Long committed to sustainability, St. Kate’s apparel, merchandising and design program has taken eco-fashion to the next level. The recent Katwalk show featured the first Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Certified collection to ever hit a runway in the U.S.
“There’s been a great focus in the organic textile sector on casual wear and we just have not seen anything like what St. Kate’s students developed for the fashion world — the collection is stunning,” says Sandra Marquardt, GOTS representative for North America.
GOTS certification provides assurance to consumers that the textiles they purchase are certified organic from the field all the way to the finished product.
Anupama Pasricha, associate professor and department chair, forged the initial partnership with GOTS last year. Two GOTS certified companies, Harmony Art and Organic Cotton Plus, donated fabric and other materials.
As part of Pasricha’s Fall 2014 Patternmaking II class, Janet Bishop ’15, Megan Buysse ’15, Alisha Caldera ’15, Amanda Kaczmarek ’15, Xee Vang ’15 and alumna Kathy Jerde ’09 teamed up to create the 5-piece collection called “Urban Oasis.”
Unlike other design projects, the students were required to conduct deeper research, including consultation with chemistry faculty. Everything that went into the garments had to meet GOTS standards – from the fabric, to the dyes and dyeing techniques, to the thread. The team interacted with Marquardt via Skype.
“She educated the students about GOTS, and encouraged them to think outside of the box. Students considered the fabric they had to work with, and developed inspiration journals via Pinterest,” explains Pasricha.
The concept board used by the students as a source of inspiration for their collection. Photo by Ashley de los Reyes '15.
After preliminary group sketching, the team decided on the collection’s concept and selected the final five looks from 60 design drafts. Buysse did final sketches and color rendering. The team spent a weekend at the Textile Center dyeing the organic fabric with GOTS-approved low-impact, fiber-reactive dyes.
Marquardt was impressed with the apparel design program’s focus on sustainability, and the care students took with each step along the process.
“It’s not lip service. It’s an absolute commitment to the use of both organic fibers and GOTS certified dyes. Anu really went the whole nine yards to work with her students and send them on a path that is more advanced than many of the fashion schools we work with in terms of sustainability,” says Marquardt.
For Pasricha, taking an active role in sustainable fashion is simply the right thing to do. “It’s our responsibility to avoid any harm to people and the planet. By choosing sustainable materials, our designers are doing their part, and at a time when consumers are starting to be more thoughtful about the products they purchase.”
In fact, the organic textile industry is growing exponentially. The number of GOTS certified facilities increased by 18 percent last year, from 3085 facilities in 2013 to 3663 facilities in 2014. In the U.S. alone, organic textiles reached $1.1 billion in sales in 2014.
“Clearly the demand for sustainable apparel is there, but until recently, we’ve been hampered by the lack of sophisticated fashion,” says Marquardt. “Thanks to St. Kate’s, we now we have that, too.”
The GOTS-certified “Urban Oasis" collection made its runway debut at the Katwalk: Noir show in May. St. Kate’s Reunion attendees will get another chance to see it on June 12 at the Reunion Fashion Show.
St. Catherine University's Apparel Design program instills in students the understanding that actions affect the environment and everything in it. The program balances innovation and change with sustainability and responsibility. From their first year, students study sustainability issues in fashion and apparel — such as upcycling, repurposing, fair trade and ethical labor practices, and sourcing products locally. Program students and alumnae are regular participants in the eco-friendly fashion shows in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the stringent voluntary global standard for the entire post-harvest processing of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber, and includes both environmental and social criteria. GOTS was developed by leading international standard setters — Organic Trade Association (U.S.), Japan Organic Cotton Association, International Association Natural Textile Industry (Germany), and Soil Association (UK) — to define globally recognized requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles.