Kai Johnson: Environmentally ethical fashion

Kai Johnson is a double major in apparel design and bioproducts and biosystems engineering. While those fields may not at first seem to relate, she draws knowledge from both in her apparel work.

Kai Johnson

“The biggest intersection is in looking at design and engineering as a system—so it’s taking tools to solve problems, and for that, it doesn’t matter what the industry is,” she says. “I use a lot of the sustainability things I’m learning in engineering, and I can apply them in design.”

She believes that one of the biggest problems in the clothing industry today is in the process of design.

Johnson believes that one of the biggest problems in the clothing industry today is in the process of design.

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“Waste is part of the output, and a lot of designers don’t take that into account. That is not something that the industry can continue with to be both economically and ethically appropriate,” says Johnson.

In her work, she takes inspiration in part from her home state of Colorado, from the beauty of the Rocky Mountains to its record of environmental conscientiousness. Her interest lies not only in the design and creation of clothing, but in the creation of systems that allow for the sustainable and ethical manufacturing of products.

She hopes to work in the growing wearable technology industry, which will allow her to combine her knowledge of design and engineering.

For her line in the senior fashion show, she created clothing designed for young women who view their wardrobe as a daily representation of their personal values, and she’s awed by the work of all her classmates.

“Our class is so unique in that everyone’s line is totally different, and everyone’s perspective on fashion is different,” she says. “We’ve all gone through the same coursework—but we have taken it in very different directions.”

“I took a lot of inspiration from my home in Colorado—from the colors of the mountains, and also took inspiration from Queen…a little bit more glamour, especially in Freddie Mercury’s fashion. A melding of the outdoor aesthetic with high-fashion.”

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