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Bay State College Fashion Students Put Creative Spin On Service Learning

By Meaghan Cayer on April 12, 2017
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Sustainable Garments on Display at the Northshore Mall

Bay State College has a variety of career-focused programs, and the curriculum from each one is reflected in the service learning initiatives of its students. Some of the most fun and creative projects have come from students in our Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising and Management - Fashion Industry programs. Check out what they've been up to below! 

Non-Textile Sustainable Fashion Design

In recent years, plastic recycling has become a hot topic worldwide. How can we get plastics out of our waters and landfills? Once we do, what are we going to do with it? 

Bay State College Fashion Design students set out to solve this issue, while also helping local organizations. This year, the Fashion program partnered with restaurants and stores at the Northshore Mall to repurpose their discarded commercial products into sustainable, wearable garments. 

The process itself was not easy. Students received a pile of discarded items from each of the participating organizations and had to create a garment entirely from scratch – and from non-textile items. They had to test adhesives and paint on new materials, figure out how someone could get in and out of the garment, and shape rigid materials like plastic and cardboard to the curves of the human body. 

"This project is all about critical thinking," said Fashion Department Chair Donna-Marie Cecere. "How do I take this recyclable item and make it look like it's not? So you don't know it's a water bottle, or that Legal Seafoods bag. How can I change it and revamp it, recycle it, reuse it, so it loses all of its identity and becomes a wearable garment?" 

Once the garments were completed, they were fitted to mannequins and put on display at the Northshore Mall, serving as an advertisement for the participating organizations. This May, the garments will be included in the program's annual student-run fashion show. This year's theme is Greenhaus Couture and is all about recycling, reusing and repurposing – the perfect setting for these fabulous garments! 

Visit our Facebook page to view photos of the Northshore Mall Sustainable Fashion display, along with the names and donated items of each participating organization. Then see the garments firsthand at the Annual Fashion Show on Sunday, May 7th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Galleria, located at 10 Saint James Avenue in Boston. 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Debate

Fashion Professor Andrea York's Global Markets class is all about the interrelationship between retailers, suppliers and consumers in the global economy. Amidst the heat of this year's election, she found a teachable moment for her students: the ongoing debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. 

"In my Global Markets class, students learn how the entire fashion/apparel industry is really a global industry," said Professor York. "You do not make everything here and source everything here – it's from all around the world." 

Fashion students first learned about the pros and cons of the trade deal as a class, then were each assigned to be 'for' or 'against' it. The two groups extensively researched their sides and put together visual presentations which were used to stage an in-class debate. 

"There are so many layers to pick through. Will this help or hurt the apparel industry? Is this even the right way to go through with it?," explained Professor York. "Once you get into it, it's a very passionate issue for these students. Some students get fired up about it and are very vocal. Others are more level-headed and are big fact-checkers. One of my students is even writing her senior thesis about the Trump trade policy and how it will affect the fashion industry." 

In the end, students were able to discover a newfound interest in US politics as it relates to their curriculum, while also distributing important information about one of the most hotly contested political debates from the past year. 

Green Eileen: Recycling for a Cause

Eileen Fisher is a women's clothing brand known for its commitment to sustainability. This year, Bay State College Fashion Design students met with a representative of Eileen Fisher's "Green Eileen" division, dedicated to repurposing their customers' gently used garments into new garments to sell. 

To date, Green Eileen has collected more than 600,000 donated items and sold some 200,000 items. All profits from recycled clothing support programs for women, girls and the environment. 

Fashion students learned about the program and the Eileen Fisher brand firsthand, and were then given a number of gently used Eileen Fisher garments to repurpose. Back on campus, the students combined fabrics to design original garments that reflected the style and primary consumers of Eileen Fisher clothing. 

"Bay State College Fashion Design students are being taught to examine the world around them and envision how fashion design can make a difference in today's society," stated Fashion Department Chair Donna-Marie Cecere. "Not only are they predicting future trends, they are also envisioning how those trends can help us be more socially conscious."