In welcoming Francois Henri Pinault to the College, I want to take a few minutes to show why the collaboration between London College of Fashion and Kering is a match that will not only be a unity of complementary strengths but means together we can lead the way to give fashion a sustainable future.
Neither side of this partnership lacks ambition: we want to change the world and possibly save it. This is no empty rhetoric: looking to the future we know that we have to take action now.
Alexander McQueen – A Kering Brand
Geologists say that we are living in the Anthropocene age – which means that human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Since the industrial revolution people have had more effect on the atmosphere than it has had on us. In the last 50 years we have stepped up our use of energy and plundering of the earth’s resources and are now pushing at planetary boundaries.
At our peril we are interfering, with a delicate, incredible, life-reliant design system developed over millions of years, unable to predict the scale of devastating effects of our actions on our planet – or even ourselves.
We know that we must act and that education has a critical and urgent role to play in the challenges and possibilities of our times.
We also know that human ingenuity has no such boundaries and that it’s up to us – to those teaching and learning now – to mark a path for our collective futures. Ingenuity needs the space to conceive, develop and apply its possibilities in considered ways. The university environment creates the conditions for critical thought, informed decision making and cross pollination of ideas. Education is vital in order to develop the skills, mindsets and focus needed to make appropriate, creative decisions that will develop the abilities to change culture, economy and society.
At its best, fashion is a means to connect, create and fulfil – individually, economically and culturally. We see this vividly through the designing, making and communicating of distinctions and connections of fashion. Providing livelihoods for millions of women, fashion has the ability to create independence.
Yet, at its worst, fashion takes away dignity, freedom, safety and wellbeing.
As fashion educators, it is our ambition and duty to prepare students to be contributors to all that fashion might be, not to its negative elements.
The ethos that underpins our approach, practices and creative ventures is based on the contribution that fashion can make to individual lives, to communities and our wider cultures and societies. Our ambition – as a leading educator for fashion, as part of Europe’s largest specialist arts and design university – is to ground our curriculum, research and outreach in fashioning the future through sustainability principles such as holism, empathy and resilience using a range of ecological and social design methods.
Christopher Kane – A Kering Brand
We understood that this meant far more than hoping our students would put their skills and talent to good use – so we established the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to offer vital leadership and commitment to society now and in the future, thereby creating a new starting point for fashion.
The centre’s creative quest involves questioning our current ways of seeing, knowing and doing, to explore the possibilities for fashion through a sustainability lens. We have worked hard – some might say struggled – to match the centre’s clear and bold purpose of dealing with the ecological and social impact of resourcing fashion while honouring the complexity of fashion’s artistic and business practices.
I came to this college because I believe that fashion is a delightful and vital part of our lives, in both the pleasure and identity that clothes gives us. I do not want to make fashion dull – far from it. The very point of it is to encourage innovative and creative thinking. In developing new ideas about fashion and sustainability, the centre finds itself in a network of the leading idea makers of the world from locations across the globe and across disciplines, working with a plethora of organisations, governments, media creators and product makers.
Led by Professor Dilys Williams, CSF starts where it counts; in developing new ideas about what it means to be alive here and now and to develop ways to represent ourselves individually and collectively so that we can thrive in the world.
Importantly for the College, these ideas permeate across our courses and practices so that we can offer each student here the opportunity to learn about sustainability and so engage new thinking in a range of ways.
Collaboration is vital to our work. So we are delighted to partner a visionary, world leading and hugely inspirational ‘organisation.’ Kering represents the integrity, artistry and acumen that best defines fashion’s role in contemporary life. Our students and graduates aspire to practice their professional skills in environments that can empower their imagination. They want their future employers to act with sustainability and integrity.
The far sightedness of Kering is far from usual in business. Their distinction is not only in a vision and commitment to a system’s view of life as a basis for prosperity, but also in its ability to shape sustainability in distinctive ways across its brands. This demonstrates leadership in business, in the arts, in society and for our times.
This partnership will offer unique learning outcomes for both of us.
We are proud that the leading experts in fashion and sustainability in this creative business – Kering – and the leading researchers and tutors in design for sustainability – ourselves – are coming together to influence the world’s leading creative and conscious minds – our students. For our future lies with them.
This collaboration brings to the college a balance between possibility, equity, viability, desirability and feasibility. We are sure it will bring informed design for better fashion systems, practices, collections and experiences. It will allow us to offer an innovative and ground-breaking curriculum which will act as a marker to educators and businesses across the world. And will provide our graduates with the skills and abilities to navigate a contingent world. We see it as part of a process that will change culture towards a more resilient society.
This partnership is a critical opportunity to shape and respond to the real context of our times. Its legacy will be in the creativity that conceives and realises the better lives that we can make for ourselves and for our descendants.
Together with Kering, we are fashioning the future – a sustainable future.
Thank you so much to Francois Henri Pinault, and everyone at Kering for making it happen.
Watch the video of the talk here…