At the Intersection of Fashion and ESG
Sometimes an email makes a few stops before it finds the right recipient.
That was the case with a Fordham email last fall that described an internship opportunity with Fashion Makes Change, a nonprofit that works with the fashion industry to tackle issues of climate change and women’s empowerment. The message landed in the inbox of a friend of Meilin Morefield, BS ’24. The friend wasn’t interested but knew Morefield would be, and she pressed the forward button.
It turned out to be a résumé-shaping decision for Morefield, who applied for the internship and completed it this past spring. She spent a semester crafting social media campaigns for Fashion Makes Change, communicating with its audience of industry professionals and partner brands.
Fashion Makes Change was a natural fit for Morefield, who has always enjoyed expressing herself through clothing choices and challenging herself creatively with fabrics, styles, and accessories. But as the child of a thrift-conscious mother — and as someone who cares about the environment and people — Morefield chafed at the idea that the industry behind her passion has some problematic aspects.
“When I got older and started learning about the huge negative environmental impact of fast fashion and the fashion industry in general, it made me pessimistic about wanting to have a career in fashion,” she said. “I wondered if I’d be contributing to an industry that wasn’t working in the best way.”
Fashion Makes Change allowed Morefield to get involved with fashion in a way that encourages the industry to change for the better. She is interested in promoting better labor practices, especially for the large proportion of women who make the world’s clothes in factories around the world. She is focused on reducing waste, finding creative approaches to undo the “wear and toss” habits that the fast-fashion industry has cemented in many consumers.
Her work experience made clear that high-quality social media posts are underpinned by high-quality research: she spent a great deal of her remote internship doing research using Fordham library resources and reading scholarly articles about fashion production to pull out valuable facts and perspectives.
“With the Fashion Makes Change internship and other research I’ve done online, I’ve learned that fashion can be part of the solution,” Morefield said.
Before her internship, Morefield had a general interest in fashion but didn’t know where her Fordham degree — which will carry a global business major, a concentration in digital media and technology, and a fashion studies minor — might place her in the field. Working with Fashion Makes Change provided some clarity.
“Now I know it’s more ESG-focused, and even research focused,” she said. “I want to work at the intersection of the environment and fashion.”
Morefield hopes that her future work will achieve two goals.
One is that she wants people to realize the massive role that women play in the fashion supply chain. She said her research this spring showed that women make up 70 to 80 percent of the production workforce. “We can tackle women’s empowerment in part by acknowledging that there are hardworking women making these clothes,” she said.
Two is that she hopes people will see that there are ways to support sustainable fashion beyond buying sustainable brands, which she pointed out can be expensive and therefore inaccessible to many consumers, including college students.
“Shop consciously,” she said. “Try more thrifting or secondhand shopping — it’s an easy and fun way to shop sustainably. Also, ask yourself key questions while shopping: Do I already have something similar? Can I see myself wearing this for many years to come? Do I really love this piece? Questions like these allow you to consider whether a piece will significantly contribute to your wardrobe or can be passed on.”
“Be realistic about what you can do,” she added. “Something people often forget is what’s most sustainable is wearing what’s already in your own closet.”