Educating fashion: supporting a student led approach to a sustainable future

Braithwaite, N. ORCID: 0000-0001-6424-8919 and Trencher, L., 2021. Educating fashion: supporting a student led approach to a sustainable future. In: Responsible fashion series, University of Antwerp, 20-22 October 2021.

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Embedding sustainability across higher education continues to gather momentum, in parallel with the growing climate emergency agenda. In nurturing the next generation for industry, universities have an integral role in fostering a sustainable future. Recent surveys led by the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) emphasise the importance that sustainable development holds for students across disciplines. With reference to supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals universities have an exciting opportunity to embed sustainability more seamlessly through the formal and informal curricula, so it ceases to be an addition to knowledge, but becomes something that students continuously, and, actively learn. As fashion educators, at different institutions, this paper presents the approaches that we have developed with our students. Breaking away from more traditional teaching methods we encourage our fashion business students to take the lead in generating sustainable knowledge that informs the curriculum, and, supports their academic development and future employability.

Given the negative impacts that fashion has placed upon the environment, our staff and students have a key part to play in supporting and implementing the industry’s continued steps towards sustainability. As lecturers we both have a passion for sustainable development and responsible business. Through conversations we have debated potential methods that could be actively employed to support a more student focused approach for increasing sustainable knowledge and skills, within our different institutions.

This paper discusses the design and implementation of the two different approaches that we have developed with our cohorts, and, drawing from our students’ reflections, assesses their value in supporting a future generation of sustainable citizens. At Manchester Fashion Institute students volunteer to participate in an extra curricula project which involves undertaking research with fashion businesses to draw out data related to responsible practices. The objective is for the students to collaborate and through their research create case studies of best practice, exploring opportunities for careers and defining the skills required to work in a responsible fashion business. Their research culminates in an original industry- based resource and glossary of terms that will become a longitudinal resource to support student learning. At Nottingham Trent University we have applied a social learning approach with our students. Object based workshops focused around their own clothing and shoes engages students in sharing discussions around individual purchase and post purchase experiences, with the view of gaining deeper understanding of consumer behaviour. Through these collaborative conversations they draw out individual meanings and values related to sustainable behaviour and attitudes. This feeds into a longitudinal dataset which the students use to develop understanding of sustainable consumption. Both our approaches enable students to actively contribute sustainable knowledge, supporting the further development of their curriculum, and creating platforms which facilitate knowledge exchange. While tackling different aspects of fashion and sustainability our methods blur the boundaries between the academic, professional and personal student, paving the way for a holistic approach towards sustainable education, and a generation of graduates who will trailblaze the way to a more responsible fashion industry.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Description: Conference Paper (unpublished)
Creators: Braithwaite, N. and Trencher, L.
Date: October 2021
Divisions: Schools > School of Art and Design
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 27 May 2021 08:34
Last Modified: 27 May 2021 08:34

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