You started a fabric recycling program at FIT. How did you make it happen?

Brooke Singer, Direct and Interactive Marketing ’24, Fashion Design ’22

For her capstone Fashion Design project, Singer hand-shredded waste fabric to fill this clear puffer vest. Photo by Ryan Singer.

When I was a Fashion Design student, I realized pretty quickly how expensive fabric was and how much we were wasting. This is something that the fashion industry is not mindful about. I made sustainability the basis of my studies, learned zero-waste patternmaking from [Assistant Professor] Amy Sperber, and ran for the secretary of sustainability position in the Student Government Association.

I started the recycling program with two other SGA senators, Grace Cooper [Fashion Design ’24] and Rebecca Dillenberger [Textile Development and Marketing ’23]. Recycling is weirdly difficult—there are all these little nuances, depending on the kind of fabric. Recycling stretch fabrics and anything with synthetics is not impossible, but a lot of companies don’t want to take the extra step. And a lot are only taking fabric on a sometimes basis; we needed a constant place for all our fabric to go.

Through networking, I was introduced to the CEO of Scrap NYC. He 100 percent saw our vision and the bigger picture. Scrap NYC will do weekly pickups, and they can recycle all fabrics, 98% of what we give them.

We are piloting the program in 10 classrooms with just muslin, since that is the easiest to recycle. Scrap NYC works with Renewcell, a company that reworks cellulose fiber into new products like towels. They’ve partnered with Marriott, Target, and Patagonia, and some of their fabric becomes McDonald’s employee uniforms. We’re also taking 10% of what we collect and composting it in FIT’s natural dye garden.

Our goal is to have complete fabric recycling in every single classroom by 2024.