I met Anupama Pasricha, Ph.D., last year at an event showcasing her students’ designs. She’s chair of the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, and Design at St. Catherine University, and also an assistant professor there. She’s also an advocate for sustainable design and a a strong believer in the look good-feel good connection and the importance of cultivating positive body image in young women and men. Let’s hear from Anupama!
Have you always loved clothing and fashion?
Yes and no. The first time I fell in love with clothing and fashion was when I took an undergraduate course in textiles. Learning about fibers and fabrics was the turning point in my life. I am intrigued by fabric design, textures, and color and typically use those things as my inspiration.
You’ve dedicated your career to studying the historical/academic side of fashion. Have you ever considered designing?
The academic side of fashion has been extremely fulfilling since 1989. In the past 22 years I have never had the need or opportunity to think of an alternative to what I have been doing. Teaching provides me with the best of both worlds as I am able contribute to preparing future professionals for the fashion industry and teach design. Commitments to our program, university, and profession keeps me fairly busy, but I am able to find some time to do personal design work.
Your doctoral research focused on exploring the meaning of sustainability in the textiles and apparel discipline. Do you feel these industries are making real strides toward more sustainable manufacturing?
Sustainability encompasses environmental, social, and economic sustainability. I am positive that industries are making real strides but at this point they may not address all aspects of sustainability. Look at the latest example from H&M but now they are being questioned about below poverty wages in Cambodia. I think each company has to take steps toward sustainability, accomplish one or two goals each year, and continue their journey to be more sustainable with time. If they are not supported in their efforts and penalized (with negative publicity) on other issues that are yet to be addressed, it will be challenging for them to continue.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition – which has come up with the Higg Index, a self-assessment tool that not only measures where a company is but also provides opportunity for industry to find paths to change from within – already has more than 80 leading apparel and footwear brands who have committed to sustainability. Further, the fashion is sector in Sustainia (an innovative platform creating vision for sustainable future) as well as the Sustainability Consortium (sustainability assessment and reporting system).
What can consumers do to make their fashion purchases more sustainable?
It would be great if consumers would become more conscious in consumption, avoid cheap and fast fashion, buy less but buy quality, ask more questions and get educated about their purchases so that they make informed decisions. Consumers have the power to bring the change as companies have to ensure that their consumers are satisfied and happy. Each one of us has a role to play as every drop can add to the ocean of collective action.
Like me, you believe there is a strong connection between style and body image. How did you come to this conclusion?
I have been teaching about this connection as long as I have been teaching. In this discipline ,we have always talked about elements and principle of design and selection of style based on body shape and type and using the elements and principles to the best advantage to make a aesthetic statement. Body image is strongly influenced by a sense of self and the ideals established by society. Appropriately choosing styles that address those ideals and/or personal tastes can create body satisfaction and positive body image.
What advice would you give to a young person considering pursuing a degree in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design, or another similarly fashion-focused discipline?
It is a fabulous field. If you are passionate about fashion this discipline is for you, you will find your niche in design, styling, or retail. Being passionate about it I have never had a day when I felt that this was work for me. Each day has been full of contentment and satisfaction as I enjoy every moment. It is such a dynamic field so its never dull. Passion is the key to success and happiness in any profession. Skills necessary are innovative mindset, curiosity, life long learning and positive attitude, and a commitment to personal growth.
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If you’re interested in learning more about St. Kate’s Apparel, Merchandising, and Design program, please feel free to contact Dr. Pasricha directly via e-mail!