By: Katie Kilgallen
We live in a world that is heavily impacted by the unconscious choices that we make every day. From the way that we travel to the clothes that we buy, seemingly insignificant decisions can lay the foundation for the future. We all have a responsibility to protect our planet, and living sustainably is the first step towards ensuring the safety of the environment.
The Marist College Fashion Department is bringing sustainability to the forefront of the industry in multiple ways. This semester senior Abbie Tyler was one of the members in the capstone project group that emphasized sustainability through The Six Items Challenge. Those who took the challenge were tasked to choose six items of clothing from their wardrobe and pledge to wear only those six items for six weeks. I had the opportunity to talk to Abbie about the success of the Six Items Challenge and what sustainability means to her.
The project inspired countless students on campus to take the challenge. As for the success of it, Abbie stated, “Looking back on the challenge, now that it’s over, it’s honestly hard not to be inspired by it and want to take part. It’s for a great cause and I have learned so much. Our inspiration initially was the thought of having people learn from us, but as the challenged progressed, our inspiration actually came from the incredible efforts of the participants.”
“Sustainability has been overlooked for so long, and it’s time for a change because resources aren’t going to last forever,” said Abbie. In regards to what sustainability means to her, Abbie focused on the role of ethical practices within the fashion industry. “While sustainability can mean an array of different things, my definition mostly relates to the fashion industry because of the huge influence of my project from this semester. In a nutshell, sustainability to me is the focus on creating a more ethical and practical world, which emphases ethical consumption and labor conditions.”
I also had the opportunity to talk to Rebekkah Colclasure, a junior Fashion Merchandising major who was an active participant in the Six Items Challenge. She was also recently chosen to be a member of the Marist College Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee. Rebekkah was able to educate me on the various ways that students can practice sustainability on campus! “Washing clothes in cold water saves SO much energy, as 90% of the energy used in washing clothes comes from heating the water. You can also recycle or donate your clothes when you are done with them so they can be reused in production. Share your clothes with your friends!”
Most importantly, Rebekkah stressed the importance of being conscious of the labor behind the clothing label. “When you are shopping, you can stop to consider who made your clothes. Thousands of garment workers are dying overseas each year due to poor working conditions to get us our cheap, “college kid affordable” fashion. Ask yourself, is this $10 t-shirt really worth supporting people sacrificing their lives? Start buying clothes from companies that are transparent about their employee’s working conditions or shop thrift stores and secondhand shops! Not only that, but only shop for things that you need rather than just what you want.”
In regards to the fashion industry, Rebekkah is constantly pushing for more ethical and practical production methods. “To me, sustainability in the fashion industry is just the next step in our evolution as people,” said Rebekkah. “It is something that needs to happen in order for us to continue living on this earth and prosper. I believe it is an inspiring movement that aims at making the fashion industry a better, more respectable, and honest industry.”
Through her participation in the Six Items Challenge, Rebekkah was able to further her mission to create a more sustainable clothing production process. “Sustainability is a gateway that will allow the fashion industry to make a real difference in our world. I’ve always loved fashion; however, sustainability in fashion is something that is to be truly admired and sought after.”
The Marist Fashion Department also promotes sustainability through MPorium and River + Stone. River + Stone carries two different types of resuable water bottles, which allows customers the opportunity to ditch buying and disposing of plastic bottles. In addition to this, MPorium offers a promotional reusable tote and provides a discount on your next purchase if you bring the tote back. These options and the suggestions from Rebekkah may seem small but are actually a significant step towards creating a more sustainable world and fashion industry.