Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel galore!

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Mavis Spearman, student of the Fashion Merchandising and Design program, uses a dress form to visualize and conceptualize designs. By Tom Brewer, volunteer photographer.
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The JCCC’s Fashion Merchandising and Design students understand the sustainability issues within the fashion industry and are doing their part to reduce waste in style. 

Students like Allison Meyer, Jey Maroney, and Mitchell Lisak have used a range of methods to ensure that their fashion designs stay sustainable and unique by using vintage fabrics, thrifting, and even painting onto old fabrics to revamp them. 

“I think ‘fast fashion’ has become too fast,” Meyer said. “I’ve kind of just made it a priority to use sustainable fabrics [in my designs] as much as possible because of that, and I think there’s kind of an art feel to working with sustainable fabrics.” 

When looking for sustainable fabrics, she often doesn’t have an exact idea of what she’s looking for. She often ends up forming the pieces she’ll make since she never knows what to expect. 

According to Joy Rhodes, the department chair/professor of Fashion Design and Merchandising, the majority of the FMD students already come in knowing about the damage that the fashion industry causes to the environment. 

In the Fashion Fundamentals class, they discuss topics such as how much water it takes to make one pair of jeans, which is approximately 1,800 gallons, according to thefashionlaw.com. The students, therefore, try and use sustainable fabrics. 

“I think increasingly nowadays these students come in already aware,” Rhodes said. “I think our younger generation is very conscientious of this, and while we do teach it and we educate them in the classroom about sustainability and make our industry less of a toxic industry, a lot of them come in already knowing that.” 

It’s increasingly becoming an issue for this new generation of designers. 

“Even as you’re constructing [clothing designs] you realize how wasteful it is,” Lisak said. “I actually had a big fear because I was wasting so much fabric. You try to make it as sustainable as possible but I can only imagine how bad it is at these big corporations.” 

Meyer said she initially used old fabrics to save money, since she is a college student, but later started using them to reduce the inevitable waste that came from designing clothes. She had used items from the fabric closet JCCC such as second-hand fabrics, scraps from upcycling her own clothes, and even fabric from shower curtains and chair covers. 

Maroney, who said she was originally an artist with little interest in designing clothes, got involved in the fashion industry unconventionally: through painting. 

“My best friend at the time, who I had met through Twitter, saw them and she was like, ‘paint me a pair,’ and I was like ‘OK what do you want on them?’ She wanted Harry Styles’ album on one leg, and Harry Styles’ other album on the other leg. 

“That’s how I got started with using art to make something out of jeans that they have that they just sent me and they wanted to revamp,” Maroney added. 

For Lisak, fashion was more about creating “one-of-a-kind smaller-scale productions.” 

Lisak said that there’s more than the environmental incentive to sustainable clothing. Buyers like the thought of having one-of-a-kind pieces that others can’t buy, custom-made clothing that they can cherish for a long time, he added. 

“Those garments, additionally, are things that people want to keep for a long time. They don’t want to get rid of their custom-made pieces,” Lisak said. “It’s not something they want to get over in a season. They want to keep it for a long time realistically, and so that in itself is sustainable.” 

Lisak said students enjoy making these couture pieces, garments custom-made for a specific person because the uniqueness and the perceived sanctity that buyers have with these pieces make sustainable designs a type of art form. 

Meyer agreed that buyers enjoy sustainable clothing for the rarity of the pieces. 

“A lot of sustainable clothing in itself is one-of-a-kind because you’re using these found materials and you’re not going to be able to find like 20 yards of something you’re only going to be able to find like three yards of it,” she said. 

Maroney added that in her Fashion Fundamentals class she learned about how “these couture buyers if they see Kendall Jenner in what they want, they won’t get it.” 

Lisak said they are catering to those couture buyers who love being different from the rest and pay special adoration to custom-made, elaborate pieces. 

“For me personally it’s making things in small batches and taking delicate consciousness in what you’re buying and what it’s being used for,” they added. 

All three students said they take inspiration from those younger couture designers who weren’t originally interested in the sustainable aspect of fashion but, because of the inherent uniqueness of sustainable fashion, it hs turned to be popular for its attractive appearance, although they themselves are more aware and do try to make their clothing sustainable. 

“They’re [young couture designers] buying a lot of deadstock (any leftover fabric that can’t be used for its original purpose anymore) fabric from massive houses like Dior and Channel, and that’s what they’re then using for their whole couture collections so they’re not really wasting as much,” Lisak said 

Even though these JCCC student designers use unconventional fabrics and mix-match styles, they’re not completely at the mercy of the materials; they’re still able to incorporate their own style into their designs.  

Maroney specializes in denim, and her collection for this year’s fashion show focuses on a mix of princessy, lacy aesthetics and denim. And for Lisak, they focus on chiffon and draping. 

The use of sustainable fabrics is a relatively new concept in the fashion world. Britt 

Benjamin, associate professor of Fashion Merchandising and Design at JCCC, said the students only started fully incorporating fabrics six or seven years ago. 

“Students are finding drapery at thrift stores or bedding, just whatever they can find, so I think naturally they just went that route and it was like an extra bonus,” Benjamin said. 

In order to graduate from the program, they have to design a minimum of five pieces in a design collection, although Rhodes said most students are doing more than that and participate in the fashion show. 

“Our fashion show is April 21st; it’s going to be in the Wylie Hospitality Building. It’s going to be a live runway show. There’s a noon show and a 7:30 p.m. show,” Rhodes said. 

Lisak said they think that sustainably made clothes, what they call a return of “arts and crafts” in which people are thrifting more, and returning to old ways of using fabrics.

“I think we’ll be seeing a lot of those things happening in the future, even in big corporations too,” Lisak said. “They’re going through so much waste and the only way that they can make a profit is by going through more waste. It’s kind of like a snake eating itself because they literally can’t maintain it.” 

Arien Roman Rojas, volunteer reporter

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