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USG presents Sustainability Fashion Showcase

Green is the new black at Undergraduate Student Government’s upcoming Sustainability Fashion Showcase.

Hitting the runway on Monday will be students dressed in the latest eco-friendly apparel, including brands such as REI, Patagonia, LA Relaxed, Global Gifts and several others that offer vegan, organic and fair-trade clothing.

“Clothing isn’t usually something people realize is a big factor of waste in the environment,” said Erin Dolvin, USG’s deputy director of sustainability and a second-year in biology. “People don’t realize how much (of) an impact it makes when you change (what you buy).”

According to the Council on Textile Recycling, the average American throws out 70 pounds of clothing each year. This is in part due to the birth of fast fashion in the 1990s, which created a market for cheap clothing that imitated high-fashion trends. But because styles change quickly, the clothes are often deemed “out-of-date” in a matter of weeks. That’s when consumers throw them in the trash.

Students hope to set a new trend demonstrating how sustainable clothing can be both affordable and stylish, showcasing apparel that reduces waste, treats workers and animals fairly and doesn’t use harmful chemicals or dyes during processing, Dolvin said.

Global Gifts, located in the Short North, is providing men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from India, Ghana and Guatemala for the models to wear and focuses on the fair-trade aspect of the clothing industry.

“Fair trade basically means that all of the garments were handmade and all of the artisans earn a fair wage for their work,” said Alissa Head, Global Gifts store manager. “(And) they have safe working conditions for their work.

Head referenced the 2013 collapse of an apparel factory in Bangladesh called “Rana Plaza” which resulted in the death of nearly 1,100 people and is now considered one of the deadliest accidents in clothing industry history, according to the Congressional Research Service. Workers earned a mere $38 per month and were forced to work in an unsafe building that would constantly catch fire.

To ensure the artisans are fairly compensated for their work, Global Gifts pays them up front to help sustain their income in an effort to empower them out of poverty and prevent them from working in areas with poor conditions, Head said.

One of the tenets of fair-trade is environmental sustainability, said Head, so the company also researches how the fabric is sourced and dyed and whether the artisans have used recycled materials.

Another environmentally-focused company supporting the fashion show is REI, an outdoor co-op that encourages people to learn and play outdoors.

Abby Rhodebeck, outreach coordinator for the Columbus REI and a 2008 Ohio State alumna, said that the company participates in self-assessments on the business’ social and environmental impacts, such as recycling and waste reduction.

Durability and longevity are major components of REI’s clothing, Rhodebeck said.

“That way you don’t have to buy a jacket every few years, you can buy a jacket every decade or two,” she said.

During the showcase, about 15 male and female models will walk into the crowd where students can ask questions about the sourcing, style and sustainability of each outfit.

Dolvin said she hopes students leave with an understanding that sustainable clothing can be both fashionable and affordable.

“You don’t have to be a tree hugger to dress eco-friendly,” she said.  “It’s super stylish.”
The fashion show is set to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Nosker Burgee Room inside Nosker House on Monday. Admission is free.

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