Cornell University: New course explores making fashion more sustainable

Achieving sustainability in the fashion industry is more challenging than you might imagine at first. The challenge is global with many elements at play: What materials are used? How and where are they harvested or created? Who makes the garment? Where is it made and under what conditions? How is it transported and where is it sold? How does the consumer use it and how do they dispose of it?

Professor Margaret Frey and Lecturer Fran Kozen from the Department of Human Centered Design created a new class – FSAD 3200: Global Textile & Apparel Sustainability – to answer these questions after students expressed a desire to explore these issues.

The class, first offered in fall of 2021, immerses students in the real-life, contemporary challenges of sustainability in the fashion industry. For the first offering, 60 students from all eight of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges enrolled in the class, demonstrating the broad interest in the issue.

The course was structured to address the connection of fashion to the 17 sustainability goals outlined by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Guest lecturers from a variety of academic and professional disciplines, including Jason Judd from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cotton industry researchers, and industry representatives from material developers, garment production contractors, sustainability managers, clothing rental firms, and waste upcycling firms spoke in the class. In addition, students worked in groups to address sustainability challenges posed by industry mentors.

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