The challenges that we face are profound, as our planet burns and planetary boundaries continue to be exceeded1. More imaginative strategies to address these issues, and others, are urgently required than the application of new tools or technologies to what is, in fact, a systemic problem. Even in fashion. So, how will the way fashion is made, and the way that we all interact with it, change in the face of these pressing calls for responsibility?
“Responsible Fashion: How do we make our ideas a reality?” was the title of an online symposium hosted by Istituto Marangoni London in November 2021. The symposium comprised three panels on Fashion Education, Local Knowledge and Responsible Systems, attracting more than three hundred delegates from leading UK and international design schools and universities. What was striking about this event was that so many fashion academics are aligned on the need for radical change in how and why we teach fashion design today and agree on its potential as a persuasive medium that may promote a better world and which might support a transition from the Anthropocene (an era when human dominance of the environment has caused irrevocable change) to a Symbiocene (when we live in a mutually-enhancing relationship with the whole Earth community – both living and non-living)2.
English bluebell woods
New kinds of fashion practitioners are needed who can think critically, creatively and collaboratively, with the holistic understanding, vision and skills that will enable the fashion industry to transition to a responsible and regenerative future. In response, based on extensive research, the “Responsible Fashion: How do we make our ideas a reality?” symposium, and on consultation with thought-leader academics and emerging voices within fashion, Istituto Marangoni London will be launching a ground-breaking, interdisciplinary new Masters programme in October 2023 – MA Responsible Fashion – that aims to become a vehicle for positive change by providing space for students to reimagine the future of the fashion industry in philosophical, theoretical, experimental and practical ways while promoting the values of responsible global citizenship that will underpin transformation.
On Istituto Marangoni London’s MA Responsible Fashion programme, students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds (business subjects, fashion design, product design, sciences, textiles, and others) will work on a series of collaborative and individual projects while developing and applying a strong theoretical understanding that embraces ecological design principles, systems thinking, alternative economics, regenerative approaches, future sourcing, indigenous knowledge systems, the local, the politics of luxury, social innovation and values-led communication for the development of new fashion systems, models, artefacts and products that reflect their disciplines and future goals.
All hands in the indigo dye pot
Fundamental to this new MA Responsible Fashion programme is an acknowledgement that climate change and environmental degradation have been enabled by our disconnect from a natural world - of which we are really part – in ways that have allowed damage to our air, soils and seas to go unnoticed until it is almost too late.
Printed fabric from Jaipur
In our race towards “progress,” we have disregarded the systems of the natural world and the technologies of many indigenous communities that have sustainably been performed for centuries or even millennia, which reveal how we might collaborate with nature rather than work in opposition to her, and from which we must learn with humility. Through finding new systems for fashion, new relationships and new connections, transferrable knowledge will be gained that may transition us to live in a mutually enhancing relationship with the whole Earth community to support a move from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene.
Printing block from Jaipur
The fashion industry needs people that can apply their intellect and imagination to discover solutions rather than perpetuate problems, to build uncharted paths to the Symbiocene. Istituto Marangoni London’s new master’s programme in Responsible Fashion will produce highly employable, forward-looking graduates that can offer bold, new insights.
A student's research on zero-waste and adaptable clothing
Programme Leader of MA Creative Programmes, London
 Stockholm Resilience Centre, https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html
 Berry, T. (1990). The Dream of the Earth, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books