On Wednesday July 9, the Guardian held a live online chat where a panel of experts discussed, “What do fashion students need to know about sustainability?”
With the growing population increasing the need for resources, and climate change affecting companies all over the world, sustainability in the fashion industry is set to become a very important issue.
During the discussion questions and answers were in purely written form and members of the public could give questions beforehand via Twitter.
There were people joining in the discussion from all over the world including Paris, Colombia and South Africa. The panel was made up of many experts in the field of fashion and sustainability including Renee Cuoco, the education for sustainability projects manager at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Anna Fitzpatrick, who has worked for the Centre for Sustainable Fashion on sustainable fashion projects, Natasha Tucker, co-owner of rêve en vert, an online fashion shop which stocks brands in line with their ethos of sustainability, and Sarah Ditty, the editor in chief of SOURCE Intelligence at Ethical Fashion Forum, also joined the panel.
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One question that inspired much debate was, “Is sustainability and supply chain transparency being introduced as a formal part of fashion design syllabus?”
Ditty commented that although they do a lot of work in universities and sustainability is talked about in general, there doesn’t yet seem to be a specific place for transparency within mainstream fashion courses, but it is becoming an increasingly popular topic.
She says she wishes that sustainability were at the heart of fashion courses. Ditty explained, “I think on the whole though, it is still unfortunately an afterthought in the majority of schools, especially outside the UK.”
Cuoco said there has been some work between designers and companies at the London College of Fashion and it would be great to see more of this, especially for students to engage with companies that are focused on sustainability.
There was also a question on customers buying sustainable clothes, what they are looking for and how they can be encouraged. Tucker said their customers tend to be moving away from ‘fast fashion’ and want to invest in their clothes. She added customers “appreciate stories behind their pieces and the fact that something is sustainable is often an added value”.
Another interesting question included, “How can aspiring designers factor environmental and social issues into their work?”
Ditty replied saying, “I think first and foremost aspiring designers should look at sustainability as necessity, a license to operate as a designer in the future. In [a] world of depleting natural resources, climate change, rising labour costs, growing social unrest in garment supply chains worldwide, it is a requirement.”
Overall the debate really showed how, although sustainable fashion is still a niche market, there are lots of people who are passionate about this sector and are trying to take it into the mainstream.
Photo: Ishan Khosla via Flickr