When Marymount University sophomore Caroline MacDonald found out last month that her research paper on sustainability in the textile industry was published in the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Undergraduate Research Journal, she was understandably thrilled but also slightly surprised by this success.
“I wanted to meld my interests in fashion design and sustainability together, so I researched fashion textile production and looked at the environmental and social impacts of different materials,” MacDonald said. “I knew I had done really good work on my paper, but I was surprised the research got published since I wrote it during my first year at Marymount.”
Currently majoring in Fashion Design, MacDonald looked into how materials such as cotton, polyester and leather are made and sourced, and if they can be recycled at the end of their life cycles. She discovered that while each of the materials had benefits for the textile industry, they all came with risks. For instance, leather has raised concerns over animal welfare, cotton has been associated with forced labor and polyester production can release microplastics into the air.
In her paper, MacDonald argued that designers and brands must provide consumers with a transparent understanding of the products they purchase and information on how to care for the materials throughout their life cycles, while also employing innovative practices to minimize the materials’ negative impacts.
“I had to look at a lot of different sources to compile my paper into one cohesive document,” MacDonald explained. “I just want to make sure that I represented the fashion industry well. Sustainability is a major issue right now, so I want to make sure that whatever I focus on is also trying to benefit the environment and social issues.”
MacDonald, an Honors student at Marymount, wrote the research paper during a tutorial with Dr. Stacy Lopresti-Goodman, Director of the University’s Honors Program. Dr. Lopresti-Goodman advised MacDonald on the paper and credited the successful publication to the first-year student’s dedication and commitment.
“Caroline is an exemplary Honors student, and it’s no surprise that she is the first freshman Honors student ever to have published a paper in a national journal,” Dr. Lopresti-Goodman said. “We are so lucky to have her as a member of our Honors Program and are so proud of all of her accomplishments.”
MacDonald originally chose to attend Marymount due to the Fashion Design program’s customized nature, which she found appealing.
“I didn’t want to go to New York and be in a huge fashion program that has a very cutthroat environment. I wanted to have more one-on-one interactions with faculty,” MacDonald said. “I met with a number of Marymount’s Fashion professors ahead of time and they let me sit in on classes. All of that together truly convinced me to come to Marymount.”
In addition to her research, MacDonald has gotten heavily involved in campus life during her first year at Marymount. She serves on the Honors Student Organization Board, teaches fitness classes, established a pattern making club and modeled her own garments in the most recent Portfolio in Motion fashion show. Off campus, she’s working for local fashion designer Kim Schalk.
She hopes to build on all of these experiences as she continues in her Marymount journey while also looking ahead to her future after graduation.
“My hope will be to initially start working for another company. I don’t want to start my own brand or anything right away,” MacDonald said. “I would love to work for another brand as either a technical designer or help more with the creative side of things. I definitely want to pull sustainability into whatever I do.”
To read MacDonald’s published research paper in its entirety, click here.