Green Is the New Black

Leaders in sustainable fashion shared career advice with student designers at SCU’s popular EcoFashion Show.

Worn-out sweatshirts, scraps of old fabric, and pieces of plastic and metal can all find new life as fashion statements. After a break during the pandemic, Santa Clara’s EcoFashion show was relaunched this March, with an emphasis on upcycling materials into wearable clothing and exploring sustainable fashion careers.

Garnering several dozen participants from designers to models to makeup artists, it was one of the biggest events hosted by SCU’s Center for Sustainability.

“This isn’t just a top-down approach,” says Regina Jones ’24, who planned the event along with Yasmin Urzua-Gutierrez ’25, and Josue Hernandez-Perez ’25 . “This event is only made possible with community engagement and showcases that range of perspectives from people at every level.”

Photos from the 2023 Eco Fashion Show. Courtesy SCU Center for Sustainability.

Urzua-Gutierrez says that engaging in eco-fashion through something as simple as shopping at thrift stores can be a gateway to upcycling and raising awareness of how harmful fast fashion can be to the environment. According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 11.3 million tons of textiles—most of which was comprised of clothing—ended up in landfills that year. That’s more than 22 billion pounds, or about 68 pounds per person.

“It’s important that people are aware of the overconsumption cycle that we often see on social media like new trends coming out or all these new clothes that everyone wants,” she says. We want “people to recognize that buying the latest fashion doesn’t really matter if you’re putting the planet in jeopardy. There are better more sustainable ways to feel good about what you wear without compromising the planet.”

Opening the show was a career panel where audience members and students alike could speak with top sustainable fashion industry leaders like Amelia Easley ’21, assistant sales manager at Redemption, Jen Thomas, senior store manager from Crossroads Trading Company, and Ellie McAndrews ’23, executive member of SCU’s Retail Studies Student Association.

“We’re really trying to not only get people to come, have a good time, and be creative and be artistic,” Urzua-Gutierrez says, but also “learn that there are a lot of avenues for being involved in sustainability and sustainable fashion, outside of just their own closet.”

Prior to the show, Urzua-Gutierrez and Jones hosted a sewing 101 class and clothing crafts session. Urzua-Gutierrez demonstrated how to re-fashion an old sweatshirt into a handbag, showing how upcycling gives new life to something that would otherwise be languishing in the back of the closet.

Fashion and sustainability go hand in hand for Urzua-Gutierrez and she believes that if students can make fashion sustainable there’s no reason why larger fashion brands can’t do the same. The main message Urzua-Gutierrez wanted to convey with the show was that students can create clothing they feel confident in and care about because they made it with the environment in mind.

“Some people may think about eco fashion as something that is maybe too expensive or too bothersome to interact with,” Jones says. “[However] it’s definitely something that’s within reach, especially if you consider all the ways that clothing can be shared or repurposed.”

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