Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, PhD

Associate Professor, Fashion Design

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Professor Ruppert-Stroescu asks the question: “how can I contribute to the economic and psychological importance of eco-effective apparel as fashion, particularly the ability to change appearance through clothing?” By discovering techniques that generate zero waste and allow for transformation, her work increases resource productivity and has a greater potential to remain in the use cycle (Laitala & Boks, 2012).

Professor Ruppert-Stroescu engaged Ugandans to transform a pickup truck of Banana waste into 2.5 meters of fabric. The Banana is one of the most important food crops in Uganda (over 10 million tons of bunches each year), grown by about 75% of farmers on 38% of the country’s total arable land, and is a major source of income for many people especially the rural poor. Transforming the pseudo-stem of the banana plant grown in Uganda into textiles for apparel is particularly eco-effective because it has the potential to directly provide those rural poor with an additional source of income. The fruit of the banana plant is the staple food for over 12 million people in West and Central Uganda. The leaves at the top of the stem are mainly used for steaming food and mulching. Most of the layered stems, which are about 45″ long, are left as waste, though sometimes used for mulching or for making stiff craft materials like mats, baskets, and paper, utilized for household and commercial use. Transformation of bast fibers from the Pisang Awak species into apparel fabric formulated the foundation of inquiry. While there are several different materials worldwide that are being utilized for fabric production, this particular banana fiber production has the potential to provide eco-effective materials that increase resource productivity and enhances the economic evolution of Uganda. Current focus is on refining the yarn and weaving process to make the fabric more apparel-friendly. I plan to reach out to the Olin Business School’s Center for Research in Economics and Strategy to further develop this project’s economic potential, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University to explore material development.”