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April 12, 2024

Student view: The importance of sustainability in fashion

Destiny Washington is a senior double majoring in environmental studies and sustainability, and French. Washington is a transfer student from Lansing Community College.

I believe it is important to create a more sustainable fashion industry for many reasons, a few of which I can explain.

Since my passion is fashion, I've been exposed to the realities of how women are treated in the industry. More personally, how they are treated reminds me of the way that my mom has been treated in her work environments. It’s unsustainable socially to treat workers in such a way if, indeed, all of us already must suffer with the reality that using the environment is our only choice.

Fashion also is quite wasteful. Much textile waste pours into countries that must spend time cleaning up after the companies that caused problems. It's important that we build fashion systems that incorporate good end-of-life, circular and cleanup practices so that countries who are struggling to manage, for example, textile waste can have clean beaches again. As an acknowledgment, some African fashion systems incorporate textile waste, which can be beneficial for their communities.

Destiny Washington outside Chloé.
Destiny Washington. Courtesy photo.

The industry causes environmental degradation, while not benefiting people as much as it could. For example, there is a lot of fear-based marketing that profits from human depravations and low self-esteem. Since we have no choice but to use the environment, fashion should not exploit people’s vulnerabilities on top of that. The industry must stop depending on excess desire or feelings of inadequacy. Fashion should be used as much as possible to help young girls in particular who deserve to be surrounded by constant and positive self-esteem energy. Fashion could support this by slowing down and shifting its intention.

At MSU, I’ve made it a goal to research these issues by blending my interests in environmental sustainability and fashion.

  • As a member of VIM Magazine and its student association, I contributed to a sustainable fashion publication. You can see it here on the Re-birthday Party page 34 in ALTR Magazine Issue 2: Rebirth.
  • With MSU's flexible suite of education abroad experiences, I was able to study French in France and finally visit my favorite brand Chloé. Chloé has B Corp certification, meaning it is one of the more sustainably operated fashion brands. France is an important location because it is where modern fashion conceptions began developing. I'm now able to listen, read and learn how French brands engage with sustainability in global markets.
  • Being an MSU student provides me with unique chances to engage in research. I've participated in two research projects where I was asked questions about my experience being a Black student and a transfer student. It was lovely to fit into someone else's special application of their studies.
  • In the summer of 2023, I was a Demmer Scholar. In that program, Professor Mark Rey placed me at Conservation International, where I was the sustainable fashion summer intern. It was an amazing experience to work at the intersection of sustainability and fashion.

After I graduate, I have several career goals. One of them is to support the sustainability of a fashion brand. This could look like assisting the sustainability department of a luxury fashion brand with the implementation of its sustainability strategy. Later in my career, I wish to be a successful director of sustainability for a fashion brand.

Another career aspiration I have is to develop small projects that can help girls build more sustainability into their lifestyles beginning with personal style and strategizing.

Lastly, I would like to participate in the African fashion industry somehow, which is another way French can help me.

I would like to inform girls of Black descent who may read my story that I will be designing a small project this summer to help one student create personal systems to prepare for the next academic year. Creating personal systems involves using sustainable style principles as a tool to implement and tune attention to organization and time management to help foster a more relaxed and resilient university experience. It also involves me teaching how to set up and manage an assignment tracker to support our vision. If you are interested, you can email me at

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