Fashion and Textile Management Student Explores Industry Sustainability through Kontoor Internship
By Mary Giuffrida
For fashion and textile management (FTM) student Eva King, working towards sustainability in the textile industry became a priority early on in her career at the Wilson College of Textiles.
The senior credits her initial interest in sustainability to Professor Karen Leonas, whose class she took her freshman year.
“I took FTM 217 with Dr. Leonas and she was a really big push for me towards sustainability,” King says. “And then when I was trying to pick a minor I chose to do environmental science.”
King’s drive towards sustainability led her to pursuing a summer internship with Kontoor Brands, a global lifestyle apparel company which houses brands such as Wrangler and Lee, focused on sustainability in the textiles industry.
“I had never really seen an internship for a textiles company that was solely sustainability focused,” she says. “Wrangler and Lee are really big denim brands, and denim is a huge water-wasting product. I thought it would be a cool experience to get to work on a sustainability team at a company like that.”
King conducted research for Kontoor, investigating ways the company could be more sustainable and comparing them to competitors. Her favorite project involved garment ticketing, or working with the tags placed on clothing for sale.
“I looked at how having a sustainable tag would have an effect on people actually purchasing sustainable products,” King says.
Along with individual assignments, Kontoor paired her with other interns to complete larger projects in a collaborative setting.
“It was a great learning experience because we got to present our work to the executives,” King explains. “Since we were working remotely, learning how to communicate with people was something that I really learned how to do.”
The skills and knowledge put to use at Kontoor came in large part from her time at the Wilson College.
“I would say a lot of the more science-based textile classes that I would be in, I didn’t know why I was in those classes at the time, but they actually came up a lot in my internship,” she says. “A lot of my courses really prepared me for the work I was doing.”
Working at Kontoor also helped her learn about how large companies handle sustainability. She explains how her understanding of sustainability within the industry has expanded through her internship.
“I didn’t realize how much went into it,” King says. “I just didn’t know all the different reports and laws about how you can market sustainable products, so I definitely learned a lot.”
After a summer in the program, King is confident in working with a large corporation, from communicating with co-workers, to conducting research, completing Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reports and presenting her work. Her experience at Kontoor has encouraged King to continue down the path of sustainability with future jobs.
“I really want to work for a company that truly values sustainability,” she says. “I think doing more marketing so I can promote it, because that’s really my strong suit.”