Community art project shines light on textile industry sustainability
21 Sep 2023
Associate professor Sandra Starkey and her students in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design (TMFD) are leading an initiative to shed light on the critical issue of sustainability within the textile and apparel industry.
Their community art project showcases a dress crafted from recycled buttons and discarded denim. Community participants contribute to the project by sewing buttons on patches that will be added to the outfit. In total, more than 400 participants have already contributed to the button dress project.
“My students and I wanted to create awareness about sustainable clothing practices in a way that is attention-getting and interactive,” Starkey said. “Participants of all ages further their sewing skills that can prolong the life of a garment, thus learning a skill and gaining knowledge about sustainability issues in the industry at the same time.”
Fast fashion, a phenomenon where clothing is produced rapidly and inexpensively to keep up with changing trends, contributes to massive amounts of waste. Textile production accounts for roughly 20% of global water pollution and a significant amount of carbon emissions.
“The textile and apparel industry has long faced sustainability challenges, and faculty and students in TMFD are aiming to change that,” said Maria de Guzman, department chair.
“Sustainability issues of the industry need to be addressed at multiple levels – from the production of fibers to the design and construction of products to marketing and consumption,” Starkey said.
Other faculty in TMFD are also working to address this issue. Yiqi Yang, Charles Bessey Professor, has been instrumental in advancing research aimed at creating fibers from agricultural waste and integrating green technologies into textile production. This innovative approach holds the potential to revolutionize textile manufacturing and pave the way for a more environmentally responsible future for the industry.
On the production and consumer side, associate professor Jennifer Johnson Jorgensen's research focuses on adapting sustainable principles to merchandising and retail. Her work aligns with the broader mission of promoting eco-friendly alternatives within the product sourcing and consumer landscape.
At the recent East Campus Discovery Days, about 300 children and adults sewed buttons for the dress – providing an opportunity for dialogue that spans multiple generations. The button dress is currently on display at the Gwendolyn A. Newkirk Human Sciences Building, room 208 on East Campus.
College of Education and Human Sciences
Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design