On April 9th and 10th, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design junior Beth Rispoli (BHA ‘20, Product Design and Cognitive Neuroscience) served as a panelist at the Innovation Forum’s Sustainable Apparel and Textiles conference in Amsterdam. The two-day conference addressed issues relating to the apparel industry and aimed to equip its attendees with best practices and knowledge relating to transforming apparel supply chains.
Rispoli, who was the only undergraduate attending the conference, discussed various issues in sustainable apparel, such as how brands need to take responsibility for making sustainable products, since putting the onus on the consumer has not been working.
“There needs to be a push towards circularity of the product life cycles while also keeping in mind that the product’s materiality and design is why the 95% of consumers will purchase it,” said Rispoli. “My main takeaway is that there will be no one precise solution to the wicked problem of unsustainable fashion. The entire industry will have to start making small changes and small developments that will fix the problem over time."
Rispoli has a long, diverse history of making. Growing up, she did everything from working in a garage woodshop to competing on a robotics team to sewing figure skating dresses. While she initially wanted to pursue a career in engineering and medicine, she ultimately decided these fields offered no creative outlet and space for solving problems elegantly. By chance, she toured the School of Design when her older brother was applying, and immediately knew she wanted to pursue design, specifically, product design, to further her passion for physical making.
Beyond her studies, Rispoli is also a rising entrepreneur. She has her own custom figure skating dress business, which she started in high school. Her most recent endeavor, PupCycled, is a Pittsburgh-based pet company that takes textiles destined for the landfill and upcycles them into high-end dog apparel. Rispoli was inspired to pursue this industry when her own dog, Aggie, needed a sweater. She found a bag of old sweaters her parents were donating to Goodwill and used her sewing expertise to create a small wardrobe for Aggie. Her designs were well received on social media, and this ultimately encouraged her to start selling them at local markets.
“I find that people are more willing to consider the issues of sustainability and consequences of fast fashion in a comfortable, fun context—dogs,” noted Rispoli.
PupCycled is part of CMU’s Project Olympus incubator, which is helping the company scale. Currently, PupCycled is conducting a selective pre-release in local Pittsburgh pet stores, but hopes to start selling on a larger scale soon. They recently partnered with the East End Cooperative Ministry’s Sew Forward Program, a cut and sew shop and workforce development program in East Liberty, and are starting small batch manufacturing of its two main products. Other projects on the horizon include a Kickstarter to raise money to develop a design studio, as well as to add more products for the brand.
Rispoli credits her education, specifically her classes around transition design and sustainability, with helping her in the fight for sustainable textiles.
“Design really changes the way you see the world and enables you find creative solutions to complex problems. It allows you to become an innovator and a communicator that thrives in today’s changing landscape. The School of Design is one of the best design schools for this with their emphasis on human-centered, interaction, and transition design.”