B-School Prof Creates Eco-Friendly Gown

Posted by: Alison Damast on April 8, 2011

IMG_0296.jpegRecyclable graduation gowns may soon be the latest trend of the commencement season, thanks to a business professor from the Netherlands. Gail Whiteman, a professor at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management (Rottterdam Full-Time MBA Profile), decided to design her own academic gown for an event celebrating her promotion to department chair. She teaches courses on climate change and sustainability and decided it was time to “talk the walk” for her inaugural lecture before the school, starting with the academic gown she’d be wearing at the event, she says. “I wondered whether it could produced in a more eco-effective way,” she says.

Thus ensued a collaboration between Whiteman and DutchSpirit, a sustainable fashion label and de Togamaker, a gown supplier. The designers worked with Whiteman to produce a custom-made gown using a fabric called Returnity, that’s both recyclable and sustainable. She wore the gown last week for the event.

Whiteman is hoping that this small act will inspire others in the business school community to follow her example. She is in talks with heads of the university’s other programs to see if they are interested in providing sustainable gowns to graduates, and is promoting the eco-friendly garment to professors at Erasmus and other universities in the Netherlands, she says.

“An Eco-Togo cannot save the world, even if it is the first of its kind,” says Whiteman. “But this small act of innovation by like-minded individuals is a step in the right direction.”

Reader Comments


April 10, 2011 10:21 PM

I would think Bloomberg would be intelligent enough to do their homework. Jostens, Herff Jones, and Oak Hall Cap and Gowns have been doing this for years. Next thing you know Bloomberg will run a story on the Apple IIE that was invented in the 80's

BW's Louis Lavelle

April 11, 2011 9:37 AM

Thanks for the note Chris. You're absolutely right: all three companies market products that are eco-friendly in one way or another. For what it's worth, Bloomberg Businessweek never said this was a first--that was an assertion made by the professor herself (one that we let go unchallenged, unfortunately). I'm not sure what she meant by "first of its kind"--perhaps she had something much more specific in mind. At any rate, thanks for pointing out the error.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek


April 11, 2011 11:09 AM

Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management may want to reconsider promoting Gail Whiteman as department chair and hire Chris for the position. At least his information is current.

Erik Toenhake

April 13, 2011 6:34 AM

Thanks for your reactions Chris, Louis and Steve. I think it's good to give a short explanation to 'first of its kind'.

The unique thing of the toga DutchSpirit developed together with prof. Gail Whiteman is, that it is made of the Cradle to Cradle gold certificated fabric Returnity. Returnity is developed to be endlessly recyclable. And for that DutchSpirit closed the cascade with several business partners. For our casual clothes we even collect deposit to get the fabrics back.

Prof. Whiteman tells more about this gown in this interview:http://www.erasmusmagazine.nl/videos/2011/the_eco_toga_of_gail_whiteman

Kind regards,

Rien Otto, designer
Erik Toenhake, director

BW's Louis Lavelle

April 13, 2011 8:29 AM

Thanks for the explanation Erik.

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