The Creative Commons is embedded into our responsible education ethos; we have researched and aggregated content to create educational resources because we believe that accessibility leads to accountability. Of course knowledge is power, but without access to knowledge we will not move forward.
In 2009 we brought you“[Lesson 1] Sifting through the ‘Ecofashion’ Lexicon”and our “Fibre Analysis”. In 2010 we worked further to bringing you lessons on the social, cultural, economic and environmental interdisciplinary challenges facing the value system that is the global apparel supply chain.
Myriam Laroche, President, ECO Fashion Week Vancouver
Summer Rayne Oakes, Source4Style
Jeff Garner, Prophetik
Paul Raybin, AirDye®
Mark Trotzuk, Boardroom Eco Apparel
Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green
Lindsey, David Suzuki Foundation
Q: Does the David Suzuki Foundation have any plans to launch a consumer awareness campaign on the impacts of the fashion industry? Similarly to the sustainable seafood initiative?
A: Not at this time, we are focusing on improving the policies of the beauty and cosmetics industry and informing consumers on the toxics and chemicals in their personal care products
Paul Raybin, Air Dye
Q: Can you tell me more about the air dyeing process and the benefits?
A: AirDye reduces water consumption by almost 95%. The conventional textile dyeing industry is a major contributor to water pollution worldwide, so Air Dye is focusing on improving this and providing the industry with a solution. They also have developed an inventory system, where they only make what is sold to reduce waste, water consumption and pollution
Mark Trotzuk, Boardroom Eco Apparel – commenting on the question
His company is a Bluesign brand member, so the manufacturing facilities adhere to the highest environmental standard for textiles in the world and are certified. Water, energy and carbon consumption is reduced. His company works to reduce the environmental impacts at each stage of the garment life-cycle, but this is not easy. It is also expensive to have the facilities certified.
Myriam Laroche, President, Eco Fashion Week
Her biggest focus is on teaching consumers to reuse clothing and buy vintage/second-hand clothing. She has reduced her own impact by buying less, and she feels that consumers can all do their part by starting with buying one less item, or buying vintage clothing instead of new
Question from Nicole Bridger to Jeff Garner on how to inspire change in the industry
Jeff, there needs to be more awareness, he is working to inspire other designers through his own practices
Paul Raybin, Air Dye
Q: Do you have any samples of the air dye technology in use?
A: Designers can take the technology and imagine it in their own way. It is a way to reduce material use. You can take the fabric and turn it inside out, so designers can be innovative with how they use it
It is a way to reduce water consumption and pollution. With an example from China on the scope of the problem, 50% of China’s water supply is unsuitable for drinking AND 3.5 trillion gallons of water are polluted from dyeing. In conventional dying, water is used as a solvent to carry the dyes. For “Solution dyes”, the dye is injected into the fibre, to create prints, you need to weave fibres. With the air dye technology, you don’t make the fabric/product unless it is being consumed – this reduces pollution.
Q: Nicole asks Jeff about his work with natural dyes
A: Jeff Garner, Prophetik grows his own plants on his Tennessee farm. Japanese indigo is used to dye his fabric. This process is labour intensive
He has a team of two women who work specifically on the natural dyeing process. He also has a community garden where they grow the plants for the dyes
Q: How do you set the natural dyes so that they do not run and last a long time?
A: we use hemp fabric, so this absorbs the dyes well. We also use vinager to hold the dyes in place. But, each piece is unique and different because natural dying is not consistent and it is done by hand. Depending on the air temperature, and if it was dyed during winter or summer, the gradient also changes. This creates a story behind the garment that he can tell to his customers.
Q: Asked to the entire panel, do you encounter regulations and do you need to work with governments?
A: Summer Rayne Oaks, she is interested in finding local material sources and has also created a global network for fabric suppliers and designers (Source4Style). She is dealing with regulators for this initiative, because integrating the duty fees across boarders affects the prices of the materials. For example the price of organic cotton vs. silk from India is different, but they also have different duty fees. She is working with industry associations in the United States, who then liaise with governments on regulations and policies
A: Myriam Laroche, she is working with the regional government, Vancouver Economic Development Commission, they are a major supported, along with the City of Vancouver, for ECO Fashion Week.
Mark Trotzuk – Apparel Lifecycle Impacts & Mitigation of Impacts
Mark Trotzuk is the founder and CEO of Boardroom Eco Apparel, an audited socially compliant company and fair trade manufacturer that creates custom lifestyle clothing collections for fashion-conscious people who demand style, comfort and increased functional performance from their everyday clothing. Boardroom Eco Apparel is a Bluesign® brand member. In April of 2008, Mark’s passion for the environment brought him the opportunity to train with Al Gore as a presenter for The Climate Project; a Canadian initiative to increase awareness of Global Warming and Climate Change.www.ecoapparel.ca
“Be careful with what you do, it’s very complicated once you start down this path” – MEC buyer on eco claims for his products. If you are going to be responsible for your product, you have to take all risks associated with every step of your product’s life cycle.
So where to start:
Choose a fiber.
Need to know every stage of its lifecycle (ie, later, how much energy will be required to upkeep it)
You need to learn how to measure your impact. This is the most difficult thing to do in committing to eco.
Recycled Polyester can save 40-70% in energy savings over virgin polyester. Even then, great amounts of energy are used in dying, drying and spinning product.
25% of chemicals used worldwide are used for textiles.
Eco Apparel has adopted the Swiss Bluesign standard. Consumer Safety; Conserving Resources; High tech and Comfort. That said, the challenge is that the standard is new and many textiles and supplies haven’t yet been approved.
The point with a standard is that ultimately you’re going by the word of your supplier and as much as they say it may be one thing, tests may reveal it’s another.
For example, 200 factories in Bangladesh were visited by Bluesign and found that only 3 of them had wastewater treatment plants. All the other 197 were allowing all chemicals used to just flush out into the water system.
As for social compliance (ie, working conditions), an audit of the highest integrity is most important.
To do a proper carbon footprint for your company you should consider:
Amongst other factors
Eco Apparel gives 1% to the planet because some things cannot me mitigated, such as travel for sales…
Examples of material energy dependency:
Cotton needs to be washed hot and then cycle dried. A study in London suggests that 50% of the products environmental impact comes after the sale of the product
Polyester on the other hand can be washed cold and air dried.
Over the garment’s lifetime, polyester actually uses ½ the energy as cotton.
Approx 3000 recycling companies in North America – for example, collecting and then sending them to third world. 30% of the material is sold as wiping products for auto, cleaning and other industries. Old denim jeans are also being used for home and car insulation.
Reusing polyester can be closed loop because it can be recycled back into garments. The challenge is that polyester has a long life cycle so doesn’t come back to it’s starting point often.
The Eco Index: www.ecoindexbeta.org. It’s a new but complicated program that is being pioneered by the outdoor industry as an open source, transparent database to be used by industry and industry partners to help create an eco index. They are setting guidelines, indicators and metrics. They are asking every company to take one item from their portfolio and measure them against these metrics in the hope of coming up with a point system that can help rate “eco-index” for different products.
To wrap up:
There is no solution yet for how to measure a products lifecycle and its impact though it’s getting there.
Dr. Andrew Weaver – Global Warming: The Scale of the Problem, the Path to the Solution
Dr. Andrew Weaver // Photo Credit: Kris Krüg, www.staticphotography, via ECO Fashion Week
Dr. Weaver is Professor and Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, UVic. He was a Lead Author in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2nd, 3rd and 4th scientific assessments and is a Lead Author in the 5th Assessment. He was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate from 2005-2009. Weaver is a Fellow of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He is a past recipient of NSERC Steacie, Killam and Guggenheim Fellowships as well as the CMOS President’s Prize. In 2008 he was appointed to the Order of British Columbia.
Information gives the power to the people and that’s why we need to give tangible, communicable, understandable information to the people.
In an Angus Reid poll ¾ of people in Canada believe climate change is occurring
80% in BC
83% in Quebec, tops in Canada
69% believe climate change is real science in Canada though in Alberta 21% believe it’s junk science.
Problems for scientists:
Scientists are communicators spending a great deal of time communicating what they do in terms for those reporting what scientists are doing to the general population. Largely because science depends on assumptions that are not necessarily interesting to general public.
Sensationalism is used to sell and often jeopardize accuracy in so doing. For example, 150 meters sea rise would go to base of Statue of Liberty though magazines show covering of almost ¾ of statue (News of the World).
Journalists have difficulties determining who is and who is not an expert.
Journalistic ethical norm – journalist doesn’t want to be perceived as biased. IE) journalist asked to write an article about free trade agreement with China and must seek quotes and opinions from “experts” or “stakeholders” that then create a bias to the story. In order to balance this many journalists will use a “balance statement” that disproportionately affects the balance of the article. For example…. “some scientists believe that climate warming is just a normal cycle…” which effectively negates any evidence previously presented for the contrary, even if that evidence was much stronger in backing and numbers who support it.
We know that the world has warmed by .7% over the last decade. We know that the world is warming. We know that 2010 is now the warmest year on record. We know a lot, scientifically speaking.
One theory against global warming is that it’s caused by Sun Spots, as featured in the movie, “The Climate Swindle” (name may be wrong).
With this theory they drew a conclusion seeing two patterns without actually proving correlation.
The challenge to these sceptics is that when you actually present all the relevant data, in a correlated fashion, the evidence of man-caused climate change becomes overwhelming.
The canary in the coalmine: ice cap in the arctic.
In 2007 the previous record of meltback was beaten by an area the size of Ontario. It also beat the AVERAGE meltback by a size of Ontario and Quebec combined.
The reaction to this can be twofold:
A) let’s change our ways
B) let’s take advantage of this new access to oil and start drilling up in the arctic!
Since the 1870’s scientists have been predicting climate change
At this time, climate warming was thought to be a good thing (easier to farm year round…)
650,000 year record of C02, CH4, ice volume and inferred Antarctic temperature by studying ice cores in the Antarctic. You can literally infer past temperatures and past co2 levels from these ice cores.
We know this to be true for 800,000 years now
Currently at 389 parts per million, far beyond anything humans have ever seen while on earth. On track to go from 389 to 1000ppm by 2100.
So what’s going to happen?
First, make assumptions as did the IPCC on population, use of greenhouse gases…
IF we believe we don’t need to think about intergenerational equity then we’re fine. But if we do believe we have responsibilities to future generations then we have a lot to worry about.
3 scenarios were looked at:
Best – increase of 1.8 degrees celcius by 2099
Worst – increase of 4 degrees celcius by 2099
The challenge with climate change is that governments are basing their strategies on the present (what’s going to get them reelected) so they have little impetus to work on long term problems, such as climate change.
Impacts of climate change are disproportionately skewed to affect countries of the tropics, which also happens to be where we have less economically developed nations/peoples.
Our big challenge:
Since 2005 (31%) people generally are growing more sceptical about if “global warming is taking place?” (48%) in 2010 in USA.
In the UK the public has become even more sceptical.
So why has this drop in belief taking place:
People are trying to knock down what the IPCC created, as is human nature to knock down what has become powerful.
Fear of government regulations. Libertarians that don’t want the government telling us what to do.
Fear of growth of uber government in Geneva. In other words, a central body dictating what’s happening in regional areas
Policy options: 2050 emission reduction targets
Copenhagen Accord: we don’t want to raise world temperatures by more than 2 degrees celcius even though that would mean that we’d have to reduce our global CO2 to neutral, or carbon neutrality.
Challenge with Coppenhagen Accord and similar such global accords is that language is always written to protect public policy, not necessarily truth. In the case of Coppenhagen, the language has been framed to allow for an ‘out’ such as Kyoto protocol stands for – from Canadian commitment of reduction of 6% in 1997 to allowing a growth of 2.5% in 2010 – an 8.5% shift by using public policy framing.
This hypocrisy is why we need to change the focus of climate change from federal to municipal.
An exciting age of innovation
Science, engineering and technology will play a central role in the transformation of our energy system.
IE) The Chevy Volt – technology that existed but was suppressed because of vested interests
Cultures where new technology can step in without having to replace another technology is the easiest place for this to foster – hence why cell phones took off so quickly in the third world where landline infrastructure wasn’t established.
“What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” – this is why our next generation will affect the greatest amount of change.
1) State of climate activism?
People feel beaten up cause no one is listening. That said, Copenhagen was great because it featured the youth outside with the politicians inside, signifying just how out of touch the two sides are. To do more A) vote B) take steps in your own community and in your own life.
2) Sapporo Berman statement that we’re within 3 years of a point of no return?
There is NO evidence that this is running away and can’t be caught. We have had much higher greenhouse gases previously on earth. The real question should be: “will we, as humans, be a part of the new world once these green house gases take their effect?” So you have to be careful with doom and gloom statements because it breeds a sense of hopelessness.
What she did for good was changing the activism mindset from fighting against something to fighting for something.
3) 1% of land for solar energy could take care of ALL our energy needs, is it really just vested interests stopping it?
The market is broken. The atmosphere is unregulated and people/business can put anything into it without recourse. This needs to change and then new innovations will take hold.
For example, tar sands in Canada act as a vested interest that prohibits government from focusing on new technologies.
4) From fashion perspective, what this industry can do specifically to positively affect change?
Ask what were the tools/processes used to create those textiles? Ask the question “How can I reduce our carbon footprint” by using these materials? In other words, you just have to ask the questions every step of the way. Ask, ask, and ask.
Photo Credit: Kris Krüg, www.staticphotography, via Flickr.com
Carly Stojsic is Canada’s Market Editor for Worth Global Style Network and is a freelance trend forecaster for an array of clients. She joined WGSN, the world’s leading online service for global trend analysis, as a Market Editor in December 2007. Her extensive background in sourcing, trend forecasting and as a color specialist greatly augments WGSN’s customized consultancy services in creative intelligence. Click here to read more
WGSN predicts fashion internationally… based on their knowledge, Carly tells us about eco movements. Consumers are moving towards a eco friendly lifestyle – home grown food, sustainable power sources.
WGSN think tank sees society having less of an identity now. Detroit is considering turning unused city lots into farmland.
The majority of designers target 10% of richest consumers. Revolution is required to reach other 90%.
Designers as activists.
Zero waste designs cut from fabric using all of it; no waste. Recycled denim can be used as insulation in buildings.
2007 London – dissolvable dress showcased so no landfill destination.
Denim dye process traditionally uses toxic chemicals, movement towards natural dyes, less harmful chemicals. Natural indigo and fruit dyes used for other fabrics.
Many companies creating their own ‘green star’ system to monitor internal greening.
True sustainability may be more about recycling synthetics, not using newly produced organic natural fibres. These wear better, wash easier.
Bamboo fibres used in Japan. Decomposes harmlessly. Paper fibres used also for lace, knits, unique pressed fabrics.
China will ban plastic bags handed out in stores June 2011.
Mattel is producing eco accessories for Barbie. !
Recycling used by artists, interior design, home fittings.
Swaparama clothing swap parties popular. Repair also encouraged.
Bicycling communities popping up internationally. Underground communities hold repair workshops, portable sound systems for bike parties.
George from California kayaks to work after years of traffic jams. WGSN asks, ‘Where does he put his coffee?!’
Well, a new semester is underway! What better way to pump your fashion design/marketing students up on responsible practices in the apparel industry than with a new resource? Check out ECO Fashion by Sass Brown, Resident Director for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s study abroad program in Florence.
One of the strongest trends in fashion is the expression of ecological, social and community consciousness through for-profit fashion design corporations, which most recently have moved upscale from organic cotton T-shirts and hippy-ish drawstring pants to high fashion. There is now a wide range of companies offering well designed merchandise, from one-off art, recycled and redesigned clothing, organic and sustainable textiles and garment production, to a range of community and indigenous support cooperatives bridging the gap between traditional craft and high fashion.
This book shows the range of companies making a difference in the area of sustainable design in fashion, exploding the myth that sustainable design is bad design, or at best basic design, by highlighting the range of companies producing desirable and well-designed apparel and accessories with a conscience. It not only demonstrates the range of products available around the globe, but explains the stories behind them and the communities they support, as well as showing how and where they make a difference.
1 Community and Fair Trade
Alabama Chanin / Amana / El Naturalista / Elena Garcia / Leila Hafzi / Les Fees de Bengale / ModaFusion / Mona Mohanna / Noir / Royah / sense-organics / Shoto Banerji / Taller Flora / Van Markoviec
2 Ecological and Slow Design
Alexandra Faro / Camila Norrback / Celine Faizant / Christine Birkle / Ciel / Emily Katz / Enamore / FIN / Francoise Hoffmann / Linda Loudermilk / Magdalena Schaffrin / RoyalBLUSH / Samant Chauhan / U Roads / YOJ
3 Recycle Reuse
Angela Johnson / Costumisee par Liza / Demano / E2 / Frau Wagner / From Somewhere / Geoffrey B Small / Josh Jakus / Preloved / Rebound Designs / Riedizioni / Stephan Hann / Suitcase / TRAIDremade
4 New Models
aforest-design / Andrea Zittel / Bless / Collection of Hope / Holly McQuillan / Mark Liu
Nau / Rebecca Earley & Kate Goldsworthy / Redesign the World
5 Design Initiatives
Agatha Ruiz de la Prada / Barney’s New York / H&M and DAA – Designers Against Aids / Katharine Hamnett / Zara / Miguel Adrover / Philippe Starck / Salvatore Ferragamo / Vivienne Westwood / Yeohlee Teng / Yves Saint Laurent
We mentioned a while back that SA is a supporting partner of ECO Fashion Week Vancouver, coordinating the conference to promote education. Well, the conference schedule is set, and we are so excited!
Here are the details, plus some abstracts, session learning objectives and recommended reading!
Carly Stojsic // ECO as Movement, not Trend
2:00 pm — Tuesday, September 28th
Join industry expert Carly Stojsic at EFW as she presents key insights and research into ecofashion, forecasting trends for 2011-2012. Ecofashion has grown to encompass a movement within the fashion industry; emphasising the importance of environmental consideration, ecofashion supports a shift in conventional practice. Stojsic is Canada’s Market Editor at Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), and at EFW, she will showcase ecofashion as you’ve never seen it before. Eco as Movement, not Trend will secure the place of ecofashion within the industry
Dr. Andrew Weaver // Global Warming: The Scale of the Problem, the Path to the Solution
10:00 am — Wednesday, September 29th
The foundations of the science of global warming will be presented and a discussion of our present climate will be framed within a historical perspective of the Earth’s climate over the last 800,000 years. The range of projections of climate change over the next century will be summarized and the public confusion arising from the media portrayal of the science and its entry into the political arena will be discussed. Finally, how various international policy options fit within the framework of necessary actions required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be reviewed.
This talk will be based on the book: Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.
1) How the media affects public perception of global warming science.
2) Future greenhouse gas emissions need to reduce to zero if we wish to deal with global warming.
3) Dealing with global warming is empowering. Everyone is part of the problem; everyone is part of the solution.
Mark Trotzuk and Paul Raybin //Lifecycles in Fashion
12:00 pm — Wednesday, September 29th
1. Mark Trotzuk: Apparel Lifecycle Impacts & Mitigation of Impacts
The Lifecycle Stages are discreet intervals along the life of a finished product—and the materials which make up the product—where environmental impacts are realized. These stages include the processes of raw materials, manufacturing, delivering, using and managing the end of life for products. It is important to consider different ways of mitigating these impacts.
1) Stages of the lifecycle of an apparel item
2) Impacts of the lifecycle of an apparel item
3) Mitigating the impacts during the lifecycle of an apparel item.
2. Paul Raybin: Lifecycle Assessments – Water & Textiles
Discussion on water use in the textile industry: creating awareness and helping people understand impact of the textile industry on water use and pollution. Paul will explain the various points where water use and pollution are factors in the lifecycle of a garment and opportunities for water-saving technologies and practices.
1) Further the understanding of life cycled assessment with particular assessment of water use in the textile industry.
2) Provide designer options on how to reduce water use into their choices of textile, dye, and decoration.
Summer Rayne Oakes // Eco-Trends: The Art & Science of Sourcing Sustainably
10:00 am — Thursday, September 30th
Eco-Trends: The Art & Science of Sourcing Sustainably
A bird’s eye view on defining sustainability; international industry metrics; and the latest technologies to help designers and retail sourcing specialists source more sustainably. Talk includes a look into the source4style.com, a new B2B online marketplace that allows designers and retail sourcing specialists to search, compare and purchase more sustainable materials and services from a network of global suppliers – as well as some of the exciting sustainable trends that are surfacing.
1) How to locate and source more sustainable materials for your collections
2) What current industry metrics are available to aid designers and brands in assessing their environmental and social impact
3) What we can learn and predict from crowdsourcing a sustainable sourcing community
4) Upcoming trends in sustainable materials, sourcing and style.
Digging Deeper is an opportunity for tradeshow attendees to speak directly with key panel members and address any questions or concerns they might have coming out of the conference. Panel members will take questions from the audience to expand upon ideas presented throughout the conference and continue the conversation, investigating how these ideas are translated on the ground.
Myriam Laroche, President, ECO Fashion Week Vancouver
Aware of What We Wear: an Ethical Fashion Initiative
by Samantha Reichman,
Secretary of the Student Ethical Fashion Organization,
The College of William and Mary
How can fashion, a multibillion dollar flashy, frivolous, fickle industry, created to appeal to the whims of the consumer possibly be ETHICAL? Students of “Ethical Fashion” have discovered the answer to this question over the course of the 2009-2010 academic year.
The Sharpe Community Scholars Program at The College of William and Mary originated a service-learning, seminar-style course called “Ethical Fashion”, taught by Professor Regina Root. Designed for students interested in combining their concern about issues in the fashion industry with their desire for social justice, we signed up to engage the topic for an entire academic year. During the fall semester, we were challenged to discuss and research topics related to the global apparel industry: issues in production and distribution as well as workers’ rights and sweatshop labor. This semester, our focus has shifted to the creation and execution of a campus-wide project. We successfully hosted an ethical fashion show on April 10 to raise awareness on campus about this aspect of the worldwide fashion industry. On April 28, our classmates produced Josefina López’s “Real Women Have Curves” – a play about near-sweatshop-labor conditions in East Los Angeles to raise awareness of what is exactly going on in an industry that touches our lives every single day.
“Ethical Fashion” students are taking the next step in making this more than just a yearlong freshman seminar project. We are starting a movement. It began with an Ethical Fashion Report for the provost of the college, who understands the growing, changing nature of this issue around the world. Next, a constitution was written, resulting in the formation of an Ethical Fashion club. At our weekly meetings, we agreed the organization would be called SEFO: Student Ethical Fashion Organization. Blaise Springfield was elected the new president, along with an executive board on which I serve as secretary. This new student organization already seeks to partner with organizations as varied as Goodwill Industries, EDUN Live On Campus and Raíz Diseño, a transnational network of sustainable designers in Latin America.
At the first annual Ethical Fashion Show at William and Mary, we created a line of outfits from recyclable materials, utilizing one-of-a-kind pieces featured by our local Student Environmental Action Coalition for a fashion display on America Recycles Day. Students also worked with Goodwill, which donated clothing that was reused or upcycled for the fashion show. All in all, we showcased the possibilities of using recyclable materials to create functional, fun outfits. Yet other students designed and modeled their own creations made of plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, and corrugated cardboard.
In the theater of our Campus Center, the fashion show proved a great success and planted the seed for further community awareness and involvement in the burgeoning field of “Ethical Fashion”. With a little consciousness and some recycling, we can easily find ways to feel really good about what we wear!
“During the fall semester, we were challenged to discuss and research […] issues in production and distribution as well as workers’ rights and sweatshop labor.” (Samantha Reichman, Secretary of the Student Ethical Fashion Organization, The College of William and Mary)
“Real Women Have Curves” by Josefina López – a play about near-sweatshop-labor conditions in East Los Angeles
Samantha Reichman collected the plastic bottle caps that topped the various drinks consumed by her family. She used this dress as a kind of intervention -- to bring awareness of the waste produced through the consumption of bottled water.
Student modeling a dress recycled by Goodwill Industries, an organization with which the Student Ethical Fashion Organization partnered for the first annual ethical fashion show that featured a great deal of recycled apparel.
Group Photo: The first annual Ethical Fashion Show at College of William and Mary
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Tamara Albu, Director of the A.A.S. Fashion Design Program at Parsons School of Fashion in New York to discuss Social Alterations, and the work we’ve been doing in developing free, open-source curricula for students and educators.
Tamara asked me to sit down with her more formally and explain the project so that students and faculty at Parsons might get to know who we are and the work that we are doing.
Speaking with Tamara in this virtual space was a complete honour, and I am so happy to share this edited video with you here, along with the interview transcript.
Tamara Albu (TA): Hello. My name is Tamara Albu, I direct the Fashion Design A.A.S. Program, at Parsons School of Fashion here in New York. We are here today, in a virtual space, creating a bridge between New York and Vancouver, so we can talk a bit about the Social Alterations online lab developed by Mary Hanlon, after completing her Graduate thesis.
Mary Hanlon is the Founder, Editor and Lead Contributor of Social Alterations, and the winner of this year’s Fashioning the Future Award for “Systems for a Sustainable Fashion Industry” through the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion.
Before beginning our conversation, I would like to thank David Goldsmith, one of our senior faculty, for introducing me to Mary.
It was fortunate that Mary Hanlon and David Goldsmith met recently at the Fashioning an Ethical Industry conference, in London. At the end of the event he talked about his strong belief that Mary’s website team and his research are a wonderful example of building the infrastructure for a “Fully-Fair” clothing and fashion industry. As he explained, Fully-Fair means being fair–not only in the limited sense of fair-trade,–but fair environmentally, economically, culturally, and socially.
Soon after this, I visited your website to learn more about your online lab, Mary. I was so taken by this project that I started thinking how can I make your ideas known to our students and faculty, here at Parsons, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What came to my mind, was we already had a lot of conversations online via Skype, so
I simply wanted to record our Skype discussions as quickly as possible and have them published on the Parsons’ School of Fashion blogazine.
So, Mary, before we begin our main discussion—I would like you to perhaps say a few words about yourself.
Mary Hanlon (MH): Hi Tamara! Thank you for speaking with me. It’s wonderful to talk with you here. Yes, I’d like to thank David Goldsmith for introducing us, first and foremost. I met David in early March, back at the Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference in London. We got to talking there, and, you know, we were speaking the same language. So, I just want to thank him for putting us in contact, and also thank you, both of you, for taking an interest in Social Alterations.
“It’s not enough to create great fashion, you have to understand why, what’s going to happen to that fashion later on, and what are the implications of what you’ve done” (Simon Collins, Dean of Parsons School of Fashion)
TA: I’m certainly very interested in Social Alterations, and that’s why we are here today.So, let me begin by asking you my first question: What exactly is Social Alterations?
MH: Social Alterations (SA) is an online lab built to educate fashion design instructors and students on the social, cultural, environmental and economic impact of their design choices.
It is an interactive website that, you know, hopes to create a space that will begin the conversation to bridge the gap between responsible design in theory and then responsible design in practice. So it’s a learning space, essentially, that wants to facilitate transformative design education.
I founded Social Alterations because my graduate research investigated the role of fashion design educators in teaching responsible fashion design. And, what I learned from that…you know, my research really showed that there was a knowledge gap within the industry, and I realized that there was an opportunity there to take the research I had done and put it outside of just the walls of my academia.
My passion for open-source learning guided me toward wanting to create an educational system that would be accessible to as many people as possible.
The Social Alterations Team is made up of myself, Nadira Lamrad, who is both a collaborator on this project as well as a contributing writer, and Katrine Karlsen, who is a contributor. It’s an international initiative. You know, while Nadira is based in Hong Kong, Katrine is writing from Norway, and I’m currently based in Vancouver, Canada.
TA: My goodness, this is a wonderful thing, they certainly are from all over the world; very interesting and exciting. Mary, let me ask you one other question,what do you mean by ‘transformative design education’ if you could develop a little bit more about that?
MH: Sure. I mean, we believe that interdisciplinary education is key to tackling these issues, because these are interdisciplinary issues. So our theme ‘Accessibility for Accountability,’ really shows that we want to help learners understand these issues by breaking down educational barriers: we want to provide them with the necessary tools to take on the challenge of responsible design, give them proper resources, create platforms for discussion, and build open-source curricula, within the interdisciplinary context. So when we talk about “responsible design,” we are talking about design that is educated on all of these issues.
TA: So, that leads me to a subject that is very close to me, but I’d like you to talk about it in relation to your project.Could you elaborate on what you mean by ‘open-source’ learning?
Mary: Sure. So, open-source learning for us is really about breaking down educational barriers. There is so much amazing research being done, that if we can harness this knowledge and aggregate the resources to deliver this through open-source systems. I mean, It’s exciting for us to imagine educators from across the globe coming together to discuss these issues. For example the open-source nature of Social Alterations allows educators and thought leaders from various disciplines (not just fashion design) to share their research in best practices for responsible design, but they can do so in real-time, online. You know, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in Hong Kong, or if you’re in Toronto, if you’re in Vancouver, or if you’re in South America, it’s not the point. Location isn’t the matter, it’s a matter of getting access to the information that you need as quickly as possible, because the consequences of not having that information are very large.
TA: You’re absolutely right, Mary. Can you tell us,what do you mean by ‘responsible design’?
MH: When we talk about “responsible design” on Social Alterations, we are talking about design that has considered, again, so environment, culture, society and economy to the absolute best of its abilities, at each stage of the design process.
Research has shown that so much of the consequences of design (you know, positive or negative) is actually known at the design stage. So while consumer education plays a huge role, of course, in shaping socially responsible fashion design, signals of deception, greenwashing for example, and unintelligent design, hidden ingredients….consumers basically are left to um, in many cases (of course not all cases), but in many cases, are left with no real choice—to pick from the best of the worst
But we believe the designer always has a choice at that design stage.
Material selection, for example is an obvious starting point. We have a “Fibre Analysis” that outlines the potential social and environmental consequences of commonly used fibres (that’s available online). And it’s this resource that we developed by aggregating resources that already exist, by pulling them together in one package so people have the answers they need right away.
Of course, the list of fibres in the analysis is no where near exhaustive, and so we’ll be working on further developing the content as we move forward. It’s an ongoing process.
TA: I’m so glad you mentioned all these, and I certainly hope that your project is going to continue and flourish and become, not only a source of inspiration but actually a source of information for so many designers interested in responsible design. Let’s go a little bit farther, and talk a little bit about the fact that you have argued that design educators have a responsibility to teach these issues. Could you explain?
MH: At the end of the day, the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the designer, primarily, because the designer is the creator of that product—of that garment
But if we go back and we think about the fashion design educator as having a responsibility—if we think of fashion design education as the point of intervention then the responsibility is lifted slightly off the shoulders of the designer and placed on the shoulders of the fashion/textile/apparel design educator.
So, to teach design practices that are culturally, socially, environmentally and economically supportive— that’s the responsibility of the design educator, is essentially what we’re arguing.
TA: Very well put. Okay, that leads me to my next question:what’s next?
Mary: Well,we’ll be looking to partner with various international stakeholders within the community (corporations, non-governmental organizations, environmental and Human Rights groups, social enterprises and educational institutions), and we’ll continue the process of developing the curricula, and pulling the resources together, and trying to deliver them in an edited capacity that makes sense—that people can use and absorb the knowledge that we’re presenting. I mean, it’s a really exciting time, because we have had such positive feedback coming from all sectors. There is a real opportunity for change here. I think that that’s pretty clear, so if we do the work, and we aggregate the resources, develop this content, and really pull it together for people so that they understand not just what’s at stake, but the choice that they can make moving forward to have control—take back control—is really powerful.
TA: Mary, I’d like to thank you very much for sharing this with all of us. I will certainly make sure that this information will be available online. Either our faculty and students will watch this video or they might prefer to read through the transcript, but the end result should be that we raise awareness for this project, and hopefully your website will be visited more and more, and that of course will mean that your projectwillbecome even more successful than it is now.
MH: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about this project. I hope that your readers will find it interesting, and that they’ll come and support us. And I really look forward to continuing this conversation. Thank you again, very much for your time. Thank you. Thank you very much Tamara!
TA:Thank you so much for allowing me to enter your space and interview you, I just want to add that I have been talking today with Mary Hanlon who is the Founder, Editor and Lead Contributor of Social Alterations, and the winner of this year’s Fashioning the Future Award for “Systems for a Sustainable Fashion Industry” through the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion.
I hope that you’re going to get a lot of followers—and I’m certainly already one of them! So, great talking to you!