LONDON, United Kingdom — Kering and London College of Fashion (LCF) are introducing a new certificate programme to address the complex and interconnected sustainability challenges facing the fashion industry.
Titled “Fashion and Sustainability: Understanding Luxury Fashion in a Changing World,” the six-week course, co-developed by academics from the London-based school and Kering’s sustainability experts, is built on six key modules, covering both the theoretical aspects of sustainability as well as real-life business cases that luxury brands face, such as raw material sourcing, animal welfare and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Every stage in a garment’s life threatens the planet and its resources. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.
“Sustainability is something that you have to start from the early stages [of a company.] It needs time and is a long-term approach [if you want] to able to execute a strong strategy and action plan,” says Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering. “It’s something that we emphasise at Kering; it’s not only a topic for the design team. It’s important that everyone has a minimal knowledge about sustainability.”
Sustainability is an opportunity, not a constraint.
Consisting of a mix of films, podcasts, activities and discussions, the open-access course can be completed anywhere with good access to the Internet and is structured so that students can work through learning materials at their own pace — fitting education around their own schedule, rather than having to attend lectures at set times.
According to Daveu, it was important for the course to be online, especially in an industry like fashion, where the most prestigious institutions have traditionally been concentrated around the industry’s design capitals. “Online teaching brings that expertise to your home, to your desk. I’m not just talking about students, but also people who work. This is an opportunity for everyone to follow this training wherever they are.”
"By open sourcing knowledge, we can provide a platform for learning that encourages the sharing of ideas and solutions, with the potential of reaching a critical mass of people," adds professor Frances Corner, head of London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. "There is a moral imperative to act, which is more urgent than ever before."
As part of the roll-out, a cohort of young British designers, identified by the British Fashion Council (BFC), have trialled the course, to ensure its relevance to industry professionals seeking to boost their sustainability knowledge. Looking ahead, Daveu believes that anyone looking to apply for a position at Kering should “have a minimal knowledge and understanding of sustainability,” she says. “It’s not just something for people in design and production to be interested in, but for all Kering employees. It’s important to share the same values.”
The move by Kering and LCF follows a similar partnership between LVMH and Central Saint Martins (CSM), which announced a sustainable innovation programme in February 2017, titled “Double Vision: Innovation, Sustainability, Luxury.” As part of the initiative, CSM will host a series of sustainability-driven projects, workshops and events, while offering its research facilities to LVMH. In turn, the luxury group will work with students or graduates on consultancy projects.
"Through these partnership-led experiences, students are learning that they all have a vital role to play in creating an environmentally and ethically responsible future," says Anne Smith, dean of academic programmes at Central Saint Martins.
“There are many challenges in the industry, but in luxury, we have a specific responsibility because we are influencing trends,” Daveu continues. “People need to realise that sustainability is an opportunity, not a constraint. It’s a chance to be optimistic, because you can make wonderful products while taking care of people and the planet. The solution does exist.”