One of the most important things I discovered when I went to university was that my eyes were opened to the problems of fast fashion. My background meant I had never been exposed to it before and I was horrified. I had been a fast fashion buyer. It had never occured to me the conditions in which my impulse purchases were made.
This is the single thing that shaped the beginnings of my business. I realised I never wanted to be branded with the same reputation, to be responsible for death and decay for the sake of a cheap skirt. But I don’t have the curriculum to thank for my lightbulb moment.
Largely, the impact of fast fashion and ecological and economic damage wasn’t a part of my degree course. But as we all prepared projects for presentations and our third year dissertations we were ultimately exposed to it through our research. The internet is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.
Fashion courses are prevalent. But how many of them focus on educating the designers of the future not to be a part of the problem? Most of the designer wannabes I meet at small shows, who’s aim it is to stock in high street chains, generally turn to factories abroad for their manufacture. But how many of them have taken the time to find out how that affects the industry? How many of them know about transparent supply chains or the business practices of third world countries. How many of them have even heard of Rana Plaza or Fashion Revolution? For that matter, have you? And how many of them even care?
Is it the duty of fashion course providers to add responsible fashion and ethical duty to their curriculums?
My experience of university was that it was about Ofsted and rankings tables. So long as students were ultimately installed in recognisable design houses or big brand companies, it didn’t matter how they got there. How they made the establishment look on the world scene was all that really mattered. There was no duty of care, or sustainable message. It was about unpaid summer internships, nauseatingly pretentious and impractical collections, whether or not we got a stand at Graduate Fashion Week.
You were told this was your one chance to be completely creative because after that you would be working for someone else. But noone told you what happened afterwards. There was no after care policy. No ‘how are you doing, what have you learned?’ Where do YOU want to be. Do you need any advice? The world opened up like a vast desert before you. And that was that.
Anything I learned about sustainable and responsible fashion happened because I found out about it myself. In our modern age it has become the single biggest message of the future of fashion, how not to rape the world of its resources and its people for a profit margin. It’s still a massive problem. And I believe a lot of it stems from how we educate our next generation of designers, buyers, marketing gurus and independant businesses.
Without those important early messages how do we eradicate bad practice in fashion? Teaching people after they’ve left the system is too little too late. It is the duty of education to educate, at every level.