Fashion as an expression of art, culture and identity is always responsive of the time and space in which it exists. It is governed by trends, and with the pace at which we have advanced technologically in the last hundred years, it has become one of the most lucrative industries on the planet. While there is much to be said about the dynamics of how fashion systems operate in the world, there is also a striking movement of sustainability unfolding in which industry players are all waking up to the necessity for shifting the way we create, produce, market and distribute garments. On a large scale, millennials are particularly aware of the environmental and social injustices which bind our society in a very harrowing position; one that could potentially end in disaster if we are not to take action. It is particularly interesting to note the wave of young, emerging designers who are using fashion as their medium to stand up against oppression and ignorance for the planet and her people; and it would seem that traditional fashion schooling is being remodeled to adjust to these changes in consciousness.
Central Saint Martins is a London based, world renowned university known widely as the epicenter of nurturing fashion and artistic talents. Notable graduates included Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, John Galliano, Christopher Kane, Phoebe Philo, Hussein Chalayan and Riccardo Tisco – the list goes on, and it’s extensive, and the mastery with which these designers have made fashion history is testament to the quality of learning that Central Saint Martin’s offers. CSM is known for being ahead of the curve in all that they teach; and it comes as no surprise that they are offering multiple programs concerning sustainability, from short courses, online courses to full Bachelor degrees and Master’s Degrees in the Arts. Their extensive webpage is easily navigating for anyone interested in applying for their range of courses.
“Our relationship with the planet's resources calls for urgent and lasting change. If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets with be required to sustain current lifestyles. Artists and designers are uniquely placed to meet these challenges. All forms of creative practice combine the ability to imagine new futures with the means to deliver them. Our work isn't defined simply by what we produce, but what comes before and after – how those things are made and how they are used. We understand that the world is shaped through creative action.” – Visit CSM's site.
It is often speculated that luxury fashion was born in Florence, Italy; home to the headquarters of Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci to name a few. Polimoda Firenze is a cutting edge, state of the art fashion school pioneering an adaptative model of teaching; cultivating creative and commerce aptitude in their students. They currently offer two speciality courses tailored around sustainability; one Masters for a duration of 9 months, and a Seasonal course for 1 month.
“Sustainable Fashion is an up-to-date program designed to shape Sustainability Specialists, Circular Economy Managers and Fashion Diversity Managers.” – Visit Polimoda's site.
It is the firm belief of Polimoda to nurture the future leaders and disruptors of the fashion industry to invent and apply new systems of thinking throughout the production, marketing and supply chains of fashion. Their close relationships with haute couture fashion houses, industry insiders and fashion week’s across Europe allow students the best chances to get their careers started in the European fashion industry.
Studying fashion in the bustling city of New York is part of any young designer’s dream. Parons is perhaps the mecca of this dream. With its innovative facilities, notable alumni and stellar adaptability to new waves of thinking in fashion. The most interesting approach to sustainability is their emphasis on fashion as a socio-cultural tool; how do we redesign an inclusive, diverse fashion system that does not perpetuate singular, binary examples of beauty, race, gender and body shapes? Their academic approach tackles the big questions of culture present in our experience of fashion and identity – perfect for any fashion student wanting to elicit an intellectual thought in their studies.
“Parsons has educated generations of illustrious designers and today leads the global industry though innovative, rigorous programs and projects. Parsons’ School of Fashion engages the spectrum of fashion design and marketing practice, competitively situating graduates academically and professionally. You develop your voice within a thriving field while innovating ways to bring beautiful, responsible, and relevant work to light.” – Visit Parson's site.
In a quaint town of Sweden rests one of the leading schools in textile and fashion design; The Swedish School of Textiles. This campus boasts innovative research and design labs, where cutting edge teaching and experimenting takes place; bringing the fashion world closer to having incredible fibres for garments, designed in considered, dynamic environments. Sustainable practices are the foundation of their research and application programs; ensuring that their students hone their skills ever mindful of the challenges and changes presented by the current time of the Anthropocene; the ecological era in which humanity has the ability to influence the natural order.
“The Business of Fashion’s (BoF) annual evaluation of the world’s fashion schools are intended to inform potential students about which schools are best. And the Swedish School of Textiles’ Bachelor’s programme in Fashion Design and its Master’s programme in Fashion and Textile Design have been rated at the very top.” – Visit Borås'site.
Through the introduction of a short specialization course in Sustainability, IED in Barcelona, Spain is proving to be a leading school for ecological and social awareness in fashion. This leading school combines a new approach to learning, with campuses throughout Europe; however their campus in Barcelona is striking in its approach to offering a foundation in sustainability. Their objectives and methodologies are crafted to incorporate the leading research and discoveries in sustainable thinking, and thus design. This is truly a school to watch for the future leaders of fashion!
“The concept of sustainability is gaining ground in our society. For a great many reasons, which include consumers growing more responsible, laws getting stricter and waning resources becoming more expensive, sustainable development is rising as one of the key factors for companies to survive and gain a competitive advantage over their competition in the near future.” – Visit IED's site.
The Fashion School of Luxury and Design situated in Paris offers a leading undergraduate course known as “Sustainable Fashion Design’’. This program is a response to the worldwide revolution taking place in fashion. One in which the three “P’s” are applied across the board: Planet, People and Profit – all equal and fair components of how a business model should function. Students in their third and final year can choose to specialize in either design or business; each being rooted in sustainable criteria, necessary for achievement and subsequent graduation. Located in the capital city of fashion: the beautiful Paris, where students are nurtured by the very best experts of both traditional and new age insights applied to the everchanging fashion industry.
“Students understand why it is crucial for a fashion brand to drive claims and demonstrations of ecoefficiency towards third-party certification schemes and to have its products eco-labelled and certified. In that light and from that perspective, they approach and consider the promising, pioneering efforts of high-end fashion brands in developing new perspectives in sustainability accounting: Students are led to grasp under which conditions some key brands in the textile and fashion sector have started to re-align their whole value creation process towards sustainability, introducing very relevant practices and tools, often their own new derived tools, in demonstrating about product stewardship through comparisons, benchmarks, using life cycle analyses as a regular tool and leading the field in sourcing development?” – Visit IFA's site.
The mentioned schools are the ones leading in the world of fashion education. Many other schools have sustainability incorporated in their programs, as it is truly a time of change. Nowadays, with a global pandemic in the air, all global structures have come into question. Where will this lead to, in terms of education? What does the future of fashion look like for emerging talent now that fashion weeks are cancelled and production is halted? At Luxiders, we believe these challenges present a fresh opportunity for change and innovation;], and we cannot wait to see what happens in the world of fashion. Let us know on social media if there are any other fashion schools dedicated to sustainability – we would love to know!
+ Words: Holly Beaton
Holly Bell Beaton is a writer and stylist with a passion for the intersection between biology, technology and design. Raised in Cape Town and of Swedish heritage, her travels across the world have encouraged and informed a global perspective regarding the future of fashion and its relationship to planetary health. She is currently working in Cape Town, South Africa.
Follow her on Instagram: Holly Beaton