Tomorrow’s talent: hire these kids!

by Karen Alberg Grossman

I recently sat in on a class of graduating FIT students as they presented their senior projects. The class was Textile Marketing Strategy and the assignment was to create a product and execute a marketing strategy using textiles that are sustainable and/or help solve an existing problem.

Sal Giardina's FIT class May 2015

Wow, did these kids come up with creative ideas! The first group designed an outerwear collection (great-looking unisex jacket and vest) that, by adding lithium batteries to the fabric, uses body heat to recharge cellular phones. The lithium comes from Texas and must first be converted from solid to liquid to be applied to the poly/rayon fabric. Once the coating dries, the fabric is activated by applying an electric discharge, which takes 10 days. It’s 100 percent made in America and ties in to the wearable tech boom.

The second group designed a collection of eco-conscious infant apparel that they named Craibaby. The students acknowledge that most consumers prefer natural fibers (i.e.cotton) but that processing these fibers is using up our natural resources (it takes 700 gallons of water and a third of a pound of pesticides to produce the cotton for one t-shirt…) Crailar flax is made from the straw of traditional linen and uses only 14.1 liters of water to make a kilogram of finished fiber, which has a cotton-like hand and is stronger than linen so it can be knitted as well as woven.

The third group created Aqua Skin, a type of bandage that incorporates collagen from tilapia fish skins that would otherwise be thrown away. The fibers from the fish skins get spun into yarn that gets woven into bandages that cut healing time in half! They use only locally sourced fish and plan creative promotions like giving out free bandages in parks and putting them in first aid kits that get sent overseas for catastrophes.

The final project was Compost Totes ($20 suggested retail) made from fibers from plant sugars. Most supermarket/drugstore shopping bags are made from petroleum-based products to keep down costs. These eco-friendly Compost Totes are made in the U.S. from corn sugar, a highly renewable resource. In the marketing plans: a collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney, known to support sustainability.

FIT professor Sal Giardina, who’s also the design director at PB Aristo/Paul Betenly, was clearly pleased with the student presentations. “They presented their projects in a manner that closely followed directives, with many additional elements learned in class and from industry experts. Decisions about distribution, marketing, costing, monthly sales/merchandising calendar, etc. were backed up by extensive research in the respective industries. I am very proud of the students’ accomplishments! Certainly their ‘out of the box’ thinking will benefit the textile industry with new solutions to existing problems, and to future ones!”