Thank you for your continued interest in and commitment to fashion’s relationship with nature and society. In recent times, your support has enabled great work to develop within our institution, raising the profile of sustainability across teaching, research and our interactions with industry. Students and graduates from across a range of courses are leaving our institution having had the opportunity to explore themes of environment and ethics in their practice; we are pioneering new research into fashion design for sustainability; and meaningful partnerships with third parties have been established. This work is varied and exciting, and creating responses to fashion that are challenging the status quo.

But we know there is still more to be done if we are to truly be transformational in our response to the needs of nature and humanity. We have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene – this is defined as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans.[1]

The students of our education system are the guardians of the future of humanity. This is not the script to a blockbuster disaster movie, these are the bare facts of our existence. Our learners are the first generation to be armed with the knowledge of human induced climate change, yet tragically the last to have the opportunity to find the ways of living in balance with our planet, before we damage its balance with the human race beyond repair. It is vital that we assess the role of education to enable learners to think beyond the shoring up of this $3trillion industry.

These are the facts that push me to work harder, think critically, design creatively. Let us harness the creative minds of our community and empower our students to take our lives in their hands and find the ingenious, smart and thoughtful fashion that will make a positive change. Let us be bold in our thinking and practice. Let us make the problems of our current fashion system patently visible and give students the space to experiment and prototype new models for fashion that celebrate nature and humanity, not diminish it.

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” David Orr, p12[2]

I am not so naïve to suggest that this journey is straightforward. It can be slow, full of obstacles, fraught with distraction and despair. But it is through creativity and connectedness that we can find the joy that is at the core of fashion and its ability to speak.

As someone who has great influence and visibility in our institution, with the opportunity to shape policy and practice, I urge you to consider our relationship with nature and society in all your strategies. Please don’t section off sustainability as thematic or policy – be bold and nurturing in your consideration of the critical needs of our time. Be a beacon for our learners. We won’t always get it right, but let’s give it all we've got. We owe it to our students.

In solidarity,

A fellow traveller.

 

[1] http://anthropocene.info/

[2] Orr, David. The Earth in Mind. Island Press: 2004

[Submitted by an anonymous group of fashion educators for the co-operative inquiry project, 2017]