By: Trace Weaver
Net Impact held its final meeting in the Apparel Industry series on Monday, March 28th. For this meeting, we were joined by three experts on the apparel industry for a panel discussion.
Our next panelist was Professor Mary Embry, who teaches apparel merchandising at IU. She became interested in the apparel industry in the 1990s when Secretary of Labor Robert Reich exposed a list of companies who used sweatshops to make their clothes, including Macy's and Nordstrom. This inspired her to work with Ten Thousand Villages, a company that sells fair trade handmade gifts. Each gift purchased includes a story about how the gift was made. To learn more, go to tenthousandvillages.com. The professor is also involved with Global Gifts, which you can visit at globalgiftsft.com.
Our third and final panelist for the evening was Liz Roney, who started her own fair trade clothing company called Liz Alig. When Liz saw the factory side of the apparel industry, she became more interested in fair trade. She saw how many fabrics go to waste and wanted her company to use recycled fabrics, or "upcycled" fabrics. She has worked within ten different countries with the goal of creating more sustainable apparel. While Liz Alig is mostly in boutiques at this point, Liz hopes to expand into larger communities in the coming years. To visit her website, go to lizalig.com.
Other than discussing their own efforts to improve the apparel industry, our panelists also talked about changes in the industry as a whole. They pointed out how the sustainable apparel movement is gaining traction similar to that of the organic food movement a few years ago. They also talked about how the biggest challenge in improving working conditions in factories is getting consumers to avoid just looking for the cheapest price. This means that those in the marketing departments of apparel companies must work to shift the focus from price to quality.
We hope you enjoyed hearing from our fantastic panelists this week! Additionally, we hope that our series on the Apparel Industry will inspire us all to become more sustainable consumers of apparel. Join us next week on Monday at 6:00 pm for the first meeting in our final series of the year, which covers food systems!