How would I define sustainability, you ask?? I would define sustainability largely as a positive outcome enforced by change, a change in the way that we live our lives, a change in perspective, and a change in how we view the world around us. Sustainability results from a complex paradigm shift in both thinking and acting, thus it can help create both a physical and social environment that becomes viable for current and future generations to come. Sustainable design comes from the ability to create a product to be sustainably viable in all of its functions, from the conceptualization of the product to the reuse or proper disposal of the product. Before I had taken this class, I had always thought that sustainability had to do solely with preserving the environment and I remember thinking about how I wasn’t really sure what sustainability really meant.
Throughout this semester on my Sustainable Journey, I felt that I really began to view the true meaning of sustainability from an entirely new perspective that what I had ever imagined that I would when I entered this class back in January. Walking into the course, I wasn’t sure how I felt about sustainability in regards to the apparel industry. I had been vaguely familiar with sustainability, but I hadn’t given much thought to what sustainability in fashion would really look like. Despite this though, I had been extremely eager to learn how the apparel industry could be transformed if sustainable practices were to be enforced in the production, care, and manufacturing of textile products.
The first of many learning experiences that had occurred to me in this course came to me while reading the Fashioning Sustainability article from the Forum of the Future that had discussed the key issues that were associated with the apparel industry. I was extremely surprised and astounded that the apparel industry is truly so unsustainable and a lot of the reasons why this came to be is because of human behavior. The fact that we, as consumers, carelessly over wash, over dry, and over iron our clothing was truly impactful to me, especially because even a small mistake like this has a large impact on our environment. Our study on empathic design during the semester had also really interested me a lot this semester. When we had read I love this Dress, It Makes Me feel Beautiful by Niimimaki and Koskinen, I became extremely interested in learning about how empathy encourages consumers to place emotional value and attachment to products. I learned that with the use of empathy, designers can create long-lasting relationships between the user and the product, which can in turn reduce product waste and increase a product’s useful life. Also, during the semester we had studied the ideas of design activism and social entrepreneurship. Studying these ideas really helped me see the true power of change and how the little changes in the ways that we view ourselves and the world around us can have the biggest impact on our world now and in the future. Seeing first-hand what powerful and positive change does for our world while watching the movie Who Cares on social entrepreneurship had left me extremely inspired to want to help make our planet a better place to live.
Getting the opportunity to explore and study all of the different theories and methods to enforce sustainable practices in the apparel industry has really changed my entire attitude towards what sustainability stands for. I feel that now that I have learned about empathic design, social entrepreneurship, design activism, industrial ecology, and biomimicry, I feel that I can truly stop being an outsider looking into the apparel industry and start being an activist to help enforce the need for stronger and positive change within the industry. I truly believe that with the knowledge that we have gained in this course as future merchandisers, we can be the voices of positive and effective change in the industry. As future merchandisers, we can become the voices that can begin an amazing movement towards obtaining sustainable efforts in the apparel industry.
Knowing all that I know now, I am the most eager to learn about the ways that the ways in which sustainability can truly be implemented in this industry and the paradigm shift that will need to occur in the designers, manufacturers, merchandisers, and retailers of fashion products. I am interested in continuing to learn how the apparel industry will truly be transformed if sustainability became its main priority instead of consumer profits. This class ended up being one of my favorite classes that I have taken in my time in the DHM program in the past four years and I am extremely grateful that I had to chance to take this class and truly learn a lot from the material that we studied.