The clothing industry harms the planet. What can fashion schools do?
All too often, sustainability is treated as a one-off topic, rather than a practice to be embraced by all
When Amy McCranor got her first job in fashion, she didn’t like what she saw. During a trial period at an e-commerce fashion brand, she witnessed a rapid turnover of unhappy staff, garments sewn with competitors’ labels entered into the inventory, and stock priced at impossibly low figures. So exploitative were overseas manufacturing costs that anything priced over £5 brought in a comfortable profit for the company.
It all caused her to question whether she had a place in the fashion industry at all. “I think it’s wrong,” McCranor says. “It’s a minefield for fashion graduates because you just think, how can I do what I want without feeling like a hypocrite? And I really did feel like one being there.” McCranor left the brand and sought opportunities beyond fashion. “I’ve worked out what I stand for morally, ethically, creatively,” she says. “I can now take a stand early on in my career.”
Despite assumptions that Generations Y and Z are poised to save the planet, many students – like McCranor – embark upon their degrees unaware of the harm fast fashion does. They have little knowledge of the excessive water usage, or the many deaths of garment workers. Campaigns for industry reform, such as Fashion Revolution, deploy Instagram-friendly fact graphics and hashtags, yet the message doesn’t seem to be getting through.