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Why we need to talk about fashion


Project Lead for the Global Goals Centre, Jenny Foster, shares her experience of working with young people to address the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry – and invites new partners to help bring to life an innovative project which will enable people to learn about these issues and find positive ways to respond.

There’s plenty of scary statistics when you look at the fashion industry through a green lens – it produces 10% of global carbon emissions, uses 1.5 trillion gallons of water per year and is one of the major contributors of plastic waste and toxic chemicals entering our oceans, as well as sending a truckload of clothes into landfill every second! Add to that poor working conditions in many factories, mostly impacting women, and you can see why we, at the Global Goals Centre, wanted this to be the focus of our first pilot project – a perfect embodiment of the interconnectedness of the social and environmental aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It’s also an industry where consumers can make a massive difference – by buying less and wearing for longer, as well as campaigning for brands to change how and what they produce.

Credit: @JonCraig_Photos

Over the first lockdown we held online workshops with 47 young people across the city and beyond. The young people expressed anger and anxiety at the current climate crisis but, whilst they knew a lot about plastics and air quality, they were genuinely surprised by the impact of the fashion industry.

The Youth Design Challenges, sponsored by the Steve Sinnott Foundation, were run jointly by the Global Goals Centre and UWE Education Dept researcher, with the aim of reducing eco-anxiety in young people and inspiring them towards a greener, fairer future. 29 young people submitted designs following the workshops.

The challenge was to design an interactive space for people to learn about these issues and find positive ways to respond, and it was so exciting to see the creativity of the young people and learn from their experiences, especially the young people from West of England Centre for Independent Living.  All our young designers (ages range from 8-19) were keen to put across facts in a creative way for a variety of different learners, as well as showing the positive steps we can all take – and save money at the same time! Ideas included building a climbing wall where you find a new fact as you climb, a giant hamster wheel that shows how much water is being used to produce a pair of jeans, a glass floor that lights up with positive behaviour change messages such as the Fairtrade mark and a design-a-patch 3D printer to mend clothing.

The Fashion immersive experience is being created as part of the Global Goals Centre, with partners from Fashion Revolution, Labour Behind the Label, UWE and

Race Equality in Education Group. There are some really exciting developments in this space – a circular fashion model is possible if we create enough noise to bring more brands on board, and we want to help make more noise! A key aim of our pilot project is to measure the impacts of immersive content on understanding of the issues, intention to change behaviour, and on wellbeing, as feeling part of a movement for positive change is a vital part of overcoming rising levels of eco-anxiety that we are seeing, especially in our young people.

Creative agencies will be invited to design the space and create online engagement tools, using some of the ideas from the Youth Challenges, in a mix of physical and digital content. Could you or your organisation join our community of investors to bring this project to life?

Our young designers will be presented their awards by the Mayor and our Patron, Mya-Rose Craig and we hope they will be among the first to visit the experience when we are able to physically open. Meanwhile we will continue to develop virtual content and raise our voices on social media and beyond. We would love you to join the call for change.

Blog, Sustainable Development Goals
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