the competitive market for these products.
For our purposes, I will call a consumer who makes purchasing decisions based on certifications and other eco-labeling a ‘green consumer.’ Green is a colour, not a behavior, but let’s put that aside for now due to the brevity of this post. Everyone else is doing it. Green consumers are shopping for what they think are more environmentally or socially ‘responsible’ products. They assess this instantaneously based on labeling which attempts to communicate a myriad of ‘responsible’ criteria from labourer’s wages to waste management. Given this range, let’s also isolate organic cotton apparel labels for a closer inspection, also in the name of brevity.
If we can cautiously sample a dash of theory from Cornell University economist Dr. Robert Frank (The Darwin Economy), and accept that individual and group actions often diverge, organic cotton seems like it would be rather self-evidently for the ‘greater good.’ If this were true, we could spare the next 600 words (or so); we can’t. Herein lies to crux of this argument: what has been marketed as a ‘responsible’ product that benefits the group through lowered pesticide use, actually prioritizes individual (read: American) cotton interests over the rights of organic farmers who lack fiscal resources and English education. Since group and individual actions diverge, organic cotton certification isn’t exemplary of Frank’s good-for-the-group.
On the white, fluffy face of it, organic cotton has promise. It promises to avoid contamination of land and water. It promises longer-term, slow-and-steady crop yields in lieu of unsustainable rapid over-growth which bleeds the soil of vital nutrients in mono-crop practices. These are all good promises for the group (human kind). All you need to show you’ve made this noble contribution to the group is a brightly coloured and easily recognized certification label on the product. That’s the value of your product for the green consumer: differentiation through labeling, when other things remain equal. Imagine the over-used and tired example of the infamous plain-white cotton t-shirt, one bears a ‘certified organic’ label and one does not. That label is the one chance you get to tell this customer that you made your cotton ‘green’, just for them. Just for everyone.
Pietra Rivoli is a professor of finance and international business in the McDonough School of Business, at Georgetown University. Leafing through her pioneering text Travels of T-Shirt Through the Global Economy forces the question: what about fair competition? Poor countries should have an advantage in the organic cotton business. Organic cotton is more labor intensive than conventionally grown because of the use of mechanical pest control over chemical. The United States has higher wages than Africa (for example), ergo Africa should be able to compete in this market. Perhaps more importantly in the African context, the farmers were already growing organically because of financial barriers prohibiting access to pesticides and herbicides. These are far too costly for your average small African farmer. So are the defoliants; cotton was already hand-picked (a sign of higher quality in the world of fashionable goods). As Rivoli rightly points out, Africa will be left out of this product-positioning arms race also.
Getting organic certification isn’t easy and it is extremely costly. If some African farmers had a hard time affording pesticides to save a year’s crop, they will find it absolutely impossible to afford third-party organic certification. Counter-intuitively, in addition to having more labor and water inputs, organic cotton also costs money to certify. The certification itself must be mostly a marketing mechanism because some farmers are organic without the label, but well-intentioned green consumers have been trained to look for these labels. No label means no trust, therefore no 10% premium price hike will be paid (which probably just barely pays for the farmer’s cost of certification anyhow). Even the green consumers’ noble attempts at supporting small organic African farms will be thwarted by the lack of labeling on these products. Therefore, the very regulation limiting the freedom to use pesticides, which was supposed to be good-for-the-group, will necessarily fall short of that goal. Instead, it is just another market mechanism preventing green consumers from reaching responsible products. It serves the individual (wealthy, subsidized American cotton) interests.
This point is salient enough, but I will add some more threads to the weave. Organic certification bodies use English. Or at least, they use some form of English. The English used in the certification forms and regulations is so convoluted it is difficult for even native English speakers to read. In fact (and somewhat embarrassingly), it was even difficult for a Ph.D. student at an American Ivy League school to decode. These forms require a reading level that is a challenge for even the most educated. I’ve done some light gardening, and from experience (if you’ll allow some comedic respite) I’m certain that reading ability does not influence a farmer’s ability in the field. A farmer may have the best crop of premium organic cotton you’ve ever seen, lush and fluffy, white as a cloud, even the name “Round-Up” may never have been breathed in the same county as this prestigious cotton, but the green consumer is never going to find it if the farmer cannot read, or if they can’t afford someone to read for them.
This attempt at policy in the name of the group good falls short. It costs the individuals at a low end of the global income gap, the very people your average green consumer thinks they are supporting with their ‘responsible’ purchases. If you can’t read, apparently you can’t farm either… or at least you’ll never be able to compete with English-reading cotton farmers. This still-developing policy is a wolf in sheep’s clothes, all puns intended. It protects the body of English-reading global cotton farmers, while leaving the rest of the world out in the cold. In the heat of the African sun where farmers will always be too poor to pollute, but too ignorant to communicate it, it’s always going to be a cold market.
Until we describe a better policy.... but that’s going to need another 30,000 words or so.