SF State News {University Communications}

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Leading the sustainable fashion movement

April 20, 2010 -- Associate Professor of Apparel Design and Merchandising Connie Ulasewicz is this year's faculty recipient of the Community Service Learning Award. Given by the University's Community Service Learning Program and the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, the award recognizes faculty, staff and students who are involved in community service. Ulasewicz is a leader in the sustainable fashion movement and an international consultant on project development and social entrepreneurship. Her design and merchandising students participate in projects that serve the community and promote a responsible and sustainable fashion industry. The award will be presented on April 22, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day as well as the date of the annual SF State student fashion show, "Runway 2010: Nouvelle," which will feature sustainable designs.

A photo of Professor Connie Ulasewicz

Professor Connie Ulasewicz

Question: What does your commitment to community service learning involve?

Connie Ulasewicz: My whole approach to teaching is to get students into the community. A colleague and I developed the curriculum for a graduate course in social entrepreneurship in which students are required to dedicate 30 hours of work at nonprofit organizations including those that provide clothing suitable for job interviews to people who cannot afford to buy new clothing. Students understand that fashion is not just a frivolous, expensive venture.

Q: In what kind of community service opportunities are your students participating?

CU: We are working closely with St. Vincent DePaul in San Francisco.  Students conduct clothing drives on campus and each spring they install a sneak preview event at the de Young Museum for St Vincent DePaul's Discarded to Divine. This event, as well as our annual spring student fashion show, allows students to work with local businesses on issues that contribute to the personal growth of students and society in general.

Q: What is your role in the sustainable fashion industry?

CU: Educator. For me, it's not about the fiber content of a garment, whether it is organic or not.  The sustainable fashion movement is about an entire process from fiber to yarn to fabric to garment manufacturing.  It's about getting people involved in understanding this process. We can change our behavior and where we shop and don't shop and how we recycle and maintain our clothing.  It's a way of being and doing.

Q: What are some things that everyone can do to support the concept of sustainable fashion?

CU: Find out where the products you buy come from so that you can be assured that they were produced in a humane and energy-conscious way that does not harm the environment or the people making the garments.  Buy secondhand clothing whenever possible and buy fewer and more durable products. Wash clothes less often, use cold water, then let hang dry. When you buy something, think about the entire lifecycle of the product --what will you do with it when you get tired of it? Who will you pass it on to? How will you give it another transformation? 

-- Denize Springer


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