Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson University

by Dunja Hoejenbos

Paths to a Sustainable Future

From an educational perspective, students and faculty in the Fashion & Textiles Futures Center at Thomas Jefferson University have a strong focus on sustainability throughout the supply chain. From concept inception through textile creation and fashion development, members of the Jefferson community are interested in sustainability as a reality.

Upcycled fashions

Jefferson students begin the creative process with identifying an opportunity. Recently, students have explored applications for emerging materials, including plant-based leathers for sports equipment. In the Textile Product Science B.S. program, Simran Bains-Shepard (TPS ’22) investigated the fitness-for-use properties of pineapple and cactus leathers for environmentally-friendly soccer balls. Initial research carried out in Jefferson’s Bruner Materials Characterization Lab indicated the potential for plant-based leathers as a sustainable alternative.

Textile Design Assistant Professor Becky Flax is exploring the use of invasive species for natural dyes. This investigation involves the roots of Japanese barbery, wineberry and oriental bittersweet as dyestuff for cotton and wool. Additionally, the invasive red oak acorn was evaluated as a mordant. Initial studies illustrated that these local, readily available plants have potential commercial application.

Invasive plants as natural dyes

Continuing in the realm of natural dyes, Textile Design M.S. student Kavyashree Mruthyunjaya Swamy is exploring screen printing with natural dye paste. Her research examines colorfastness and print paste parameters using natural indigo and marigold dyes on silk and cotton, in the development of eco-friendly and sustainable practices.

Emily Radomski, Textile Design B.S. ’23, created a swimwear collection entitled Circular Swim, utilizing advanced knitting technology in Jefferson’s Constructed Knit Laboratory. This collection leverages knit structure variation to fashion the garments, practically eliminating cut and sew and thereby greatly reducing waste.

In Fashion Design Associate Professor Carly Kusy’s course Sustainability Concepts for Fashion Design, students examine topics including harsh working conditions in developing countries, the use of more sustainable textiles and moving from a linear to a circular model. Students explore upcycling, repurposing, and the creation of zero-waste garments as an antidote to the “culture of disposability”.

These are a few examples of the innovative paths that students and faculty in Jefferson’s Fashion & Textiles Futures Center are exploring toward a more sustainable future.