The awards ceremony is slated for April 13 with the virtual conference to follow through April 16. Attendance is free with donations encouraged.
A stalwart environmentalist, Valletta expressed excitement for the awards ceremony. “Our honorees are truly leading the change we need in the world today, and they have set powerful examples for us all.”
The college’s sustainability council has been sponsoring the conference since 2006 and will focus this year’s programming on social and environmental justice, business, design, innovation and more.
Honorees include designer Eileen Fisher for corporate responsibility, Evrnu founder and FIT alumna Stacy Flynn for innovation and Studio 189 cofounder and president Abrima Erwiah for social impact.
Conference speakers include fashion designer Mara Hoffman; Women’s March founding member Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, model-activist and filmmaker Gelila Bekele; celebrity stylist Karla Welch; Public School cofounders Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow; Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch; and Allbirds sustainability lead Hana Kajimura, among others.
“We call the conference Changemakers in Action because everyone we are featuring — from our honorees to our speakers and panelists — is actively engaged in critical work that contributes to the preservation of our planet’s environment and resources. They are all innovators — leaders in the field. Our concentration is the creative industries, of course, and we have, among our participants, activists committed to corporate responsibility and social justice,” said FIT president Joyce F. Brown.
Brown described the role of education in addressing and promoting change in fashion. Since 2015, FIT has offered a minor for undergraduates in ethics and sustainability — now one of the school’s most popular minors.
“The issue itself is infused throughout our strategic plan, embedded into our mission and integrated into our curriculum. And in our day-to-day behavior, we practice what we preach. We are a leader in the NYC Carbon Challenge for educational institutions, having reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 58 percent in 14 years. With more than 17,000 square feet of green rooftops, beehives and a student-initiated dye-garden to develop nontoxic dyes for our textile development program, we are aggressive in our approach,” continued Brown, praising the institution’s leadership recognized by the mayor’s office as well as New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Brown also spoke of FIT’s faculty and students, who are making research inroads in the fields of biodiversity and material science, partnering with institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stony Brook as well as companies such as New Balance and IBM.
The conference will also spotlight a range of solutions for industry challenges being developed by FIT students and faculty. One promising competition — the student-run BioDesign Challenge — bridges art, design and biotechnology in a quest for discovering the next new sustainable textiles. The winner will be announced this April at the awards show.
Past BioDesign winners have gone on to establish their own companies, including Algiknit, a research company using seaweed fibers. The 2018 winner “Team Werewool” became a finalist in Stella McCartney x PETA’s Animal-Free Wool Prize and teams crafting mycelium (mushroom root) innovations are also repeat winners.
Touting the students’ strength in innovation, Brown added: “I like to think that in a decade or more they — and their generational peers — will populate the studios, labs and corner offices in the creative industries and make it their mission to integrate green values into corporate practices.”
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