Fashion Students Shrink the Wardrobe for a Global Cause
The Six Items Challenge Encourages Reflection and Awareness
Could you or someone you know live with only six articles of clothing for six weeks? While that may have been true a hundred years ago, nowadays it seems impossible. Yet that is what twenty fashion students at Marist are doing, in support of the Six Items Challenge. From February 10 through March 24, students like Melissa Lombardi ’16 will choose a combination of only six shirts and pants to wear to class, to home, and to events.
“The Six Items Challenge is a fashion ‘fast,’” Lombardi explains. “It challenges one to curb their clothing consumption habits by choosing six items of clothing from their wardrobe and wearing these items, and these items only, for a six-week period.”
The Six Items Challenge is a campaign by Labour Behind the Label, a United Kingdom-based organization founded to create awareness for the struggles of garment workers in impoverished nations. The Six Items Challenge is one of the organization’s many social media campaigns and was first run in 2012. According to their website, it is “designed to challenge our increasing reliance on fast fashion and raise vital funds which will enable Labour Behind the Label to keep fighting for the justice that garment workers deserve."
There are some exceptions to the challenge, according to Lombardi. Undergarments, socks, shoes, and sleep ware can be interchanged as many times as needed. Work uniforms, workout clothes, and performance items are also exempt from the challenge. The six items that are chosen can also be customized
The project’s roots at Marist College stem from the Fashion Merchandising and Sustainability Course, which was offered in the Fall 2015 semester by Professor Melissa Halvorson. While she preferred her students to be the voices for this story, she has talked about the project to other outlets. In speaking to the Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly, Halvorson stated that “Our main goal is to observe the experience of the participants, both good and bad. We predict they’ll experience periods of angst and elation, defeat and triumph – true of anything people undertake that’s hard, right?”
“The Six Items Challenge began as a discussion topic,” Lombardi explained. There was an overwhelming interest in the experiment, so Professor Halvorson suggested introducing the challenge on Marist’s campus.”
Abbie Tyler ’16 was another student in the course who is taking part in the challenge. “This final project was really the building blocks for our Capstone project this semester. So, the challenge in our Capstone project was to bring the project to life on the Marist campus.” Tyler stated that in addition to flyers and social media, the fashion department has been setting up an information booth every other week outside of the fashion department.
The class has set a goal of £500, or about $722, for their fundraiser. So far, they have raised nearly £150 from outside sources, which combined with funds raised by the fashion department have the group nearly at their fundraiser goal early into the challenge. The bigger takeaway, however, is spreading awareness of the plight of impoverished garment workers across the globe.
“Garment workers typically earn between 1-3% of the retail price of an item of clothing,” Lombardi explains. “In other words, if a t-shirt costs $15, the garment worker who made it receives a maximum of 0.45 cents.” According to Labour Behind the Label, countries such as Bangladesh, Sir Lanka, and Cambodia pay garment workers far below the minimum living wage, which the organization defines as the money to cover a four-family household.
“We want students to think,” said Tyler. “‘Do we really need all the clothes in our closets? Can we just get more creative with what we already have? Is fashion about the quality you have or the quantity you have?’ The answers to these questions will hopefully lead to the emotional impact we hope people have from completing the challenge.”
Overall, while the challenge is about the big picture, it is also about how big just six articles of clothing can become.
“By spreading awareness of Labour Behind the Label and the negative impacts of consumerism, we hope to inspire Marist students to implement a small change that can make a big difference,” stated Lombardi.
Donations to the Six-Item Challenge at Marist College may be made at www.sixitemschallenge2016.everydayhero.com/uk/marist.
Written by Gregory Rycharski ‘16
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