When people talk about “sustainable fashion,” they often mean a type of clothing made in response to a small set of problems in the industry. Of course, many of them need to be addressed: overproduction, toxic dyes, water use and abuse of work are just some of the problems that regularly arise. However, most of the modern solutions we have are used to selling more clothes without facing the fundamental and forgotten problem of what happens at the end of the life of clothes – the answer to which is not as simple as buying or even making less clothes. This should also include stability of centering before the clothes are even born.
Slow Factory founder Celine Semaan believes that the gap in education in the industry may be the reason why this important part is often ignored. That’s why she’s now working with New York to hold free sustainable development courses for her organizations for more people – and in person.
This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the Slow Factory open education program, which currently runs courses that teach the sustainability of the online fashion industry, will have a new private home at Made in New York at Sunset. Park, Brooklyn is the first IRL outpost for what will be called the Slow Factory Institute.
“In New York, we are leading and showing that sustainability priorities can go hand in hand with the fashion industry,” the mayor said in a statement.
According to a press release, Semaan will help create 460 vacancies in fashion and train 500 people, bringing in about $ 57 million in economic output. Classes will range from materials science and biodesign to disassembly and recycling, with the goal of teaching designers and garment workers to create work from existing fabrics. The school will receive 10,000 tons of textile waste to be used to train designers in re-assembly techniques.
“The way [fashion] The education system developed right now mimics how our system is built. We teach people how to sell for very immediate use and a culture of immediate release, ”Semaan says Fashionista.“ There are no design classes for disassembly unless it’s in a tricky, cute way. It is not designed to scale – it is created as a craft, but this craft is very important. We need to find ways to scale it culturally to expand it into something affordable. ”
In New York alone, the average person generates about 46 pounds of clothing waste a year, which is about 200,000 tons of textiles that end up in landfills around the world. The sad irony, Semaan notes, is that in countries like Ghana, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Chile, where our discarded clothes often end up, the methods and principles of upcycling have been defended for centuries. Most designers just didn’t pay attention.
“That’s why [current] The program is mostly taught by the people of the global majority, “she said, continuing to explain how important it is to raise the voice of teachers who understand the global impact of fashion because their collective knowledge is how we progress.” Right now, it is the knowledge of the global majority are ignored and exploited. If they defend it, it is white designers, not colored people. ”
As a result, the most popular cultural appropriation class at the Slow Factory will also be taught in person. “We don’t necessarily invent new solutions, but we express the global majority’s concern about fashion and the normalization of conversation, allowing people to have vocabulary around cultural appropriation. It helps them look deeper into their design strategies. ”
Literacy in sustainable fashion is very important. Very often problems are talked about without real, accurate data or historical knowledge. A good example is the oft-used but unproven claim that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world – there is no evidence to support this, and repeating this helps obscure the real facts about fashion pollution. Siman believes that helping designers establish a connection between this science, manufacturing technique and their cultural background before something is created is a way to decolonize the fashion industry, making it more sustainable.
“We focus on all aspects of design before making clothes because environmental pollution happens on purpose. Waste is on purpose, ”she says.
Although the full program for the new personal program has not yet been outlined, teachers of current online classes reiterate the importance of the school.
“One of the biggest gaps in fashion education is spending too much time on the individualistic aspect of the industry,” says Aquila Stewart, founder of FATRA, a creative waste recycling company and teacher of upcycling at Slow Factory. The glamorous side of fashion often exists for individuals, she explains, and hides the fact that fashion has a global impact: “Fashion also needs historians, scientists, community organizers and more to help with dashing challenges in the industry.” Stewart also stressed that she wants her students to understand that we cannot single out sustainability as a separate category – instead we should include it in design.
The Slow Factory Institute will open in October 2022, and classes will be available to everyone, including design students and existing employees at the Made in New York Center.
“Communities are the foundation of every revolution and every single movement,” Seman says. “We are a community-oriented organization. We work for our community and together with our community to create change. ”
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