Article by Centre for Sustainable Fashion | Zoe Norton | 10.04.2022

How can fashion value Society? A look at the 2022 Fashion Values Challenge

We have just launched the 2022 Fashion Values Challenge – an open call to global change-makers, to explore the question – How can fashion value Society? Responses can be through the lens of design, media and/or technology, to look towards transforming the fashion industry and its relationship to and with society for the better.  

The relationship between fashion and society can be seen through a garment’s entire life cycle. With the design and making of fashion is a social and economic act, involving millions of people around the world – from the cultivation of crops, rearing of animals, and production of raw materials to create textiles, to the design and production of a garment or the repair when damaged.

Buying clothes itself is a social act – with many of us shopping and sharing things we like with others, via social media or more literally by swapping and sharing garments. As is the wearing of clothes, fashion has long been used as a form of self-expression, to reflect and communicate our individual, our identity or cultural belonging.   

The fashion sector produces a range of impacts on various sections of society from its contribution to the depletion of human and natural resources, to the abuse of labour rights and the impact of its waste on the global south.  

With many impacts across the globe, the fashion industry has the opportunity to change – through innovation from changemakers like you. Through the Fashion Values Challenge, we invite you to consider how you can make a difference to fashion’s relationship with society. 

We’ve noted below a range of factors that could address some of these impacts as inspiration for your application:  

  • Decentralising and decolonising fashion – empowering voices and agencies,  dismantling colonial systems of oppression and exploitation.  

  • Small and local, yet open and connected – supporting each other and collectively contributing to fashion sustainability. 

  • Universal and inclusive design – developing inclusive and equitable products.  

  • Diverse and inclusive fashion media and communication – promoting broader perspectives on fashion, and representing the voices, stories and narratives of multiple identities. 

  • Networks and collaborations to improve workplace conditions and the lives of garment workers through the implementation of social compliance programmes. 

  • Activism and advocacy for change – with the implementation of policies around labour rights, equality, diversity, inclusion and social justice.  

  • Education – equipping the next generation of designers with the skills and motivation to play an activist role and develop new mindsets. 

The Fashion Values programme provides tools and resources (including Voices, Methods and free online courses) for you to develop your change-making ideas further and allowing you to apply your learnings to real-world industry challenges. These tools have been created to inspire you to create new ideas and innovations, and refine existing ideas in response to the 2022 Fashion Values Challenge Brief. 

Your idea or business could help to shift the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future: one that supports Society rather than exploits it. With the chance to win a 6-month support programme to develop your idea with input from professionals from IBM, Kering and Vogue Business it’s not an opportunity to miss!