Since April 2019, a small group of Fashion Design and Merchandising students have been working hard – not at the drawing board or sewing machine – but instead, in the laboratory.
Under the guidance of professor Shu-Hwa Lin, the students have been exploring “vegan leather,” and what they’ve discovered has won the International Textile Apparel & Association’s 2020 Paper of Distinction Award.
“I came to UHM with the hope of learning how to create innovative and sustainable textiles,” says Savannah Adler. “This made my dream into a reality. A big mahalo to FDM and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources for providing students like us with such cutting-edge opportunities.”
Savannah, with fellow students Ailee Anitpapa, Benjamin Revord, Savanna Lendrum, and Maddison Zadina, learned to grow, dye, dry, and evaluate color changes of vegan leather produced in the UHM textile lab.
During this almost two-year process, they found that, compared to animal leather, vegan leather requires a miniscule amount of water to produce. All inputs can be found in tropical climates, and the circular production model is well suited for Hawaii’s limited (and high-cost) land and resources. What’s more, a strength test indicates that vegan leather has the potential for multiple commercial applications in the fashion industry.
“Working on this project required tremendous discipline, commitment, and teamwork,” says Savannah. “We are so blessed for the opportunity as an undergraduate to work alongside Dr. Lin and learn about alternative textile production. Receiving the Paper of Distinction Award was more than we could ever hope for. We are honored and humbled, and will continue to research sustainable and socially responsible materials for the fashion industry.”
She adds, “I couldn’t have asked for a better challenge during my final semesters, and for such encouraging news during this turbulent time.”
The students will be recognized at the ITAA’s 2020 Annual Meeting on Nov. 18-20.