Fashion: Sustainability in Textiles, at the FITNYC Summer Institute

Parvati Magazine spoke with Sass Brown of the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which recently hosted its annual Summer Institute on Sustainability and Textiles.

Parvati Magazine: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry in terms of becoming more sustainable, and how do programs like this Summer Institute help to address them?

Sass Brown, FIT: Dialing back mass consumption, and replacing it with conscious consumption from a customer perspective. Redefining a designer’s role as equally responsible for the sustainability of a design as the aesthetic. And probably the most difficult for big brands, the mapping and certifying of the entirety of their supply chain from earth to dirt. The Summer Institute is intended to inspire change by sharing ideas from a range of stakeholders from across the industry.

PMAG: What was the inspiration behind this year’s theme Reinvention and Innovation?

SB: The core of the Summer Institute has been Sustainability and Technology from the beginning. The intent is to change focus each year, to give a fresh perspective, and draw more people into the dialogue. Reinvention is a fresh take on tradition and craftsmanship, while Innovation focused specifically on advances in materials.

PMAG: Who were some of the presenters?

SB: Paul Dillinger, Head of Global Product Innovation at Levi Strauss and Co, opened the conference. Scott Mackinley Hahn of Loomstate presented the SAC’s HIGG Index. Lewis Perkins, Senior Vice President of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute, led a panel on Fashion Positive Brand Partners. Professor Rebecca Earley conducted a workshop of the Textile Environmental Design ten sustainability measures. Representatives from across the supply chain at Eileen Fisher presented their Vision 2020 sustainability initiatives. Dr. Ajoy Sakar and Liz Spencer of the Dogwood Dyer conducted a natural dye workshop. Here is a full listing from the program:

PMAG: What were some of the most exciting ideas shared in this program?

SB: Jamie Bainbridge announced that Bolt Threads had completed their R&D on synthetic spider silk production, and are now turning their focus on scaling for commercial viability. There was a great panel on the Soulful Economy, and how some inspirational companies are sustaining tradition and skills in remote parts of the world while producing exquisite product. And the TED 10 workshop gave companies and educators alike concrete means with which to evaluate and design sustainability into product design.

PMAG: Looking ahead to 2016, who should apply to participate in this program and how quickly do spaces fill up?

SB: The two main categories are people working in fashion and textiles, and educators. Spaces fill up very quickly as we cap attendance at around 40 to ensure an intimate environment where the participants get to know each other, speak directly with the presenters, and get the most out of the conference.

fit-headshotThe Fashion Institute of Technology is a leader in career education in art, design, business, and technology, with a wide range of programs that are affordable and relevant to today’s rapidly changing industries. Part of the State University of New York, the college offers nearly 50 majors leading to the AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees. Visit