Fashion students benefit from sustainability courses; Kent Wired; September 19, 2021
Kent Wired Article
By Cassidy Gladieux Reporter
September 19, 2021
When Victoria Bernhart moved from Nebraska to San Francisco in the sixth grade, she was puzzled by the amount of compost bins everywhere, not knowing what they were or why they were there. She didn’t know that In San Francisco, it is legally required to compost in every home and business.
The requirement somewhat intimidated Bernhart, who started researching the purpose of composting and the overall benefits on the environment.
“I think kind of through the culture there and understanding more about climate change and just what was going on, I was a little bit horrified,” Bernhart said.
Though she grew up participating in sports like rock climbing and surfing, Bernhart was diagnosed with a chronic illness that prevented her from participating throughout high school. With sports no longer being an option, Bernhart realized she needed to find a new passion. Referring back to her middle school days, Bernhart began heavily researching and learning about the environment and the fast fashion world.
The first store she saw talking about sustainable fashion and the industry’s impact on the environment was a national clothing company called Reformation. Bernhart noticed the store raised points about the industry, such as poor working conditions, unlivable wages and wasteful production practices that she hadn’t considered before.
“I was like ‘why are they talking about how much water they’re saving?’… and ‘why are they talking about making sure their workers have a living salary?’” Bernhart said. “I just started researching more from there, and I honestly started crying [because] it’s so awful and I thought ‘I have to do something about this.’”
That desire to learn is one of the reasons she chose to major in Fashion Design at Kent State. Since being at Kent, Bernhart has taken multiple courses on sustainability from a fashion angle and courses with a more scientific approach.
“It’s a great opportunity to talk about it and also feel connected to something because I think sometimes I can get this really hopeless feeling because it’s so much bigger than me,” she said. “So it feels like I’m actually doing something with a purpose.”
The Sustainability in Fashion course has been taught by Noël Palomo-Lovinski since 2008 and has continuously progressed with the fashion world and global climate.
“At first it started out as much more of a lab course intended for designers,” Palomo-Lovinski said. “Then there was an increasingly a lot more merchandisers that were interested in the course, so I came to the realization that what we really needed to do was to talk about the entire supply and value chain from the perspectives of both design and merchandising so that they could really understand where they fit into how to approach sustainability.”
The course also has deeper discussions on topics related to climate change, consumption and social reasoning.
“In a lot of different ways it can sometimes can get a little philosophical but its examining pretty much everything about why and how and where we make product,” Palomo-Lovinski said.
As certain brands make strides to be more “eco-friendly,” the fashion school also intends to make progress in creating a more sustainable fashion industry overall.
“There are some things like applications of technology and certainly a greater sensitivity and dedication to anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that the faculty and the director of fashion are incredibly focused on and dedicated to,” Palomo-Lovinski said. “What we’re going to be working on is holistically including sustainability in every single course that we do.”
Cassidy Gladieux is a reporter.