On Teaching Fashion: A contemporary look at social awareness in fashion.

For many of us, creative project planning includes a discussion upon how our design briefs include Equality and Diversity, allowing our students to develop a greater knowledge in this area to become a more socially aware and holistic Fashion professional. Of course, in this industry there are many challenges facing the goal of being socially aware, such as the trend for fast fashion and the resulting demand on commodities and desired cost and retail prices. In my opinion all fashion courses should underpin social awareness into the curriculum, as there are so many different exciting areas of this huge topic that could be chosen from!

In my opinion students should be able to leave their education with a core knowledge of firstly fabric sources and their content, so they can identify exactly what they are using and where would their garment end up when the customer no longer wears it? They should also have an awareness of the garments lifespan in which they design and what will happen to the item next? Can it have a second life? Will it last for years due to quality material and production? Or will it fall apart after a few wears? I also think students should also investigate methods to ensure longevity in garments, and widen their knowledge into current ethical initiatives and forums.

Last year when I visited the Knitwear exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London I saw an example of Up cycling by Keep and Share, by Amy Twigger Holroyd. I was fascinated how she has re-invented this old jumper into a piece that was new and innovative. She has used a method called ‘stitch hacking’ where she undid rows of stitching and turned them over in order to create a pattern. In her example she has used information about the garment from the label usually hidden inside to tell the story of the garment visibly. Up cycling and re-inventing old garments into new exciting pieces can be a great creative idea for students, especially if you wish them to be more innovative and experimental with something that may have been prescribed to them.

Keep and Share. Keep and Share

Another great example is the From Somewhere with Speedo collaboration from 2010. Where instead of allowing their costumes to end up as surplus Speedo collaborated with this ethical company to produce creative and exciting pieces of Fashion- giving their garments a second life! Since then again they have collaborated in 2012 to produce the Unity dress using further surplus fabrics from their swimwear. From Somewhere have collaborated with many different companies and produced exciting designs alongside their Reclaim to wear initiative. Recycling, up cycling, reusing, re-inventing are huge growing markets in Fashion and there are endless designers and brands basing themselves on these brilliant initiatives to create fashion forward collections.

Finally I came across Karishma Shahani’s graduate collection from LCF, which I think is a wonderful mix of beautiful colour! She has taken inspiration from her native India and traditional methods of production to create her sustainable collection.

karishma-shahani-2Karishma Shahani

Have you any exciting examples of projects you use to expand students social awareness? Do you find there are any barriers to this in the current industry? How aware do you think students are of the lifespan of their garments? Or the content of the fabric they choose?

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