Brands Give Back spreads environmental awareness through fashion show

By Sam Schrage, Staff writer

Clothing brands like Patagonia and H&M have risen to popularity in recent years — but not just because they’re fashion forward. Both of these brands strive to make their clothes with sustainable materials, and hope to spread environmental awareness.

Emily Langtiw, president of Brands Give Back and freshman in LAS, hoped to achieve a similar mission when she started the club in September.

By combining fashion and the environment, Brands Give Back promotes clothing lines and businesses that have a foundation in environmentally sustainable clothing.

In addition to several fundraising events throughout the year, the club holds an annual fashion show. This year’s fashion show is Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the second-floor ballroom of the Illini Union. Tickets are $5 at the door.

This will be the second show the organization has put on. The first took place last summer in Langtiw’s hometown of Libertyville, Illinois. Langtiw first got the idea for starting the organization from the trends she observed from bigger brands in the fashion industry.

“I grew up loving fashion and the environment and lately sustainable fashion has been a movement within the industry,” Langtiw said. “I realized there wasn’t a club here on campus dedicated to that so we got together and started one.”

The mixing of fashion and environmental sustainability caught John Coombs’ attention, digital design chair of Brands Give Back and freshman in Business.

As digital design chair, Coombs is in charge of the organization’s social media, website and marketing.

“I think environmental change is an obvious thing going on in the world and I think it needs to be addressed by a student organization,” Coombs said. “I think what’s cool about what we’re doing is we’re bringing fashion into the realm of environmental sustainability. Having a student organization that does that is a pretty cool thing on campus.”

This year’s fashion show is sponsored by Tangletown Knits, a brand that specializes in knitted clothing items. The club also brought in donations from Patagonia, although they are not an official sponsor.

All proceeds from the show will be donated to the Rainforest Alliance, which encourages preservation of rain forests and biodiversity, said Rachel Han, member coordinator of Brands Give Back and freshman in LAS.

From looking for sponsors to recruiting models, a great deal of preparation and teamwork goes into planning the Brands Give Back fashion show.

Within the organization, three committees were designed to prepare for the big event. Although these committees deal separately with the fashion, fundraising and digital design aspect of the show, they are all working to make the show a success.

“We all sort of work together to make sure the needs for the fashion show are met,” Langtiw said. “This includes everything from paying off the show, to organization donations, to organizing the model lineup and coming up with the scripts.”

The show will be divided into five different sections based on environmental themes such as “rainy day” and “springtime.” Each section will highlight clothing from different brands including The Elephant Pants, Patagonia, Serengetee and H&M. The show will also include a live DJ.

Since this is Brands Give Back’s first year as a registered student organization at the University, they’re hoping the fashion show will promote the organization and recruit new members.

“Our goal for this last year or so has been not only to put on our fashion show, but also just to grow as an organization,” Coombs said. “The entire year we’ve been focusing on recruiting new members, making sure our name gets out there and to grow our sponsorship network.”

Although a new organization, Brands Give Back has shown an initiative to become involved with other students and organizations.

This year they partnered with the Student Alumni Ambassadors for their Campus Appreciation Day by holding an environmental sustainability booth on the quad. They are also trying to engage students in new and interactive ways.

“Something cool we just started was the Brands Give Back Ambassador Program,” Langtiw said. “We have a seven-week program where people who participate can do our weekly social media challenges and people who participate enough can become models in our show.”

Brands Give Back also holds several fundraisers to help raise funds for the fashion show and the Rainforest Alliance. One way they raise money is by selling Pura Vida bracelets.

Through their fundraisers and fashion show, Brands Give Back hopes to get people thinking about the effect they have on the environment and ways they can help conserve it, particularly through purchasing sustainable clothing.

“When we go into the store and buy something we don’t really think about how much water went into making that clothing item or whether it was recycled,” Langtiw said. “I hope that from the show people start thinking about fashion and the environment as something that is combined and not two separate things.”

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