Sustainable Fashion and Armani

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We have started our goodbyes here in Italy. Today we were treated to a lecture from Francesca, a professor at both Bocconi and Cattolica, local universities in Milan. This lecture was focused around the topics of sustainability in the fashion industry and the different business models of the different types of fashion retailers. After this lecture, we were able to spend another day with students from Cattolica, and start to say our goodbyes. They had lunch with us in their dining hall (Spoiler, much better than market). After lunch, we then had the opportunity to visit the Armani museum here in Milan. The museum is such a beautiful, simple building that housed some of the most precious collections of clothes in the entire world.

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Our prompt today for the blogs focused around the lecture though. We were asked to right about what we found most interesting from the lecture. The thing/fact that stood out to me during it was the fact that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, only behind the oil industry. This was mind-blowing to me, because I would have never thought it would be that bad for the environment. Francesca was telling us that now more than ever is the time to invest in sustainability because of the growth of fast fashion stores, such as H&M and Zara. These stores have the need to restock stores every few days with new items, so you can imagine the carbon emissions needed to get this job done. There are also effects on the environment from the making of products too. One of the worst things for the environment is growing cotton. 19% of insecticides and 9% of pesticides worldwide are used to grow cotton. These chemicals are not only bad for the Earth, but bad for the people who work with the cotton, causing sickness and even death. The cotton also requires an insane amount of water to grow. For example, one pair of jeans (which are made out of cotton) requires 10,000 liters of water to make. This water is being drained from local lakes around the world, hurting the wildlife within the lake, and forcing those who lived off the lake to find work/food elsewhere.

There is a positive side of this, even though it may not seem that way. Many companies have started their campaigns to change this about themselves. The leader in all of this is an American company: Patagonia. Patagonia has started to create lines of clothing only from organic or recycled materials, cutting down the pollution caused from the production of their clothes. This initiative is starting to jump to others as well, with many companies researching how to do the same for their own products. Some are a bit slow on the blocks, so organizations like GreenPeace have started to push them a little harder. Most of these companies are fast fashion companies. But, from the extra motivation, H&M has vowed to use only sustainable fabrics in the products by the year 2030, and Zara has taken it upon themselves to be less pollutive when they are creating their products. For example, they have begun to monitor their water and energy usage during production. Sustainability is “being able to satisfy current needs without compromising the possibility or future generations to satisfy their own needs.” This is something very important to me, and as an engineer, I am dedicated to making this happen. As an I.E., I am not directly related to changing that per se, but I can choose to work for companies that match my dedication to helping the environment if I so choose.

During our meetings with the students from Cattolica, I was looking for a few specific individual or personal issues between us. I didn’t see culture affect us as much as I would’ve thought. I could be just missing something, but in my opinion, because we are all college students, we are kind of missing this gigantic culture difference. We all understand what the stresses of college are like and were able to relate on that. I also felt they were very open to us, a were almost all of the citizens in Italy. Most Italians learn English and know it well enough to communicate clearly with us. At first, I did not expect this. As Americans, we do not always see it necessary to learn another language because we take for granted that much of the world does in fact speak English. The Italian students, however, typically speak 2 or 3 languages very well. I believe that the typical Italian would see me, as an American, walking down the street and immediately know who I was. My case is a little different being a red head, but I think it’s true for most Americans as well. We hold ourselves a different way than them that I have noticed, but I can’t put my tongue on it to describe it. I do not sense any ill feelings from the Italian people, and I am very glad I was able to spend such an amazing trip here. The only thing that they judge us on is our sense of fashion and the way we dress. For one, the Italians are still in their winter season, so they are not wearing shorts. For us, it feels north of 80 degrees every day, but they still are wearing jeans and leather jackets. Secondly, they are just better dressers than I am. I couldn’t pull of some of the outfits I see walking down the street. All in all, though, I am still happy with how I dress. The stares we get everywhere we go is a little awkward, but as of now I will try and live up to the words of Giorgio Armani: “Elegance is not about being noticed, but being remembered.”

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