Kering Award for Sustainability: The Final Presentations

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‘I love watching everyone’s presentations rehearsals and hearing about their projects,’ one Kering Award finalist stated last week. ‘It’s like doing a Master’s degree in sustainability!’

I have to agree. I’ve worked at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion for three months, the final three months of the 2016 Kering Award for Sustainability, which culminated in presentations by nine exceptionally talented and creative students at Kering’s London headquarters last week. It really was like doing a crash course in sustainable fashion. The projects, developed by students from a variety of different final year BA and MA courses, ranged from material innovation- vegetarian leather made out of mushroom skin- to communication strategies that encouraged consumers to care for their clothes better thus prolonging the life of their garment. Each idea was unique and innovative, and was tangible proof of the power of creativity, especially when dealing with questions of sustainability.

The whole award process started back in November 2015 (months before I even applied for my job at CSF!), when students initially applied for the award. It then developed from January until June, as the shortlist was cut down to thirty students, then again to just ten finalists, and the projects refined.

As in the first year of this award programme, the finalists worked with two brands, Stella McCartney and Brioni. Five students were mentored by Brioni- and developed projects around the iconic luxury menswear suit that is synonymous with the name Brioni- and five with Stella McCartney- and brand which holds sustainability at the core of its values. The students had monthly tutorials with representatives from the sustainability department of each brand, as well as visits to both London stores and the HR department at Kering. With each tutorial, the projects were refined and honed, testing was done, research was conducted and presentations were rehearsed, leading ever closer to the big day at Kering HQ.

The Award process culminated in final presentations to a panel which included Frances Corner, head of LCF, Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and collection directors, sustainability officers and HR directors from each of the brands. Kering’s London office, a formidable location in itself, on the sixth floor of the impressive and intimidating 62 Buckingham Gate, is the quintessential, corporate office, with floor to ceiling windows that create a dizzying sense of vertigo if you stand too close, and pristine vases bearing huge bouquets of flowers. The impressive setting paired with the even more impressive judging panel meant that nerves were palpable in the green room, as students rehearsed their presentations for one final time, the windows providing the perfect mirror in which to practice.

Each student came out after twenty minutes of presenting their ideas and questioning by the panel, smiling, and the jury was highly complementary of the innovation, care and sheer amount of work that had gone into each project. They commended the complexity of the projects as a whole, and the different way each student had approached the challenge of sustainability within a luxury brand.

Personally, being involved in the Kering Award did feel a little bit like doing a Master’s degree in sustainability- I learned so much from every one of the students, as well as spending time with the mentors, both from the brands and the college. The journey each student has taken, from being selected as one of the final ten shortlisted students, through the regular mentoring, has mirrored my own journey over the last three months- from my first day, when I frantically had to rush out and buy a pair of tights at 9am because I didn’t want to show up on my first day wearing a ripped pair, to the three month probation meeting I had last week. A lot can happen in three months, as has been proven by the students on the Kering award. Jackets have been made, materials tested, presentations written and rewritten, rehearsed and re-rehearsed. And now the students are anxiously waiting to find out who has won each of the coveted prizes…

As for the prizes, €10,000 is awarded to the student from each brand who showed the greatest level of innovation and creativity in their project, while another student, who has shown rigour and professionalism, will win a three month paid internship with each brand. The winners will be announced at the annual Kering talk in November- so watch this space for more information about that.

In the meantime, while the students might be able to relax for the summer, work has already started in the CSF office on planning for next year. If you’re a LCF final year BA or MA student, you are eligible to apply- details about which will be released in November.