“I see sustainability as a lifestyle—of people living together with the earth rather than merely compensating for the bad effects that we have on the environment,” says BFA Fashion Design student Marie Claire Brush.
In 2008, Brush had an opportunity to put her philosophy into practice: She was a member of a three-person team that took first place in a competition sponsored by Parsons’ Sustainable Design Review and Kiehl’s: Since 1851, a New York-based hair and skincare products company. The contest had students use design to promote responsible consumption. The team’s winning concept was used to market Kiehl’s Superbly Restorative Argan Body Lotion, which debuted on Earth Day. Working on the project gave Brush important insights into designing in the real world. “For Kiehl’s, we always had to keep the design realistic in terms of manufacturing while keeping the concept interesting and intriguing at the same time.”
Part of what Brush enjoyed about participating in the contest was working with her classmates to create the design. Brush thrives on collaboration, which is essential to the Parsons experience. She says, “I love being able to bounce ideas off my classmates. Being around other students who are working just as hard as I am gives me even greater motivation. I am definitely pushed by the talent of the other students and teachers.”
Many of Brush’s ideas are made possible by New York City’s ample resources for designers. She gives the following example to illustrate how everything she needs for her projects is right at her fingertips: “During a recent design class, my team discovered that we needed a 24-inch zipper in a specific color, so we ran into a fabric and trimmings store next door. As a group, we were fluent in five different languages, and we used them all to get the zipper we needed. In the end, we were able to buy the zipper, put it in, and still meet our deadline.”
As Brush prepares for a career in fashion design, she hopes that sustainability will evolve from trend to standard practice in both the workplace and the marketplace.