“I don’t want you to go work for a company that gets it right,” said James Mendolia, adjunct assistant professor, Fashion Business Management and Fashion Design MFA, to students during his October 4 talk, “Smart Innovation, the New Standard for Fashion,” as part of Sustainability Awareness Week. “I want you to be an agent of change.”
Mendolia himself is a change agent as well as a teacher. He co-founded C.L.A.S.S. Education, a division of C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy), with the organization’s CEO Giusy Bettoni. A multiplatform hub, C.L.A.S.S. promotes sustainability in fashion, and Mendolia leads workshops, seminars, and trainings that challenge the existing design process and inspire new thinking. “Everybody knows they need to do something, but they’re not exactly sure what they need to do,” he said, citing environmental problems exacerbated by the fashion industry—from chemical waste to overconsumption.
To combat these problems, Mendolia wants us to move toward a circular economy, keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible and regenerating them at the end of their life cycles. An important step is using eco-friendly yarns and fabrics like ECOTEC and Re.VerSo (both of which are made from pre-consumer offcuts). With this in mind, Mendolia recently launched the C.L.A.S.S. Education Smart Kit with Bettoni. A resource for both students and teachers, the kit contains swatches of innovative smart materials along with their sustainable credentials—encouraging future industry leaders to embrace environmentally responsible options.