Graduating Fashion Week for sustainable heroes

The future of fashion is sustainable if graduate fashion week is anything to go by. The annual four-day event event at London’s Old Truman Brewery comprises installations, catwalk shows and two prize-giving ceremonies and promises to uncover the torchbearers of “considered design”, according to the event’s creative and managing director, Martyn Roberts.

Roberts believes that graduates can help existing fashion houses and retailers tap into “what a new generation of consumers want”. As brands from every echelon seek to improve their social, economic and environmental impact, graduate fashion week, says Roberts, is where many companies are looking for creatives for whom sustainability is intrinsic, as opposed to an afterthought, to show them how it’s done.

“We are talking to a lot of brands who know that [sustainability] is important to their consumers – particularly the young ones – but they don’t know how to incorporate it into their offerings in a credible and desirable way.

Graduate Fashion Week
Rose Connor, from the University of Central Lancashire, has based her collection on upcycled plastics. Photograph: Graduate Fashion Week

Roberts has been careful to use the term “considered” rather than “sustainable” design to encourage a mindful approach to every element of the graduates’ work rather than focus on 100% sustainability, which remains challenging. Participating students this year include Rose Connor from the University of Central Lancashire, who has based her graduate collection on upcycled plastics, developing new fabrics through heat-pressing discarded household items such as shower curtains and mesh sponges; and Sarah Seb from the University of East London, who addresses the issue of waste by reconstructing secondhand clothes to avoid the creation of new materials.

Roberts believes current fashion graduates can be the voice of change that the fast-fashion industry needs, which is often regarded as the facilitator of exploitation.

“We need to have conversations with all brands, we can’t just say ignore one because it’s bad… you need to open up conversations with all levels of the industry. The only way forward is by having new talent coming in and showing them the way that brands become leaders that people follow. The reality of any company is that it needs to be a commercial business and if the consumers are wanting something different, they need to adjust to that

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