Portland Oregon

Building on our International theme this month I have asked Alex McIntosh, Business and Research Manager at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion here at the college to tell us about an exciting project we have been involved in.

“Last week the Launch 2020 summit took place at Nike HQ in Portland Oregon; Launch is a somewhat unlikely but high-powered partnership between Nike, NASA, USAID and the US State Department. The summit brought together one hundred and fifty carefully selected delegates from fashion brands, garment manufacturers, chemical companies, NGOs and universities. Everyone congregated in the Tiger Woods Convention Centre at the Nike Campus to explore the collaborations and innovations required to change the materials system, ensuring that every fabric used in clothing and beyond is designed and produced sustainably.

Launch 2020 was also an important milestone in an ongoing partnership between Nike and LCF and in recognition of this partnership fifteen places at the summit were allocated to LCF representatives. The college contingent included members of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion team, designers from our business support programme and recent graduates from a variety of courses.

London College of Fashion have been working with Nike for the last eighteen months on a project known as Mobilize Makers, bringing the Nike Materials Sustainability Index (eight years of carefully collated data) to life through a simple, iteractive and visually inspiring digital design tool. The tool will help designers to make informed decisions about the fabrics and components they use in their products, and encourages sustainable innovation throughout the design process.

The College’s involvement in Mobilize Makers came about through a chance meeting with Nike in November 2011, one might say a meeting of minds, in which a shared commitment to driving systemic change across the fashion and textiles industries came to light. In May 2012 consultants from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and a select group of designers, including Christopher Raeburn, Matthew Miller, Michelle Lowe-Holder and Alina Moat went to Portland to participate in a three-day hackathon. The hackathon aimed to deliver a prototype tool ready for user testing by LCF students and recent graduates. Over the summer eight teams were selected to work with the tool through a series of design projects, each one inspired by a different sport. Alina, Christopher, Matthew, and Michelle were tasked with mentoring the teams.

Final year students from the Design and Technology, Media and Communication and School of Management and Science worked on the project, making it one of the first ever cross college collaborations. The teams each produced a series of prototype garments, which they presented to a panel from Nike in September 2012. After receiving feedback each team developed one final look made with the support and expertise of the LCF technical team.

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion also worked with each team to collate a book bringing to life their journey and outlining the, inspiration, insights and innovation that typified each individual concept. One representative from each team was selected by Nike to attend Launch 2020 and their work formed the centrepiece of an exhibition that accompanied the summit. It was huge pleasure to see the interest and intrigue elicited by our work and it served as a fitting reminder of the significant role education has to play in equipping designers with both the skills and thought processes required to tackle the major challenges of the future.

It was truly amazing to be in a room where the voices of our recent graduates were given equal relevance and space as those of chemical company CEOs and Nike Vice Presidents. Some of the highlights of the summit included astronaut Ron Garran talking about the six months he spent orbiting the globe on a space station and sharing his unique physical and a metaphysical view of the world; what he has achieved in space and on earth is awe inspiring. Joan Benoit, the first woman to win gold in an Olympic marathon, was another hugely inspiring speaker, at 55 she still runs 70 miles a week and is an avid campaigner for environmental issues.

We all left with a determination to recognise and respect the finite resources of our planet but at the same time remembering that there is no limit to human ingenuity; when we work together we can apply our collective intelligence and intuition to make better and to live better.”

Images: Kerry Dean