In the Shadows and In the Light

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The Kering Award winners 2017 (L-R: Jenni Kusowski, Laure Fernandez, Charlie Wilkinson & Dianjin Lin)

At times, it feels as though, the more that you learn – the less you think that you know. As our work in fashion, design and sustainability develops – so we realise the great range of disciplines and bodies of knowledge that our work touches draws on. But at other times, it feels as though we can really make a tremendous contribution to change towards a more wonderful world – for those who live on earth and in how we value it.

Wednesday 11th October was one of those days. It was the day when we shared publicly, the final ten students and projects of this year’s Kering Sustainability Awards, developed with and for Stella McCartney and Gucci. As you can see listed below, these projects exemplify an understanding of our interdependencies with each other and nature. They are based on a perception of the world that places nature and equity at the heart of humanity. This is part of a huge cultural shift that is taking place in parts of education, society, business and politics; in the minds of individuals and communities. It is part of a new kind of imagining, of a new kind of aspiration for ourselves in the world.

It was also the day when Gucci, with whom we have been working for the past year, as part of our partnership with Kering, announced a huge cultural shift in fashion. In joining the Fur Free Alliance, eliminating animal fur from the Spring Summer 2018 collection onwards, Gucci’s move is a commitment to care that we are hugely excited about. And it doesn’t stop there. Gucci’s ‘Culture of Purpose’ also includes a partnership with UNICEF’s Girls’ Empowerment Initiative, announced on International Day of the Girl, this too is changemaking.

As you may have heard me say before, the reason that Centre for Sustainable Fashion, as a community of fashion design researchers, practitioners, communicators and educators, explores nature and equity based practices in and through fashion is because what we have is a cultural problem not a technical problem, not a scientific problem. What is in need of attention, is our ways of living, our cultures, practices, stories and manifestations of being human in the 21st century. Wednesday evening, we saw culture change.

Marco Bizzari, CEO of Gucci, spoke of culture change within Gucci too – in bringing those who are starting out, who might otherwise be in the shadows, into the light, for their ideas to be seen and heard. That is just what the Awards seeks to do too. To connect emerging ideas from students, with those of experienced researchers and industry experts – for each to learn from the other. This requires a questioning of our hopes and intentions as well as of the content of our work.

The results are quite different from other fashion offerings too, as the information about each of the projects makes clear:

Post Carbon Fashion: A prototype material which uses blue-green algae to produce fashion with photosynthetic or pollution-filtering properties. Dianjin Lin wins the Stella McCartney Award for Innovation in Fashion and Sustainability.

Designing Denim with Nature: A fibreshed denim manufacturing system which rethinks the way denim can be locally produced in the UK. Jenni Kusowski wins the Stella McCartney Award for Collaboration in Fashion and Sustainability.

The winner for the Gucci Award for Innovation in Fashion and Sustainability Laure Fernandaz’s project Future Artisans explores new ways of designing patterns and the future of printing processes.

Gucci x Sunday: deconstructing a classic Gucci suitcase to explore how it could be re-designed sustainably, ultimately replacing plastic and leather components with cork and bio-resin. Charlie Wilkinson wins the Gucci Award for Collaboration in Fashion and Sustainability.

The other finalists explored: The fashion campaign as an agent of change (Bella Gonshorovitz); Communicating transparency through technology (Jovy Hon); Exploring the re-design of Gucci’s bestseller, the Jordaan Loafer (Victoria Andre); Prototyping as a prompt for ethical discussion (Christina Haxholm); The aftercare of silk (Heather Portbury); and the use of Apple Fibre as a viable concept (Mitchell Thomas).

Each of the students taking part in the Kering Awards this year has demonstrated that as we enter an era like none other before us, we also have graduates like no others, creatives who combine integrity and understanding, with whom we can become justly proud of every facet of fashion.

As I said on the night, whilst there is still a lot more for us all to do – we are well placed to be undertaking this vital work of change towards sustainability. To paraphrase Gregory Bateson…  the world comes to be (partly) as it is imagined.