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Ethical fashion: Aware of what we wear


The garments that were paraded down the runway by William & Mary students during the first "Ethical Fashion Show" represented much more than creativity; they were a conscious attempt to promote a new way for people to look at what they wear.

Presented on America Recycles Day by the recently created Student Ethical Fashion Organization at the College of William & Mary, the line of outfits represents "sustainability," according to organizers. Garments were created using completely recyclable materials, including clothes re-purposed through an arrangement with Goodwill Industries.

The fashion show, which organizers plan on making an annual event, grew out of a service-learning course called "Ethical Fashion" taught by Regina Root, associate professor of modern languages and literatures at the College. During the fall 2009 semester, students were challenged to research topics related to the global fashion industry. They considered issues that included the production and distribution of apparel, as well as those involving the conditions under which labor was employed. During the spring 2010 semester, students concentrated on producing the fashion show and on staging a performance of "Real Women Have Curves," a play by Josefina Lopez about labor conditions in the garment industry in East Los Angeles.

"When we talk about sustainability, we mean the preservation of biodiversity," Root explained. "We're also talking about cultural diversity. … We're looking at these links and networks and how culture gets represented. We are consciously studying how things get made and which communities are sustained … . We're looking at the entire process."