Helping support sustainable fashion and supporting Leicester’s recovery from lockdown have earned De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) two places in the finals of this year’s Green Gown Awards.
The awards recognise efforts by universities across the UK and Ireland to take action on the global sustainability agenda and this year’s ceremony will feature work carried out during the pandemic.
DMU has reached the finals in two categories: Building Back Better, a new award to showcase collaborations and innovation that was not possible before the Covid-19 pandemic and Next Generation Learning and Skills to reward achievement in developing academic courses and embedding skills and capabilities relevant to sustainability.
DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles overhauled its curriculum to put sustainability at the heart of all the modules. Staff recognised that seismic efforts needed to be made in the fashion industry, which is responsible for 10% of greenhouse emissions globally. It has also been linked to low wages and unethical supply chains.
The School takes a holistic approach, from reducing the number of final outcomes required for projects, to bringing in industry experts. Students have been asked to produce two outfits for their final collection instead of six, reducing waste. The school also brought in industry experts in guest lectures who shared changes they were making to their businesses and students were set creative briefs with a focus on sustainability and the principles of recycling and reuse.
And a special £30,000 fund offered small grants to help students researching projects that focus on sustainability. So far more than 100 students have been given money towards ideas including zero waste pattern cutting and leather alternatives.
Fashion student Maddie Ryall's coat design won the Graduate Fashion Foundation awards.
Fashion activist and TV presenter Caryn Franklin was among the guests to a school lecture series focusing on social and environmental issues.
Professor Carolyn Hardaker, Head of DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles, said the team were delighted to reach the finals of the Green Gown Awards. She said: “Fashion as usual is not an option. Our students will be graduating into an industry which is increasingly looking for solutions and needing to address consumer demand for ethical, sustainable clothing.
“We have more than 400 future designers, communicators, buyers and managers graduating every year to have a positive impact on the industry. We are pleased this has been recognised at such as prestigious organisation as the Green Gown Awards.”
The second project was DMU Community Solutions, a project launched to help Leicester recover from the economic and societal effects of lockdown. Academics, community groups, businesses, schools and people across the city came together to come up with ideas that could help. A shortlist of 30 ideas have been passed to Leicester City Council which could become reality.
Some programmes have already been launched including an appeal for digital equipment that is no longer needed by businesses which can be donated for community use. Scaling up of free wifi in communities is also being considered.
This year’s Green Gown Awards represent more than 862,000 students and 156,000 staff. Iain Patton, CEO of the awards organiser Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, said: “It is clear from the number and quality of applications, that sustainability and the now irreversible sustainability movement is not only resilient but profoundly energised, opportunistic and dynamic! UK and Irish universities and colleges have turned Covid 19 challenges into opportunities and ensured that every change is a change for sustainability.
“A reset of our economic and social foundations is happening and the Green Gown Awards are all the more important to inspire and scale change for sustainability. Congratulations to all our finalists."