Fashion has become a high-profile political issue in the last few years, as concerns about its impact on the planet saw ever louder demands that the clothing industry clean up its act. In 2019, Extinction Rebellion protested at London fashion week, while the House of Commons produced a damning report on the fashion industry and its environmental and social ills.
Fast fashion means just that, it’s produced at breakneck speed for rapid consumption, it is dumped equally quickly and the train hurtles on to the next trending “must have “. This throwaway culture plays fast and loose with ethics and sustainability, with the sheer volume, speed and power impacting on the entire chain, from seed to disposal wreaking havoc on the health of humans, animals and the earth. Fashion is a mass consumer – it guzzles resources and spews out toxic chemicals, waste and carbon. The textile industry emits more greenhouse gases a year than an international flights and shipping combined, with an annual carbon footprint of 3.3 billion tons – around 1.2 billion tons from fast fashion alone. The textile waste mountain is equally staggering – some 92 million tons a year. One lorry load every second is burned or buried in landfill. And the problem is growing. The average consumer buys 60% more clothing than 15 years ago, while the number of times a garment is worn has decreased by 36%. If fast fashion is all about piling high, selling cheap then dumping, then the very ethos of the industry is unsustainable .
The fashion industry is fighting back, finding sustainable solutions from developing new bio fabrics, All the way back in 2018, Stella McCartney (always ahead of an environmental trends) debuted a mycelium-leather version of her Falabella handbag. Bolt Threads , a California-based start-up, developed their version of mushroom leather, called Mylo, promising “everything you love about leather without everything you don’t”.
Fashion students at Morley College London Chelsea Site are made aware of these issues and sustainability is embedded into the curriculum at all levels. Tutors keep students informed of the latest developments, but also through set projects they are encouraged to tackle the issues themselves and produce radical sustainable solutions.
During the first year of the UAL Level 3 Diploma in Creative Practice (Fashion/ Textiles and Communication) students are given the project “Denim – Remodel Repair, Rewear”. This project is about remodelling and repurposing denim. The students are asked to investigate both contemporary and historical denim, to research the fabric, and sustainability within the fashion industry
They are introduced to a variety of textile techniques, referencing artists and designers, such as Faustine Steinmetz, whose trademark is reworked denim, Celia Pym who repairs garments by creative darning, and Christopher Raeburn who’s design philosophy is underpinned by what he calls “the three R’s”: remade, reduced and recycled. At Chelsea, our students creative practice can often see them colliding ideas and concepts, constructing dynamic new outcomes from denim garments and off-cuts.
Denim –Remodel Repair, Rewear”.
The 2-year UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Fashion/ Textiles and Communication continues to address sustainability issues throughout the second year. The students are challenged to look for solutions within the “What’s the Answer” project. This requires them to look at the fashion industries impact on the climate emergency and are asked to produce a sustainable solution to the problem. We’ve had some great creative and inventive ideas from the students for this project, such as garments for small children that have been designed to grow with the growth of the child, and students growing their own fabrics.
On the UAL Level 4 Fashion Foundation and the UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma students are given projects that ask students to Remake. Deconstruct and Reconstruct. The projects follow designers, such as Christopher Raeburn’s philosophy “the three Rs”: remade, reduced and recycled. Using existing garments, the students rework them into one-off designs, producing some exciting outcomes within their chosen specialisms of Textile/ Fashion and Fashion Communication.
The Fashion Department at Morley College Chelsea site are fully committed to educating the next generation of designers on sustainability within the fashion industry.
We need to remind them why we should relook at how we can influence the creative practice and the industry. We want to promote and nurture ideas and find solutions to these issues, and equally get them to realise how their own creative development will have an impact on this global problem. And they can take their skills and learning forward onto higher education or their next work place.
It’s time to take control.
Year on year 100% of our students have been accepted onto BA courses at leading universities including Central Saint Martins, University of Westminster. Kingston University, London College of Fashion and The Royal Academy Antwerp.