Sustainability: Teaching and Learning

London College of Fashion has been working to integrate sustainability across the areas of learning, teaching and research. This is taking place through our Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), formal curriculum, informal extracurricular and learning activities, and via collaborations with partners – including the recent five year partnership with Kering to offer yearly awards, paid internships, and co-created validated curriculum which is a major step forward in sustainability education.

Sustainability content is exciting, relevant, useful, and supports employability in an educational context. At LCF we are guided by our core Better Lives values which sets the scene for the way we teach, learn and conduct research. Due to the dynamic nature of sustainability, education and fashion, this will never be ‘completed’ but a continuous journey towards this goal.

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Image by Fiona Bailey for CSF’s Local Wisdom project.

A large number of staff have worked to integrate sustainability into courses/activities with students, staff and collaborators. This is an organic, grass roots growth of sustainability in the curriculum, clearly a key area where integration of sustainability is essential in order to equip our graduates to take their skills, knowledge and experience and change industry for the better. Dr Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing, developed lectures, seminars and an assessment for the Specialism Unit on BA (Hons) Fashion Design Marketing that introduce students to the key areas, challenges and opportunities of internationalisation, digital innovation and sustainability in fashion:

“The fashion industry has a massive challenge around issues of sustainability and I believe it is our responsibility to engage our students with these in ways they can respond to creatively. […]  Students were asked to select an emerging London-based fashion designer, carry out a sustainability audit on the brand and propose design and marketing strategies which used sustainability as a key source of differentiation and added value. I invited a guest speaker from the British Fashion Council who highlighted their ethical initiatives. My colleagues Tim Williams and Mark Hambly worked with the students in their design studio classes to develop ranges of sustainable/ethical clothing and some of the students held an exhibition in the gallery at High Holborn. The second iteration (2014-15) built on the first experience and expanded external collaborations […] The marketing strategy curriculum included: textile waste, sustainability & design aesthetics, ethical & business drivers, green marketing, competitive advantage & transparency & included case studies on ethical fashion brands.”

Programme Director Jessica Saunders has brought sustainability into the International Preparation for Fashion course through a project working with Amnesty International and a sustainable fashion workshop earlier this year. After being Highly Commended at the 2014 Green Gown Awards for Courses and Learning, Jessica has also brought in a new component to the Flexible courses, working on a collection with Sue Ryder using stretch fabrics upcycled from old clothing. Business students are looking at how to manage capsule projections and how to expand this, and Visual Merchandising students are designing pop up spaces to market the collections, whilst Media students look at how to develop a fashion label to sell the items.

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Image from a 2013 LCF upcycling project with Sue Ryder.

Second year students on the BA (Hons) Creative Direction for Fashion course have been working on a live project with H&M and their sustainability team. Course Leader Jason Kass explains:

“The project is for students to design creative window displays for H&M stores around the UK to promote the brand’s Global Garment Collection initiative. The brief is for students to use old garments to create the displays and celebrate H&M’s three tenets of ‘re-use, re-wear, re-cycle’. The students’ window displays will be installed in 7 H&M shops in the UK during the first week of September. This is the first formal sustainability content for the course and also the first time we are working with CSF, who arranged and are co-coordinating the project as well as teaching on the unit. We have just revalidated the course and have added a unit called ‘Future Directions’. The unit will focus on key themes integral to the future of fashion and fashion communication: sustainability, technology and globalisation.”

Another LCF Course Leader who has been working to embed sustainability in the curriculum is Jane Francis, who runs the BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery:

“During term 1 of year 2 we have integrated an ethically focused project into our curriculum: Future Proof. The project asks learners to consider ethically sourced materials and processes, up-cycling, and sustainable methods of production, awareness raising and marketing fashion jewellery products. Students are introduced to methods of creating their own composite materials and using natural dyes from the Mare Street dye garden. The project culminates with a pop-up shop at Christmas (students making and selling their projects) as a way to foster enterprise and direct marketing within the curriculum. In the 13/14 academic year, we exhibited the student work as part of Green week at LCF Mare street site.”

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Image from the BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery pop-up shop.

In addition to formal curriculum, students have many opportunities to develop sustainable practice. Embroidery Technician Rachel Clowes, who was Highly Commended in the 2014 Green Gown awards as a sustainability champion, has run workshops such as natural dyeing and works with students to grow natural dye plants. Students on the MA Womenswear and Menswear courses use an Iron Timer (which won the Green Gown Award for Technical Innovation last year), so that sustainable practice becomes part of their usual workshop experience. LCF’s Sustainability Coordinator Rosemary Willatt gives inductions and lectures to as many students as possible, introducing them to LCF’s sustainability principles right from the start. We also receive trade waste – including fabrics, buttons, leather – from industry, and distribute this to students, demonstrating our principles around waste and resources.

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