A fascinating interview over at The Fashion Spot with designer John Patrick highlights one of the most important aspects in the continued shift of ethical fashion towards the mainstream: education.
I'm not just talking about the way consumers need to be educated about ethical fashion (indeed, taught that such a thing even exists) or how education in the third world is vital in allowing indigenous workers to empower themselves for the future. We'll never have a fasion business model based on sustainable and ethical principles if we don't get the designers of the future on message. To find out what the score is on that point, Patrick went straight to the source: fashion school.
The news, in general, is good. The major colleges regard ethics and sustainability as far less of a niche subject than they would have ten years ago. John makes an important point: in a changing world, where the challenges of climate change and an evolving labour market are making an increasing impact on the status quo, building an ethical, sustainable fashion model is a pragmatic response. He says:
"...students should be prepared for the real world and all of its challenges. It is important to be flexible in order to make great, constructive changes within our industry and understanding how to work within limits."It seems, at least from the evidence provided by the interview, that fashion schools do understand the changing nature of the world into which they're training thier students to fit. Central St. Martin's, for example, has been offering sustainability as part of its course structure since 2007. Even so, Patrick believes that they can go further. He'd like to see design and ethics taught alongside each other, for example. This is a fair point: design without an understanding into the processes of manufacture, which by definition include the welfare of the people that make your product, is hugely important.
The whole interview and responses from schools like Central St. Martins and ESMOD Berlin, make for a fascinating insight into the future of ethical fashion. John's further reading list is also worth a look, showing that there's meaningful inspiration outside the hermetic bubble of the industry. Thought-provoking stuff.
The Fashion Spot: How Are You Teaching Sustainability To Tomorrow's Designers?