I am a Millennial (born between 1980-2000), hailing from Auburn University in Alabama. I initially chose Fashion Merchandising as a major, but found that my interests extended beyond trend forecasting and production logistics to the lives of the people my clothing choices affected. I went to the third floor of my Human Sciences building and started knocking on my professors’ doors. I didn’t know what to call what I wanted to study, I just wanted to learn with someone who was just as passionate as I was. Eventually, I found a professor who was familiar with corporate social responsibility (CSR). We spent the semester studying about CSR in the apparel industry which eventually led to a research project and a published paper in a respected academic journal. She was incredibly busy with other projects, but she gifted me her time and knowledge to teach me something that was not expanded upon in regular classroom teachings. My professor gracefully invested in me, and as I step forward into my career post-graduation, I’ll never forget the fire and passion she instilled in me.
Later, I was invited by WRAP to begin an internship where I was invested in further. I became part of the future of CSR. I now look back and make a connection with those who have invested in me; I see the importance of paying it forward to those will one day be in our shoes. As we know, CSR and social compliance in the international apparel industry are more important than ever, but are we looking at training those entering the industry as equally important to the process? The graduates working in sourcing, do they know the effects that their actions have on the factory level? “I just want a button to the right of the applique, but I will still need the product on the original delivery date and will not pay for additional labor hours.” The decisions made have the potential to be destructive – thus being well informed can prevent unintentionally harmful situations.
I gave my anecdote to convey the importance of investing in the CSR future. I believe in the future of our young people in the apparel field. Sure, as Millennials, we are often billed as being obsessed with our cell phones and having short attention spans, but we also have potential to reshape the way the apparel industry approaches social compliance, responsibility, and sustainability. I’ve had the opportunity to present to a few fashion classes at universities across the country over Skype to tell students about what it is like on the factory level, the connection that brands and buyers have with the well-being of factory workers, and of course the work WRAP is doing to partner with all stakeholders to create better factories. In addition, Stuart Webster, WRAP’s Vice President of Training & Education, has conducted 5-Day Lead Auditor training courses for students in fashion programs in the Netherlands and Portland, Oregon. The industry expertise from our VP and our executive leadership from our CEO to Board of Directors has exposed me to many training seminars and apparel industry connections than I never imagined I would be involved in as a former fashion student at Auburn. All of these opportunities have been invaluable to me and ,in my opinion, represent the next level for the well-rounded fashion student in our industry today.