Aishwarya Moudgal

We Belong Here

Class of: 2025

Major: Strategic Design and Management BBA

Medium: Garment

Faculty: Aviva Maya Shulem

Prompt: In Integrative Studio 2, over the entire semester, we have learned skills and methods to explore and make sense of the environment around us and respond to it as designers in an informed, thoughtful way. Our task now is to put our findings into a final research report and present the response that stems from it in our Bridge 3 Studio proposal.

According to Pew Research Center, as of 2018, there are 44.8 million immigrants living in the United States, or 14% of the national population. A large percentage of U.S. immigrants are people of color, and of the 44.8 million, 3 million are refugees, and 10.5 million are undocumented. While often coming to the U.S. for a better life, many immigrants, especially those of racial-ethnic backgrounds, face discrimination, prejudice, and xenophobia in their daily lives. In essence, no matter how long they’ve lived in America, the average immigrant is viewed as a perpetual foreigner. A significant contributor to this problem is clothing. Ethnic clothing, which has been criticized mainly as foreign and un-American, has also been culturally appropriated by western fashion trends. And often, the people making these clothes are exploited for their labor. For immigrants to reclaim their presence in America, Americans need to educate themselves on the history of American immigration and learn about immigrants’ contributions to society. For this Bridge, I wanted to create a customizable t-shirt out of fabric scraps that symbolize reclaiming immigrant identity for my final design pitch. I placed these fabric scraps together to spell out life-affirming phrases such as “I Belong” to signify the reforming of space by immigrants who feel like their voices aren’t heard. The patchwork letters include significant cultural patterns/symbols of the various diasporas in America. The ultimate idea behind my plan was that immigrants around the country can make their t-shirts as part of a national campaign and customize them based on their unique intersectional identities and values.