Centre for Sustainable Fashion | Charley Copperthwaite | 02.27.2023

The Transition to a Just Fashion System: Key Takeaways from the Fashion Values Society Webinars

The 2022/23 Fashion Values Challenge is grounded in the central question of “how can fashion value society?”. We’re looking for innovative products, services and systems across the fields of design, media and/or technology that pave the way to a just fashion system. In December 2022, we hosted a series of webinars in Fashion Media, Fashion Design and Fashion Technology, featuring panels of industry experts and chaired by members of Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF). The webinars were a deep dive into these three disciplines, anchored on the focus of this year’s challenge: the relationship between fashion and social change. Here you can read a rundown of the key takeaways from these sessions, or alternatively, head over to our Methods page where you can watch the full recordings and find more in-depth insights.

Hosted by various members of the CSF team, the sessions opened with the central question of “how fashion can value society?”, allowing the panellists to explore the Challenge theme in depth with respect to media, design or technology. Through the lens of each topic, the participants firstly reflected on the current fashion climate, discussing the challenges the system is facing. One of the most common challenges that was explored is the lack of inclusivity and accessibility. In fashion media for example, it was noted how fashion journalism has an exclusive feel to it, concentrating mainly on the large fashion houses and names, thus avoiding equally insightful and valuable narratives of the fashion process and those who work within it. Similarly, current fashion design practices may prioritise technology over human artistry and craft, meanwhile fashion tech is heavily dominated by the west, with other regions facing limited access to this space. Moving from away from challenges to look more closely at opportunities, the panellists addressed these concerns by imagining a future for fashion which better values society. This imagined future involves a system which prioritises inclusivity and diversity above all else, providing a platform through which all stories and narratives can be heard and celebrated. Purpose and advocacy were also key concepts explored here, considering how we can re-align our purpose to value society and advocate for the change we want to see.

The second half of the sessions built upon the concepts discussed in the imagined future, and invited the panellists to share learnings and give advice to future fashion innovators on how they can activate social change through media, design or tech. A crucial point was highlighted on how changemakers should ask themselves what their purpose is; what are they trying to communicate, what do they want to design and what technology do they want to optimise? Establishing a clear purpose that has society at its core will give any system, service or invention the grounding it needs to activate positive social change.

The discussions across each topic revealed how broad the scope is for exploring how fashion can better value society. The individual experiences of the panellists allowed for contrasting and complementary perspectives, however, there was one key message that appeared to speak loudly throughout around the need for diversity and inclusivity in fashion. The discussions often found their way back to this subject, with panellists expressing its importance and offering pathways through which this can be brought into the fashion arena and harnessed for societal good. What is evident here is that for fashion to truly value society, everyone needs equal access, opportunity and expression globally, whether that be in a media, design or tech setting. Ultimately, fostering a culture of equity and diversity in fashion will be a key driver in transforming the current system into a just one.

For anyone who is interested in this year's Fashion Values Challenge, applications are open until 10:00 AM (GMT) Tuesday 28th February 2023. If you're thinking of applying but are struggling with your idea or how to approach the Challenge question, we have a range of resources available on the Fashion Values site to help you. To watch the full recordings of the webinars discussed in this article, please head over to our Methods page where you can access these. Alternatively, our Voices page has similar articles which provide roundups on events for this year's Challenge and explore key insights into the central Challenge question.

Good luck to everyone applying!