Transformation through education
Written by Bel Jacobs
From farming and harvesting to spinning and weaving, from packaging to point of sale and end of life, every stage in the life of a piece item of clothing makes its mark on the planet. From day one, the Redress Design Award has focused on the future professionals of the fashion industry, creating a new generation of informed designers ready to push acceptance of sustainability in fashion, and to show just what is possible when creativity meets textile waste.
Recently, with new research, the focus of engagement expanded to academies and institutions, where sustainable fashion was still not taught in ways that answered the increased interests of students themselves. For the past two years, Redress has run workshops for educators where the experiences - and challenges - of introducing sustainability into the curriculum have been shared and celebrated.
As a result of these sessions, a Sustainable Fashion Educator Pack was created, filled with ready-to-go lectures, project briefs and exercises for educators, covering various waste-reducing design techniques and aspects of a garment’s lifespan. The packs are being used by teachers at more than 70 institutions worldwide, either in full or to supplement existing teaching. Now Redress is expanding its reach further beyond up-cycling and zero-waste to other areas in order to provide more depth in understanding around decision making that will affect how long garments stay in use.
One of these is fibres. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, the textile industry relies mostly on non-renewable resources – 98 million tonnes in total per year. From plant-based natural fibres to processed wood-based fibres, from cottons to synthetics such as nylon and polyester, each has an effect. And while there is no such thing as a ‘perfect fibre’, some – not surprisingly - have more negative impacts than others.
Understanding fibres through their entire lifecycle thus becomes key to the environmental footprint of a design, as well as opportunities to improve the sustainability. With this in mind, Redress has published Sustainability in Fibres, a free guide on why the process of choosing materials is so important in the context of sustainability, which fibres are available and what impact each has throughout a garment’s lifecycle.
The properties of individual fibres are examined while issues relating to production, manufacturing and recycling are discussed, all peppered with expert tips and lively infographics. Case studies feature the challenges and achievements experienced of the Redress Design Award Alumni (including Milan-based designer Camilla Carrara, and Bojana Drača, designer of Farrah Floyd), and the guide ends with useful resources and a glossary.
This work on fibres also forms a new, invaluable topic within the Sustainable Fashion Educators Pack. As ideas of sustainability embed themselves into fashion curricula around the world, the impact can only be positive - further guiding and directing the work of Redress itself.
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2017), A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future
This article originally appeared in the Redress Design Award 2018 Magazine.