Socially responsible fashion

A fashion education symposium, Metamorphosis, considered solutions to industry issues of social responsibility, including sustainability.

The one day symposium, organised by Otago Polytechnic fashion lecturers Simon Swale, Dr Jane Malthus and Prof Margo Barton, was held on 24 March 2017 in association with iD Fashion Week in Dunedin. Presenters considered the changing state of the fashion industry in New Zealand and internationally, and the role of fashion educators in the industry. Amongst the speakers were Caroline Terpstra, Tracy Kennedy, Tania Allan-Ross and Simon Swale from Otago Polytechnic.

Sustainability in the fashion industry needs to consider the global supply chain from fibre to fabric to clothing to disposal. Issues include:

  • The production processes for textiles;
  • The labour conditions in other countries to produce fashion worn in New Zealand; and
  • The large amount of waste going to landfill. 

New collaborative models are being explored, for designers to engage with crafts-people to help shift the focus from disposable fashion to quality and craftsmanship.

Fashion educators are conscious that they have a responsibility to inform each new generation of designers about the ethical issues and alternative supply frameworks and production models, to equip them to make choices about their own practice. Both customers and designers are demanding more transparency and sustainability.

February 2018

Image credit: Designer Guan Xin, SUES; model Li Zhenfeng from SUES; Photographer David K. Shields; Photography assistant: Holly Kumbaroff. Photographed in Xinzha Road area, Shanghai, China, May 2017