Sustainable Fashion Takes to the Skies
When United Airlines retired 20 "Fly the Friendly Skies" banners from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, they wondered how to best recycle the large pieces of fabric. The unique solution: the United Eco-Skies program, a design competition for Columbia College Chicago Fashion Studies students to upcycle the banners into sustainable, fashionable carry-on bags. This partnership between United, the Fashion Studies Department and Re:new, a nonprofit employing refugee women, resulted in two travel bags designed to simplify the airport experience, from the security line to the overhead bin.
"As part of our eco-skies commitment, we are excited to give these banners a second life, and know our customers will enjoy taking home a piece of the friendly skies," said Angela Foster-Rice, the airline's Managing Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability.
During the competition, students researched the perfect travel bag by visiting O’Hare’s airport security, boarding a plane and meeting with flight attendants. The two winning designs were judged on attractiveness, durability and the ability to fit under an airplane seat. First-place winner Anne Tilma created a duffel bag with a pocket that zips off to become a small cross-body bag. Second-place winner Dillon Halford created a backpack that maximized use of the banner, leaving less than 2 percent fabric waste in the production.
On Oct. 13, the student winners met with United representatives and Columbia College Chicago President Kwang-Wu Kim to unveil the final product. The bags are now available for purchase at www.unitedshop.com, with the proceeds benefiting Re:new and the Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in Northern Peru.
Halford sees the project as a reflection of the college’s commitment to sustainable fashion. "At Columbia, I think we take a great stance. There are so many opportunities to reuse old fabrics," he said. "You don't have to go out and buy $50-a-yard fabric to make something beautiful."