People, student profile
April 11, 2022
Maria Paz Marengo
Bachelor of Administration
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Rio Cuarto, Argentina
“After this experience, I think helping to bring more sustainability into the industry is something I could help with.”
GROWING UP IN THE SMALL ARGENTINA TOWN OF RIO CUARTOMaria Paz Marengo has been passionate about fashion for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve always loved it,” shares the fourth-year Bachelor of Management student. “The town I’m from is small – about twice the size of Kelowna – but everyone there seems really organized all the time. I used to watch all the red carpet shows like the Oscars and the Grammys just to see the fashion. I don’t give a damn about the awards ceremony itself,” she laughs.
As Marengo’s understanding of the luxury fashion industry grew, so did his curiosity about its odd, almost illogical appeal. “What first caught my attention was how beautiful it was, but soon I started wondering why people buy it. Why would you spend an extra $500 on something you can get from of a fast fashion retailer? What is the shopper’s intent?”
Marengo came to UBC Okanagan to explore a career in marketing and consumer research for the luxury fashion industry. “Growing up where I grew up, everyone knows each other, which is why I chose UBCO,” she says. “Kelowna feels like a small town. I didn’t want to go straight to a big city.
“I remember moving the first year and I saw people throwing away their clothes. It was a shock. In Argentina, we don’t throw away our things, even if it’s cheap. If we couldn’t wear it, we would give it away or cut it up in rags. I never threw anything away.”
Waking up to fashion waste
While Marengo adapted easily to life in the Okanagan, one thing caught her by surprise. “I remember moving in the first year and I saw people throwing away their clothes. It was a shock,” she says. dear. If we couldn’t carry it anymore, we gave it away or cut it up in rags. I never threw anything away.”
This was the start of Marengo’s awareness around waste and sustainability in the fashion industry. When she lands in Dr Annamma Joyof the Brands, Culture and Marketing course, Marengo was thrilled to discover that her passions were starting to intersect. “I looked at the program and noticed that one of our projects was for luxury brands. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m really excited!’ »
Hoping to do research during her last summer as an undergraduate, Marengo contacted Dr. Joy. The management professor, who is writing a book on the future of luxury brands and sustainability, suggested Marengo apply for an international undergraduate research award for a project related to this topic. When the award was approved, Marengo dove straight in, first examining its own purchasing decisions, then exploring circularity – the entire product lifecycle – in the luxury market.
Reflecting on the Sustainability and Business course (MGMT 380) she took as part of the Bachelor of Management Program, Marengo points out that sustainability is no longer optional in business. “This course taught me that sustainability is about more than greenwashing or ethics. If you want long-term success, you have to be sustainable,” she says. “Investing in sustainable initiatives ends up paying for itself. It was a big realization for me – that it’s not that you have to be ethical and eco-friendly for the sake of it. There’s profit in that. It’s the future; it’s business.
Designing a more sustainable future
Today, Marengo says the research skills she learned over the summer are being put to good use in the research-focused final year of her undergraduate studies. “I feel like I know where to look for information now and how to find reliable sources that are helpful,” she says. “I don’t waste time looking at information that isn’t usable.”
Her summer experience has also changed her perspective on the world and the way she interacts with the planet. “Before, I was someone who said, ‘Yes, I care about sustainability.’ Obviously I believe in climate change I believe we have to change something to save the planet But when I started looking at what I was buying the only thing I was concerned about was if it was workshop free I didn’t consider the environmental aspect of sustainability.
These days, Marengo is making more conscious decisions to find sustainable alternatives to the fast fashion it’s used to buying and is actively seeking brands whose business model is rooted in sustainability. With graduation on the horizon, Marengo is also more focused than ever on the luxury fashion sector, planning to move to the fashion capital of the world, Milan, in hopes of pursuing a master’s degree in luxury management.
Working in luxury fashion has always been a dream, she says, but now she’s added a passion for sustainability to the mix. “I think a lot of luxury fashion companies are more advanced, in a way, than conventional fast fashion companies, but there’s still a long way to go,” she says. “After this experience, I think helping to bring more sustainability into the industry is something I could help with.”