Embedding Sustainability as an Educational Design Tool for Change

Timeframe: 2017 – 2020

The global fashion industry is beginning to look to the future, away from a dated linear product lifecycle, making way for the adoption of principles reflective of modern societal challenges. More recently, a tipping point towards change has been evidenced, with brands beginning to consider social and environmental sustainability as a key strategic goal. In addition to responsible business practices, models of consumption have begun to come under scrutiny, with levels of textile waste going to landfill causing the industry to look to more circular practices. This shift however has had consequential effects on the knowledge and skills needed by industry practitioners and presents a challenge for the future generation of professionals. The increased consideration for sustainability is radically changing the field of employability, with the required comprehension of design graduates also needing to adapt as a result. In order to meet these requirements, a shift needs to be facilitated in higher education (HE), preparing graduates to meet the needs of industry employers. It is necessary for HE to think beyond traditional pedagogy skills, where innovative design thinking tools could aid in the development of strategic and diverse approaches to include the integration of sustainability within fashion education. This project focused on the current levels of curricula engagement with sustainability from a fashion discipline perspective. The current levels of engagement in HE was initially explored, with methods, positioning and pedagogical approaches being analysed from the data collated. Furthermore, the barriers preventing further incorporation were investigated, alongside the motivations and rationale for academics to engage their students in responsible values within their practice. In addition to working with UK based academics, this project sought to understand the sustainable education paradox from an international perspective, gaining insights into the comparable but also divergent perspectives encountered. The methodological approach designed within this project was duplicated in multiple geographical locations which included Sheffield (UK), Shanghai and Hong Kong (China).