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We Asked the World’s Top Fashion Schools: How Are You Teaching Sustainability to Tomorrow’s Designers?

London College of Fashion

Image: arts.ac.uk/fashion/

Image: arts.ac.uk/fashion/

Answers provided by Dilys Williams, Director Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion

Is sustainability actually offered as a subject at your school? LCF aims to offer every student the opportunity to engage with critical thinking around sustainability through the formal or informal curriculum, with different disciplines and courses interpreting sustainability principles in their own way. Students have the opportunity to engage in projects led by Centre for Sustainable Fashion, a UAL research centre at LCF and to discuss their own projects with leading experts in the field of fashion and sustainability. In addition to this, MA Fashion Futures is a Masters course dedicated to exploring design for sustainability and its application through fashion.

What year did you start to incorporate sustainability into your curriculum? In 2005, when I was Director of Programmes for the Fashion Product courses at LCF, I was able to officially incorporate sustainability into the courses through validated learning outcomes around sustainability as part of the assessment criteria. Projects, lectures and student led projects relating to themes of sustainability have been a visible part of the university for a number of years before that too. In addition to hosting lectures from our own leading researchers within the university who are exploring sustainability, I have been able to bring in keynote speakers such as Katharine Hamnett, Edwin Datschefski and William McDonough — namely through Centre for Sustainable Fashion. 

Image: arts.ac.uk/fashion

Image: arts.ac.uk/fashion

Are ethics and sustainability an active and growing area of interest at your school, among either faculty or students? I set up the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in 2008 and this was really because I saw there was a growing desire from LCF students to know more about sustainability in relation to their discipline. Each year students seem to come to LCF with a better understanding and awareness of sustainability and ethical issues, which is great as it means that we can keep raising the bar about how deeply we consider sustainability, how experimental we can be about differing ways to consider the creation, communication and enjoyment of fashion and to foreground its social and ecological content.  Over the past 6 years, this interest has continued to grow through both students, teaching and research staff, and this is demonstrated through a myriad of innovative projects. 

How do you classify ‘sustainability’ as a practice within your school? LCF has a ‘Better Lives‘ agenda which we use to describe the work we do, using fashion as a discipline to drive change, build a more sustainable future and improve the way we live. Our Better Lives work strives to support a thriving economic, societal, cultural and environmental system, and it is through curriculum, community and campus projects our students gain the skills and attributes needed to contribute to future sustainable world.

About the Centre for Sustainable Fashion / Image: sustainable-fashion.com

About the Centre for Sustainable Fashion / Image: sustainable-fashion.com

Are there textbooks that specifically address ethics and sustainability in your school? LCF students have access to a state of the art range of books, papers and projects which focus on sustainability in fashion, including work produced by specialist researchers at CSF. Students also have the opportunity to access the CSF library and engage with CSF researchers to seek advice and guidance on their course projects. Examples written by our staff  include the Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Professor Sandy Black and Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change by Dr Kate Fletcher.

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