All professions and industries are coming to grips with environmental needs and requisite changes in how they operate. The field of Fashion Technology is no exception. Production of textiles is a major source of emissions, entails intensive agricultural practices (e.g. producing cotton), and requires massive use of water and generation of chemicals.[1]


A recent fashion industry analysis stated Sustainability will be at the center of innovation in the fashion industry in 2018…”[2] The fashion technology profession is increasingly embracing sustainability practices and technologies. Some examples are recent advances in ‘recovering’ polyester to create new textile fibers, producing textiles made of sustainably produced products, using recycled plastics, improving the ability to recycle and reuse dyes and textiles, and dying processes with far less environmental impact.

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The Honolulu Community College’s Fashion Technology program is based on a long-standing commitment to recycling, repurposing and minimizing waste. The program, led by Professor Joy Nagaue, is preparing its students to be part of these new industry emphases and techniques.

One of the most significant ways the FT program embraces sustainability is the materials students use to practice, hone skills and create projects. Students work with materials donated by businesses and individuals which otherwise would have gone to the dump.

Myriad bulk materials are collected by the program and utilized by students. Not only do these materials significantly defray their costs, thus increasing student access to educational and training opportunities, the program also cultivates a commitment to reusing and repurposing.

The shelves in the FT department are stacked with textiles deemed ‘end cuts’ (not useful for commercial sale). Donations like these allow students to broaden their creative process. Other bulk items diverted from the waste stream include threads, patterns, buttons, zippers, silk flowers, neckties, and cast off mannequins. All these items are used by students for their material and designs.

Donated seat covers from Hawaiian Airlines for the Cabin2Couture Challenge

Another cost saving practice is the programʻs use of discarded materials that emulate more expensive textiles. This sustainable practice provides the students with opportunities to practice techniques and hone their skills before using the “real” textiles for their final projects.

The practice of repurposing materials is incorporated throughout their education and training. Some assignments require students to seek out materials such as utilizing items from a thrift shop to repurpose/upcycle.

Cabin2Couture Challenge

In 2015 Nagaue challenged three FT alumni to rework discarded airline seat covers  into haute couture. These projects were winners in the HonCCʻs annual Trash to Treasure contest which is a part of the collegeʻs annual Sustainability Showcase and Hoʻolauleʻa.

Last month the Fashion Society hosted a Rummage and Tote Bag Sale.  Using cast off materials, members of the Society created “new to you” fully lined canvas tote bags. Sales from this event  will benefit this yearʻs Fashion Show, Bon Voyage, at the Aloha Tower, Pier 11 on Sunday May 6th. 

The Fashion Technology program has embedded a commitment to repurposing and recycling materials, and ending waste, into the curriculum and program practices. Our graduates are well prepared to work in a rapidly changing field.

[1] From Frivolity To Sustainability: Why Technology And Innovation Matter For The Future Of Fashion
[2] Fashion in 2018 | 08. Sustainability Credibility