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  • Nina Stevenson

As fashion tutors, we have the opportunity and responsibility to be changemakers

Questioning what we learn, how we learn, and with whom we learn is embedded in our projects and research here at Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF). We are committed to designing and participating in scenarios that offer transformative learning for fashion designers, strategists and communicators, that is unlearning some established patterns of thinking and behaviour, re-learning sustainable patterns where appropriate, and designing new learning to be able to recognise, create and engage with necessary alternatives that foreground planetary health and human equity (Sterling 2013).

Today, 24 January 2022 is UNESCO’s World Education Day, a day in which educators and institutions are invited to reflect on education as we look around us and to the future: What should we continue doing? What should we abandon? What needs to be creatively invented afresh?

These questions have been discussed in relation to all levels of education in the 2021 global report on the Futures of Education entitled Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education. The foundational principles of this new social contract are: assuring the right to quality education throughout life and strengthening education as a public common good. At CSF, this highlights to us the need for inclusivity and accessibility of education through traditional and new experimental delivery modes that are cultivating lifelong learning. The report also places importance on the role of the tutor as leverage point for transformation, and more importantly that in recognition of this complex work tutors need to be networked in rich collaborative teaching communities.

“Teaching demands compassion, competence, knowledge, and ethical resolve. Wise and learned figures have been recognized in cultures around the world, and from this tradition the ‘teacher’ stands as a specialized actor in the context of a school. Teachers are key figures on whom possibilities for transformation rest. They, in turn, must recognize the agency of their students to participate, collaborate, and learn through their shared pedagogical encounters. To carry out this complex work, teachers need rich collaborative teaching communities, characterized by sufficient measures of freedom and support. Supporting teachers’ autonomy, development, and collaboration is an important expression of public solidarity for the futures of education.” – Reimagining Our Futures Together: A new social contract for education (UNESCO, November 2022), p80

FashionSEEDS, is a new online platform for fashion tutors that has been designed to meet the complex needs relating to delivering transformative teaching and learning. On the website, you can find insights and a range of resources to help tutors consider the why, what, how and with whom fashion education takes place. It offers ways to reflect and act, to demonstrate the positive impact the discipline of fashion design for sustainability can have in our world.

Designed with, by, and for a range of tutors in mind, from those just beginning to integrate sustainability in their teaching, to those with deep expertise, FashionSEEDS is a resource that tutors can return to as their needs evolve within fashion education.

FashionSEEDS features a brand-new guide, the Tutor’s Toolkit, which can be applied or adapted to help educators consider ways to put nature and equity at the heart of fashion design curricula. This includes:

  • Course Designer: Aiming to equip educators and course teams to foreground and apply fashion design for sustainability principles and practice in their teaching and learning design

  • Design Canvas: Supporting academics, leaders and practitioners in identifying their strategic priorities through a holistic approach to fashion design for sustainability

  • Cards: Offering practical exemplars for fashion educators to adapt and apply sustainability-oriented course content to reform, transform or complement current teaching and learning

  • Learning Activity Tool: Sharing 24 teaching activities developed to be integrated into existing courses or to be used as inspiration for building new course content

Alongside the toolkit’s materials, the FashionSEEDS team have designed key resources to help underpin the practicalities of teaching and learning. These include the Reader, a pocketbook to the platform which acts as a stand-alone reference in fashion design education for sustainability in higher education, the Library, a curated list of reviewed external platforms, the fashion tutor as sustainability, developed to help tutors in the development of their own practice and the FashionSEEDS project reports, which share the underpinning documents developed in the creation of the platform itself.

Dilys Williams, Director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, UAL, said: “Education is the leverage point for change in societies, cultures and economies; in this time of climate emergency, personal and systemic change in fashion is needed more than ever. As fashion tutors we have the opportunity and responsibility to be changemakers; to nurture knowledge, skills and capabilities that challenge damaging practices in the existing fashion system and design new systems that restore nature and equity. We can guide and embolden each other in navigating unknown territory using trusted reference points and including practices of care and inclusivity. FashionSEEDS offers tutors connectivity and shared learning to use as they tread the path of systems change.”

The FashionSEEDS platform has been developed through three years of research, reflection and co-design by a group of researchers and tutors from four universities in Europe; University of the Arts London, Politecnico di Milano, Estonian Academy of the Arts and Design School Kolding and through research involving educators in over 70 universities around the world.

The FashionSEEDS team would like to thank the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union for co-funding this project and all of those who have given their time to contribute to the creation of this work.

Sterling, Stephen (2013) Winning the Future We Want – the pivotal role of education and learning commissioned by UNESCO in preparation for the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, Nagoya 2014

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