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LeighAnn Gill, Georgeana Ortiz, and Charlie Chiang

Alumni / LeighAnn Gill, Georgeana Ortiz, and Charlie Chiang

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For their senior thesis project, LeighAnn Gill and Georgeana Ortiz decided to design a sustainable fashion line but found that information on the subject was elusive. “Sourcing was incredibly hard, and books on sustainability were not at all that user friendly,” reports Gill. Taking matters into their own hands, Gill and Ortiz enlisted classmate Charlie Chiang to partner on creating a website and a series of booklets to help small and medium-sized fashion design firms go green. Their project, Sustainability for Designers by Designers, allows users to choose an appropriate level of commitment to sustainability.

“Step one is really the low-hanging fruit, the actions you can take that are relatively easy but still reap rewards,” says Chiang, a former marine who did two tours in Iraq before returning for a second bachelor’s degree at Parsons. “By step 12, designers will not only have a zero carbon footprint but incorporate restorative technologies as well.” The project includes everything from content about design theory to information on manufacturing and human resource practices to lists of sustainable textile mills. Having created the initial version, Gill, Ortiz, and Chiang will hand over the project to fashion seniors in successive years, who will gradually complete and update information as the science evolves.

“At Parsons you really become aware that as a designer you are capable of creating change and you really need to be conscious of what you are putting out into the world,” says Ortiz. Like Gill and Chiang, she hopes to make sustainable practices part of a design career. “We really wanted to reach the fence-sitters—designers who have thought about sustainable practices but don’t really know where to begin.”

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