Professor Kitana Ananda
Extra Credit Assignment
Extra Credit: United Nations Sustainable Fashion Event
Attending the Fashion and sustainability: look Good, Feel Good, Do Good using fashion as a vehicle for change event at the United Nations was an opportunity that I am ever so grateful for. I have never been to the United Nations before and as an International Studies major at LAGCC this was right up my alley. Upon entering the United Nations I was met with many cultures and languages and it was quite exciting seeing all the signs in French. It was also quite surprising to see the UN officers speak in Mandarin Chinese and they clearly were not of Asian descent. The focus of this event was for us to see how the fashion industry is trying to bring awareness towards sustainable practices when they are one of the leading industries of environmental pollution.
There were various panelists throughout the discussion on sustainable Fashion. The panelist I was most drawn to was Professor Andrea Reyes who is a fair trade advocate, a small business owner, and teaches at many colleges which include LIM, Pace University, Berkeley College, and Baruch College. She frequently organizes fair trade trips to Uganda, where she teaches students about how the Ugandan people use recycled materials to create home goods, accessories and other apparel. She brought up various small solutions that we as New Yorkers should be engaged with in order to make a difference. She suggested that we attend clothing swaps, which is a great place to not only mingle, but get some new clothing in exchange.
Another point that Professor Reyes made was for us to find an organization we are passionate about, and make our presence be known because that is how she ultimately obtained her position as the Chair of the NYC Fair Trade Commission. Throughout her presentation I was just shocked on the amount of work this one individual does and how she finds time to participate in all these organizations in addition to teaching a various colleges. Home ec classes is another point of discussion she brought up. I was unaware of the existence of these courses, but everyone in the room who was born in the 80’s most certainly knew about its existence. Reyes believes these courses were a way to teach us simple things like sewing a button which could prevent us from having to buy a new article of clothing. One point that she brought up that I do not agree with is for us not to use straws when drinking beverages. In an ideal world these straws would be made from sustainable materials and companies should definitely invest in creating a replacement. However, I do not foresee myself going out of my way not using disposable straws. Oftentimes when dining out the servers automatically bring them to your table, and I would not want to inconvenience them.
Another panelist by the name of Lilian Lu, showcased what is going on in the world in terms of climate change. Lilian manages partnerships and UN relations at the United Nations Global compact which is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. Lilian presented us with various statistics one of which was that 1 in 5 people in the world is employed by the fashion industry. In addition, it is a sector where most women gain employment. This sector is responsible for employing so many people worldwide and strategies have to be implemented to curtail environmental impact. During her discussion I was informed about how throughout the clothing making process, dyes make their ways into rivers and harm the local water supply. Companies need to come up with innovative ways to use sustainable dyes that do not harm local water supplies. Lilian also mentioned how sustainability needs to become more accessible to the everyday person because at its current stage sustainable clothing has an inaccessible price tag. For example, it was mentioned that she saw one sustainable plain white t-shirt being sold for 300 dollars. One can agree how ridiculous that price tag is.
Overall, I learned a lot attending the Fashion and sustainability: look Good, Feel Good, Do Good using fashion as a vehicle for change event. I learned how the fashion industry tends to sustainably shame those companies deemed not to be doing enough for the problem. The issue of climate change is complex, and has various components, and no amount of positive decisions, no matter how small, should be subject to the shame. Attending this event was quite a highlight for me as a student due to the international culture of the United Nations. It was quite exciting for someone like me who is quite fascinated with all things global. I look forward to see what changes will be implemented by the fashion industry in concerns to sustainability in the future.