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NEW YORK — A student-led sustainability project — the Natural Dye Garden — at the Fashion Institute of Technology here has gone through an initial testing stage and is going forward with laboratory testing and exploration of product development and marketing opportunities.

This story first appeared in the October 14, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The urban garden, planted on a terrace at FIT and run by the students, has the support of the Clinton Global Initiative University and FIT’s Think Big Challenge. Spearheaded by FIT students Caitlin Powell, Amber Harkonen and Meghan Navoy, the project aims to raise awareness about environmental issues and the use of chemicals in textile processing.

The student-led project was awarded $10,000 by the FIT Student Association and facilitated by Brooklyn Grange Farms, a rooftop farming and green roofing business.

A recent tour of the garden and laboratory where the project is in process by Navoy and Harkonen showed marigolds, purple dahlias, indigo, Hopi sunflowers, purple basil, red cabbage, fennel, lavender, rosemary, black-eyed Susans, red zinnias, Queen Anne’s lace and coreopsis being grown and dried, and some samples of dyed fabric.

Students and their mentors have assessed which plants are more hearty and have the best yields and processing success, and are planning next year’s crop with that in mind.

Jeffrey Silberman, chairperson of FIT’s Textile Development and Marketing department, said the Natural Dye Garden is also part of the school’s strategic plan “to embrace sustainability” through the institution.

His department is now working with the students on product development and ways to make the fabrics commercially viable.

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