Textiles and apparel play an important role in everyone’s daily life – from clothing to the textiles that surround us in our homes, cars, businesses, public spaces, and even in the outdoors – and in the global economy. According to Fashion United, the global apparel market in 2016 was valued at $3 trillion and accounted for 2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
The Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising prepares students to enter this vast and changing world through creativity and an eye to the future. Among the many innovations in the department is the development of a Digital Design Technology Hub to provide students and faculty with the latest technology used in the apparel industry. Starting with the fall semester of 2017, students can digitally design a garment and fit it on a 3-D computer-generated avatar.
The new computer classroom, together with the department’s 3-D and 4-D body scanner (4-D adds the capability of recording the dimension of body movement), will also allow students to create their designs, obtain a body scan of their model, print a pattern scaled to the model’s figure and then construct their garments. They will even be able to design and print fabrics specifically for their garments on a new textile printer. Student works are shown to the public every spring in the Fashion Association’s annual student fashion show.
The acquisition of a 3-D and 4-D body scanner has made possible a number of research projects and collaborations with other LSU units. Fitting issues are a complaint among consumers of ready-to-wear apparel because the U.S. apparel sizing system does not represent the diversity in ethnicity and body shapes comprising the population. Faculty members are conducting research to create flexible pattern grading and drafting systems for industry use, which will provide a basis for improving the fit of ready-to-wear garments for all sizes and body shapes of both men and women.
Louisiana and other Southern states have large populations of feral hogs. These hogs damage vegetation, harm other species and carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, and there is a concerted effort to drastically reduce their numbers. To a limited extent, the meat is being used as food, but a faculty member in the department is also trying to find use for the hides as feral hog leather in apparel. Commercially produced pig skins are currently used in the apparel industry and the skins of feral pigs could be promoted as a novelty leather for similar uses and provide a source of income to farmers while reducing the population of these destructive animals.
The fashion industry focuses on culturally creative and diverse products and has potential to cultivate small businesses in Louisiana and across the nation. There has been an increase in the number of fashion entrepreneurs in Louisiana. Faculty members are developing a multidimensional measurement to assess fashion entrepreneurship efficacy. This study will enhance fashion entrepreneurship development. Many graduates of the department have started their own businesses in apparel design and fashion merchandising, and the success rate of these and other entrepreneurs can be increased.
As part of their research on sustainability, faculty have been working with support of the Louisiana Alligator Council to promote the use of locally produced alligator leathers in the fashion industry. The inventory of slightly flawed, Grade 3, alligator skins has grown because this market has not been fully developed domestically or globally. Faculty and students are exploring ways to expand market demand for these skins. Both of the above research projects provide support for Louisiana fashion entrepreneurs, and many of their products can be marketed as “Made in Louisiana,” a state promotional theme.
Textile scientists investigate natural and synthetic organic polymers used in textile materials, together with preparation of sustainable composites made of plant-derived polymers and fibers. Adding value to Louisiana byproducts is reflected in efforts to formulate textile composite materials from bagasse and corn-derived bio-polyesters, and the evaluation of physical characteristics of Grade 3 alligator skins. Graduate student research has been initiated on the use of fish scales as a source for dye-absorbing materials to remove dyes from waste waters in the textile industry. Black drum fish was identified as a suitable source of scales, and support of the Louisiana fishing industry has been secured.
Research in the department is conducted on the cultural and historical significance of textiles and apparel. Two such projects focus on Louisiana. One documents handwoven Louisiana Acadian textiles and the tools used in home production of those textiles, and the other is a study of mid-19th century burial dress based on archaeological evidence from Louisiana. The latter study has been expanded to include burial garments from Mississippi and New York. Students are applying what they learn in their survey of world textiles course to complete a technical description and cultural documentation of a large collection of traditional garments from Central America. These garments are part of a more than 200-piece donation to the LSU Textile and Costume Museum.
The LSU Textile and Costume Museum's holdings are global in scope and include prehistoric and ethnic textiles and garments as well as contemporary high fashions and high-tech textiles. The museum supports the teaching and research efforts of faculty and students. Special collections within the museum preserve a vital part of local, state and regional history. The museum's LSU collection documents innumerable aspects of the university's unique history. Its Louisiana collection includes Native American and Acadian textile artifacts, inaugural garments of previous governors and their families, Red Cross attire used during the Katrina recovery effort, and post-World War II feed sack clothing. The university recently provided new physical space to the museum where it will have a much larger public exhibition gallery with a dedicated entrance.
The Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising works to expand its scope and continue to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed in the contemporary job market. Graduates are sought after to fill design and merchandising management positions in the fashion industry. Many students after participating in national and international internships choose to stay in Louisiana to use their skills and increase the recognition of Louisiana as an important player in the fashion world.
Jenna Kuttruff is head of the Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising and holds the Beverly Griffin Shea Alumni Association Departmental Professorship.
Students in the Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising evaluate and prepare garments for display in the LSU Textiles and Costume Museum. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
A model wears a garment designed by a student during a student-directed fashion show. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
Students get the proper fit for their clothing designs by using a 3-D and 4-D body scanner, which records 400 measurements and gives 1.5 million data points to create a true-to-scale digital model or avatar of a person scanned. Students can then print a pattern scaled to the person’s figure and construct a garment with a perfect fit.