Katelyn Toth-Fejel & Dilys Williams
NEW GLASSES FOR NEW CLASSES
Katelyn Toth-Fejel, Artist, Designer and Educator & Dilys Williams, Professor of Fashion Design for Sustainability, London College of Fashion
Fashion education draws on many aspects of life and by its nature connects a range of disciplines, locations and cultures with functional, commercial and conceptual dimensions of identity and relationships. However, much of fashion’s contemporary industry and education practices evidence a narrow vision, undermining the potential to contribute to life’s most valuable elements.
Offering the means to explore technical, artistic and economic parameters of learning, fashion’s locations vary, but scope of reference is predominantly based, with distinctive exceptions, on an industrialized model set in motion in the mid-19th century. Multiplied by technological discovery and related business actions, fashion’s industrialized systems have enabled a means to opportunity for millions involved in an industry of global scale and significance. This model of fashion production and consumption however, is part of system that is creating irreparable damage to life, both human and environmental. Its products are replicated in make and wear with increasing efficiency and speed, missing the point of fashion, beyond the physical necessity, of gaining more sense of ourselves relative to place, culture and time.
Universities hold the space between past, present and future. Its students are tasked with exploring possibilities which will be applied throughout their future lives, whilst cognisant of immediate needs. Joint university-business projects offer the opportunity to connect the future through knowledge in incubation (research and education) with knowledge in action (industry practice) in a reciprocal process of discovery. However, how often do such opportunities reach beyond current business objectives, norms in practice and employability aims that are dependent on fitting into fashion’s status quo?
In order to prosper in the fashion industry, it has long been seemingly necessary to don glasses for a particular view of the world–one which focuses on what monetary success looks like, based on a cycle of enticement and discard related to the churn of production, consumption and depletion. The role of the designer, whilst put onto a pedestal, is also reduced to being a pusher of artefacts, success based on attraction and short expiry. Whilst thinking about our students’ imminent employability, it is crucial that we also create teaching and learning for the transformation of fashion towards visions and practices of living well that do not jeopardize our futures and our fellows.
This presentation draws on work taking place between the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Kering, world leaders in luxury fashion, drawn together by the shared desire for a wider view of prosperity. It considers actions taking place in education and industry that indicate the emergence of a new design philosophy for the 21st century. Where Bauhaus’ manifesto for 20th century emerged from a position where ‘most students should face the fact that their future should be involved primarily with industry and mass production rather than with individual craftsmanship’, (Barr, 1938) this new way of approaching fashion’s matter and meaning will start with the premise that all students should face the fact that their future is involved in our interdependencies as humans with each other and nature.
Dilys William is a fashion designer, collaborator and facilitator of change, and she is Professor of Fashion Design for Sustainability at London College of Fashion. Dilys established the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), to provoke, challenge and question the fashion status quo, designing transformative solutions that balance ecology, society and culture.
Her academic interests focus on curriculum with sustainability at its heart, working with undergraduate courses and writing and developing the course structure and content for the groundbreaking MA Fashion and the Environment.
Dilys background spans both luxury and high street brands. She spent ten years designing collections for Katharine Hamnett, pioneering the use of organically produced materials and promoting awareness of issues surrounding ethical and ecological design and production methods.
She believes that there are myriad ways in which we can engage human ingenuity towards a world in which we can all prosper and thrive.
At the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Katelyn is a researcher on educational and industry projects exploring fashion systems and place and most recently facilitated the Local Wisdom Network, an international research project exploring satisfying and resourceful practices associated with using clothes.
Katelyn is co-director of the design collective Here Today Here Tomorrow with a studio and shop in East London.
The shop showcases different elements of sustainable fashion and accessories such as high quality handmade craftsmanship, durability, localism, recycling, organic materials, individuality, fair trade and transparent production as well as features Katelyn’s natural dye work.