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Industry must rise to sustainable challenge

The London College of Fashion (LCF) approaches the issue of sustainability in fashion from a unique position.

Rather than limiting choices, it believes the problems that exist across the supply chain represent a great opportunity for designers and graduates to innovate, as 80% of a product’s social and environmental impact is determined at the design phase.

A statistic that I often refer back to is that it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce just one cotton T-shirt from ‘crop to shop’, while 5,000 children die each day due to a lack of clean water. To survive in a water-scarce landscape, we need to change the way we produce and consume fashion. To encourage students to think more constructively about these issues, ‘water’ will be the focus of our second annual International Student Fashion Awards for Sustainability. The competition is open to all fashion students, with categories that range from design to marketing. Tackling issues of sustainability is fundamental to the survival of the fashion industry and the careers of all fashion graduates.

Free Radicals, a project backed by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and pioneered by LCF professor Helen Storey, attempts to find real solutions for problems such as water shortage. Bringing together academics from disciplines as disparate as science and fashion, Free Radicals is spreading the notion that anything is possible.

It is time for the fashion industry to join universities in supporting innovation. In times of economic hardship, improving practice and re-evaluating supply chains will directly and positively impact on the bottom line, as well as improving a company’s ethical credentials.

  • Frances Corner is a professor at the London College of Fashion

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