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HBCU Students, Local Non-Profit Unveil Sustainable Professional Attire in Fashion Show

Fashion students from various HBCUs collaborated to present a sustainable fashion show and competition, organized by Dress for Success Washington, D.C., and Howard University’s Fashion School of Design program, featuring recycled pieces inspired by the Battle of Versailles, with a focus on environmental innovation. 

  Model Dwayne Williams walks the runway. (Photo courtesy of Drangello Photo)

Fashionistas and environmentalists gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Versailles. Dress for Success Washington, D.C., and Howard University’s Fashion School of Design program unveiled a pioneering sustainable fashion show and fundraiser.

A number of sponsors, including HBCU Green Fund, The French Embassy, and NexTiles, worked in unison to combine social justice, sustainability, and fashion.

Students from Bowie State University, Virginia State University, North Carolina Central University, Spelman College, and Hampton University fashion students joined forces to assist in the production of this show. The show served as a competition to showcase HBCU students. 

The upscale fashion show, held on Nov. 10,  featured recycled pieces that were based on themes the students were given. Strutting down the runway is yellow plaid, and next to the piece is senior fashion design major Tracey Pendleton from Philadelphia, PA. 

His task was to create a look inspired by the Battle of Versailles. The students were given four to five weeks to complete the project. 

Model Cleo N. walks the runway. (Photo courtesy of SnapShotsbyEric)

“I took a whimsical campy take on the Battle of Versailles by creating an asymmetrically draped corset paired with a colorful flowy plaid skirt,” Tracy said in reference to wanting to utilize the silhouettes of the Baroque era, all while reusing clothing. 

As fashion enters a new era, sustainability has become a huge staple in clothing production. It is estimated that the industry loses $560 billion from clothing being worn less or not being recycled. 

Sustainable clothing is also beneficial in limiting carbon footprint. Environmentalists have been advocating for bills to limit the number of greenhouse gasses that enter the atmosphere.

One example of a company that is leading this initiative is Patagonia. According to the company website, 91 percent of their fabrics were made with preferred materials. 

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The company actively has environmental responsibility programs to guide how they make their products.

In 2022, the state of New York proposed the Fashion Act in which major apparel retailers with $100 million or more in revenue would be legally bound to report adverse environmental and social impacts of at least half of their businesses. 

It would require the companies to disclose materials used in products along with details about energy, water, and chemical use in manufacturing and finishing. Stiff fines of two percent of annual revenue could be imposed for failure to comply.

Bowie State student Jocelyn Parker owns JRenee Designs, specializing in creating sustainable custom clothing. She says that sustainability has always been her priority as a designer. 

“Sustainability is the basis of my brand in fashion. I knew as a fashion designer that the pollution that comes from the fashion industry has been detrimental to the environment so as a designer, I wanted to combat that process by using and using materials to create a new and innovative Look,” she said. 

Using patchwork techniques and thrifted clothing, she created a colorful two-piece-oriented clothing line. 

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Creating a line like this takes patience and time. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, senior fashion design major Prynce Mills talked about the process of putting the line together. 

“The entire process of creating these garments was a very valuable learning experience. It taught me the importance of patience and perseverance. Even though this took time and was an intricate process, It reminded me of the joy that comes with sewing, thrifting, and upcycling,” Mills said. 

Tuki Tucker from NCCU placed 1st, Prynce Mills from Howard placed 2nd, Jocelyn Parker from Bowie placed 3rd, and Danielle Glace from Howard placed Honorable Mention. 

The show was sold out on both days and raised awareness for sustainability and fashion. To learn more about DC Dress for Success, visit their website

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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