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Young designers embrace sustainability in the fashion curriculum

Sustainability has become the main focus of the fashion industry in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why.

We’ve talked before about how damaging the industry is to the environment, with textile mills generating 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution, not to mention the thousands of carcinogenic chemicals used to make clothes.

With a global push to become more environmentally friendly across all industries and ways of life, the fashion world is now instilling sustainability into its next generation of designers by teaching the subject in the fashion curriculum.

What exactly is sustainability?

Sustainability has become a wide-ranging term that can cover everything, from local to global, short to long term, individual to groups of people.

At its core, sustainability is about endurance. It’s a way of ensuring what we’re doing today can continue on indefinitely.

Sustainability is based on a deep understanding that all things are interconnected in this world, and nothing can happen without affecting something else.

In terms of the fashion industry, sustainability means that everything from the initial design, through to production, and eventual demise of clothing, all balances out in the end to a zero-sum game.

The need for sustainability in fashion

The fashion industry is not currently sustainable.

One example is the astonishing fact that it takes ten thousand litres of freshwater to make a single pair of jeans. And when you consider that at any given time, half the world’s population are wearing jeans, you start to get a sense of how wasteful the industry is.

The fashion and apparel industries are using up natural resources in ways that will deplete future generations, but it’s not too late to change things.

By educating the public, designers, and businesses, we can aim towards more sustainable practices, giving hope to the future.

Jeans in a pile

What new students are being taught in the fashion curriculum

New clothes don’t suddenly appear on the racks. At the very beginning, they are a figment of someone’s imagination, who then puts those thoughts onto paper.

It all starts with the fashion designers, so educating the next generation of designers is the key to changing in the future.

Research before design

The best time to make low-impact decisions about materials and production is at the beginning of the design process, so sustainability must start with the designer. According to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, designers and developers can control upwards of 80% of a product’s environmental impact. Consideration of the complete life-cycle of the product should be taken into account at this early stage of the creative process.

Materials

The easiest thing to do in the fight for sustainability is to swap out materials for more sustainable alternatives.

Synthetic fibres like nylon, polyester, and fake fur are used more than any other material. Unfortunately, as they are synthetic, they need to be produced, and the industry currently uses 342 million barrels of oil every year to produce them.

Another problem with synthetic fibres is the microplastics they produce. These are tiny pieces of material which usually come off in the wash and enter the environment, polluting everything from our oceans to the food chain.

Young fashion designers will be taught about the dangers of these materials and alternative options available.

microplastics in clothes

Packaging

When thinking about the damage apparel causes to the environment, few people think about packaging. Most packaging is single-use and does not get recycled, even if it’s designed to be. From the natural resources used in making it, through to its disposal, the packaging is a huge part of the problem of sustainability.

Students are being taught to think of packaging like any other material and to consider its cost, size, and impact on the environment.

Shipping and transport

The shipping and transportation of goods have a massive impact on the environment.

Transportation and logistics include the movement of goods and people. Whether it’s a raw material moving to a production facility, a product shipped to your customer, or your employees’ commute, transportation can have a significant impact on people and the environment.

One study found that a single container ship emits the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

For fashion students, finding a way to improve transportation and logistics is a great way to take a large step towards sustainable practices.

The textile industry is a global and complex chain, with products and their components transported many times using multiple forms of transportation. Somehow, optimising all this would mean an increase in efficiency and profit, as well as helping the planet.

End of use, reuse, and recycling

Designers can no longer wash their hands of their creations once they are bought by the consumer. For truly sustainable progress, the end of life of the garment must also be taken into consideration.

Usually, clothes are either donated (reused), repurposed (recycled), or simply dumped in a landfill. Unfortunately, it’s usually the latter.

A massive 53 million tons of fibre are produced for clothing each year, but only 1% comes from recycled clothing.

While this isn’t the designer’s fault, knowing is half the battle, and a focus on biodegradable clothing might help in the race for sustainability.

All these issues will be discussed in Universities and places of learning across the world in the coming years.

Real change is coming

The push in recent years for more sustainable practices is gathering momentum, but it is the next generation who will make real change.

It’s not surprising that universities are now incorporating sustainability into the fashion curriculum. For young students, sustainability isn’t just a marketing buzzword, it’s a real issue that takes priority over profit margins.

immago will, of course, be at the forefront of the apparel curve; flexible enough to change with the times, but strong enough to always stay ahead.

We’re looking forward to what the next generation of designers come up with, how they can help improve the industry, and how we can join them in striving for sustainable practices.

If you would like to join us on our journey, then please don’t hesitate to contact us today, and let’s have a chat about how we can help you and your business face the future together.