Sustainable Clothing Designer - Kali & Reference Librarian - City Colleges of Chicago
Bachelor in Environmental Studies 2009
"I had found a meaningful community at EUC that truly cared about our footprint on the planet and wanting to make a difference. The program prepared me for my career both as a librarian and a sustainable clothing designer."
About Caterina Mazzotta
Why did you decide to major in Environmental Studies at York University? What made you choose Environmental Studies at York?
I was always interested in current events, politics and the environment. While working part-time in a library, I came across a few books that really hit home. The books focused on human impact on climate and the environment and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand our place in the world. And I wanted to figure out how I could make a difference. I applied to various environmental programs in Canada and decided on FES at York since it had the most interesting class offerings.
How would you describe your years at FES, and did the program prepare you for your career? How?
I really enjoyed my years at FES, actually, I would say I loved it. From everything I learned, to the amazing peers I met, I felt I had found a meaningful community at FES that truly cared about our footprint on the planet and wanting to make a difference. The program prepared me for my career both as a librarian and a sustainable clothing designer. I was able to hone my research skills during my years of study which proved to be a fundamental asset as I moved on to complete a Masters and work as a librarian.
While I was studying, I continued to sew - a long-time passion of mine - whenever I had the chance. When developing a career in fashion, it seemed improbable, but my BES was the degree that proved to be the impetus for my clothing company. I started to seek out sustainable textiles so I could donate the fast-fashion items in my wardrobe and replace them with sustainable ones. I know it's difficult to be perfect when it comes to being a conscious shopper and creator, but I've learned it's important to ask ourselves "who makes our clothes?” I was happy to realize a lot of people where asking themselves the same question. That's when I decided to fuse my passion for environmental sustainability and fashion.
From that collective purpose came Kali (kaliclothing.com): meaningful fashion that combines style and ethics motivated by social responsibility. Learning about so much greenwashing, I really wanted to do something that was true to the cause and that's why I created a company with an environmental mission. It was important to me to understand how harmful traditional clothing manufacturing is and how to replace it with more sustainable practices.
Describe your post-graduation journey including experiences such as employment, volunteer work, and community engagement projects.
Graduating the year after the recession was tough when it came to looking for employment. I eventually went back to complete a Master’s Degree in Information and Library Science that allowed me to give back to students with much of the same guidance I received during my BES studies while completing my education.
My passion for research and education led me to working as a librarian and teaching students about information literacy. While I continued working in libraries throughout my BES and afterwards I always maintained library displays and collections on new material related to environmental science, politics and philosophy. I assisted with library events to create awareness and start conversations about climate change and sustainability. I also worked with an amazing organization called Fashion Takes Action and was honoured to dress Olivia Chow for an eco-fashion show.
Whether working with libraries or organizations like Fashion Takes Action, it was important to me to fuse my passion for research, education, awareness and activism to help impact the choices we make in an effort to lessen our ecological footprint.
What is your current job title, or project you are working on, and how would you describe the work you do in a typical day? What do you love about your current job?
I'm currently a Reference Librarian with a community college. It’s extremely rewarding because I'm able to work with students and help them achieve their education goals. Every day I learn something new and I enjoy helping students with one-on-one research consultations and encouraging them to challenge their own biases when researching.
I also teach classes on information literacy and how to evaluate information they find online. When I’m not behind the reference desk, I work in a home studio designing, pattern making and sewing garments that I add to the “seasonless” Kali collection. During the holidays, I prepare for holiday markets and work on maintaining a production schedule to meet customer and shop requests. At other times of the year, the day-to-day is focused on researching innovative eco-textiles, sketching or designing new additions to the collection, pattern making and working on samples, maintaining customer relations, preparing online orders and working on a production timeline with local, fair-wage production.
If you could leave current students with a piece of advice, what would it be?
I know how busy life gets but it’s worth it to join at least one student club or campus organization/community. Meeting like-minded vegan and vegetarians helped me be more confident in my choices and learning how to garden while I was a student was calming during the stress of exams. These clubs introduced me to inspiring and thoughtful peers that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise met!