How should you jumpstart your education about sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is a deceptively complicated subject. As you dig into the subject more, new terms and topics seem to appear out of nowhere. Then there is the difficulty of separating facts from opinions and learning the truth about brand operations that are purposely vague. If you are beginning to learn about the sustainable fashion movement, where do you start? If you already know a bit but would like to learn more, should you invest in a formal education or teach yourself? Luckily there are a surprising number of reliable options to jumpstart or continue your education about sustainable fashion.

Read the dictionary.

Whether you are brand new to the subject or you are looking for clarification on a term, the dictionary is the best place to get a solid understanding of sustainable fashion. Take a bit of time to read through the Sustainable Fashion Glossary, an online dictionary created by Condé Nast and the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, University of Arts London. The glossary includes an introduction into the climate crisis and the role of fashion in said crisis. Then keys terms often used to discuss the environment and fashion are defined with links connecting all the vocabulary, essentially making a web of sustainable fashion terminology. You can spend days reading through everything in the glossary and come away with a solid understanding of the subject. Or you can use the glossary to compare and contrast definitions you have read elsewhere and challenge your thinking of specific topics.

Nonprofits offer more than just a way to fund projects.

There are more sustainable fashion nonprofits you may realize, and they are not just advocating for change and financially supporting important projects, either. Several big nonprofits have created their own courses and educational resources for consumers to access for free or little cost. Fashion Revolution, a London-based organization with operations worldwide, has two online courses available, one called, Fashion's Future: The Sustainable Development Goals and another based on the phrase Fashion Revolution popularized, Who Made My Clothes. The latter course is in partnership with the University of Exeter. Both courses offer a printable certificate upon completion for a fee of $59. The Slow Factory is another organization that created an online course. Called Open Education Program (Open Edu), the series of modules are currently taking place during the Fall 2020 semester and are specifically for people of color, taught by people of color. The course is sponsored by Adidas and has been recognized by media company, Business of Fashion. In the future, it is expected that both Fashion Revolution and The Slow Factory will continue to offer courses and classes on various topics related to sustainable fashion.

Formal education is catching up.

Suppose you are interested in learning about a topic in-depth or want an official certificate from an accredited university. In that case, you will have no issue finding something that meets your needs. Top fashion schools like the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design, and the University of Arts London now offer sustainability classes, certificate programs, and graduate degrees. These options will cost a bit more than what you would get from a nonprofit — each class will end up being a few hundred dollars. Certificate programs and graduate degrees provide students with prolonged, continuous learning and access to teachers and other industry professionals, though. There is some debate over whether or not fashion school is worth it anymore, but if you want a career in sustainable fashion, having a certificate or degree would show that you have a good grasp of the complex subject, potentially giving you a leg up in what will become a competitive field in the future.

The Bottom Line:

There are a ton of options available for those looking to learn more about the sustainable fashion movement. Most education is available for little cost and can be followed at your own pace, meaning you could be taking classes and still work full-time. With the exception of a few graduate degree programs, most formal education and all nonprofit and free education will be online and easy to access, so whether you are studying sustainable fashion as a hobby or preparing to switch jobs, there is something that will meet your needs.