Jaclyn Noble: Time to feed some hungry mind
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In my teens and twenties, the only thing that mattered to me about clothing was whether it made me look good. Some thirty years on, I have a different perspective, and I’m finding that today’s coming generations want to hear about it.
After three decades as a technologist in the apparel industry, I’m sharing my love of textiles and fashion by teaching at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. I’m blown away by the smart, talented young people in my classroom. Some have already launched clothing lines, thanks to the access to markets provided by social media. That certainly wasn’t on my horizon when I started out!
They are all environmentally aware, too. They know fast fashion can have a long tail, and that today’s impulse purchase is tomorrow’s slowly decaying item in an over-stuffed landfill, or might even go in a container to another country to distort a distant market. And they are hungry to learn more.
A recent survey at FIT confirmed today’s students really want environmental education to be integrated in their courses. But I have found the gap between awareness and action can be wide, so we have to be sure we are targeting material the right way and connecting the dots between theory and practice. For example, our schools and colleges may celebrate their green building certifications but not provide textile recycling bins just as routinely as garbage and regular recycling cans.
Recently, I challenged one of my classes to think about the sustainability of their fashion choices. Surprisingly, only one out of 25 expressed a genuine concern for sustainably made clothing. So, I tasked them with suggesting improvements on campus and their innovative ideas, inspired by initiatives across the country, emphasized effectiveness, simplicity, and a touch of fun.
By the end of the course, the lights had come on. Comments like: “I will never look the same way at buying clothes,” told me my students will go on with their careers with a more thoughtful end-to-end perspective on what they design and consume. Effective education can reshape industry practices. As we cultivate a generation aware of the environmental impact of their choices, we pave the way for a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.
Jaclyn Noble is a textile industry thought-leader passionate about sustainably creating, consuming, and reusing fabrics. After 20 years in leadership roles with U.S. fashion icons such as Spanx, North Face, and Coach, she’s now focused on teaching current and coming generations about how to love fashion and the environment at the same time.
This article is contributed by Jaclyn Noble. Every week ESG News delivers smart commentary from ESG practitioners and experts to unpack issues of the day. Submit an article for editorial consideration for the ESG News Sustainable Fashion series here: [email protected]