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Ultimate Cotton Influencer Challenge promotes sustainability in fashion industry


Instagram influencer Kia Marie gives a lecture on what it takes to be an influencer on March 14 in the French Auditorium.

The Ultimate Cotton Influencer Challenge Kick-off launched a social media sustainability challenge at 7 p.m. March 14, featuring live music, games and Instagram influencer Kia Marie as a guest speaker in the College of Education and Human Services building.

The goal of the event was to kick off the Ultimate Cotton Influence Competition, which challenges all CMU students to create an Instagram post dedicated to fiber and textile cotton. The goal is to engage as many viewers as possible while education Instagram users about cotton.

"(The fashion) industry is really wasteful," said Erie senior Liz Skryzmoski. "Cotton is more sustainable because it is a natural fiber and can be rapidly reproduced. It's so much better for our environment than all the plastic-based clothing. It's more environmentally friendly."

Cotton is a natural plant-based fiber which is sustainable, renewable, and biodegradable. The main alternatives to cotton are non-renewable chemical fibers. Each year the fashion industry requires enough fiber for nearly 9 billion tee shirts or 2.3 billion pairs of denim jeans, according to Cotton Campus, meaning this much clothing must be produced with either sustainable or non-renewable fibers.

Livonia sophomore Sarah Sokolowski said her interest in the challenge is sustainability. 

"I buy all of my clothes second-hand and I'm a designer so I'm really interested in refurbishing and recycling clothing," she said. "I think t-shirts and cotton-based clothing are a really good opportunity for that." 

The competition has officially started and will continue through Sunday, March 31 at midnight. The challenge offers an opportunity to make one's name known, create content for a national corporation, Cotton Incorporated, bulk one's resume or portfolio, and a chance to win money.

The challenge includes three themes — cotton sustainability, lifestyle marketing for cotton and cotton as a luxury fiber. There are two format options to submit content — a carousel post of 3-10 videos, pictures or gifs or a 6-20 second long video post. 

The competition is open to individual contestants or teams of two, and allows for two separate entries as long as both have a different theme and format.

Entries are to be submitted via email to The content does not have to be posted on Instagram to be considered but must follow the guidelines and be emailed by the contest deadline. 

There will be six winners, one for each theme in the two different format categories, chosen by an anonymous judging panel. A grand prize winner will then be selected from those six winners at the Threads Fashion Show, which will take place at 7 p.m. April 6 in the CEHS building. More information about the challenge can be found at

After the challenge guidelines were fully discussed, guest speaker and Instagram influencer Kia Marie (@thenotoriouskia) entered to talk about her own work and experience as a social media lifestyle influencer.

Marie emphasized finding one's niche, narrowing down the focus and audience and researching the field of interest. When discussing how to begin as an influencer, she said, "Be real with yourself and be as specific as possible."  

"Know your audience so you can get their attention and make it count," Marie said. Consistency is key when starting out, so she emphasized posting three times a day when you first start. Also, making content relatable and impactful helps connect to the audience. 

Summing up her role as an influencer, Marie said she makes content to express herself creatively.

"People are visitors on your page, you wouldn't let someone disrespect you in your home, so don't let them do it online," she said. "Protect your space at all costs."