New fashion department partnership focuses on sustainability
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 02:03
When fashion professor Marsha Dickson joined the university in 2005, she and other faculty members in the department started to promote environmental sustainability and were encouraged to partner with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an industry-wide group committed to tracking and improving sustainability in fashion.
Now, the fashion and apparel studies department has officially joined forces with the coalition to promote awareness about the impact fashion products have on the earth.
Dickson, chairperson of the fashion and apparel studies department, says the faculty at the university has always had an interest in sustainability. Their first coalition meeting, which took place in the DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington, was an eye-opening experience and led the department on its mission to join the coalition, she says.
“We had to have a company support our admission, and several did just that,” Dickson says.
She says the fashion and apparel department has since become involved in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, with members attending the coalition’s meetings and working in groups to support the cause. Dickson believes sustainable fashion is more than just a trend, but says some businesses don’t take it too seriously.
“The market is not solid for it yet,” she says. “If companies think of it as a mere trend and act accordingly, there is no way that business would succeed.”
Senior fashion merchandising major Emily Ivory says sustainability has become a popularly visited topic in the curriculum. Although she does not study apparel design, Ivory says she still has encountered instances in class where she is asked to keep sustainability in mind.
She says consumers are also supporting sustainable fashion without necessarily realizing it.
“A lot of companies have moved towards more sustainable practices, so when consumers purchase these clothes over others, they are taking part,” Ivory says.
Jason Kibbey, executive director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, says the coalition was founded by a group of sustainability leaders from global footwear and apparel companies. It partners with environmental companies to address social and environmental challenges including energy and greenhouses gases, waste and labor, he says.
Kibbey says the coalition’s first major project is the “Sustainability Apparel Index,” an industry-wide tool designed to measure the environmental performance of apparel products and the supply chains that manufacture them. He says he is dedicating his life to encouraging sustainability in fashion and is excited the next generation is sharing his passion.
“I am thrilled that the university has showed an interest in environmentally-friendly fashion,” he says. “I hope we can have a long and effective partnership with the department.”