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5 Sustainable Fashion Design Programs to Know Now

Written by FS StaffFebruary 14, 2016

Sustainability has worked its way into just about every creative industry and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. This is especially true in the multi-trillion dollar global apparel, textiles, clothing & fashions industry. In fact, in April 2013, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) introduced the creation of the first-ever Sustainability Committee, and eco-friendly fashion labels and collections seem to be popping up every other day.

Freedom of Animals, Kowtow, A Peace Treaty, Study New York, SVILU, and H&M Conscious Collection and Conscious Exclusive, are just a few. And of the big brands, H&M is just the tip of the iceberg. ASOS Reclaimed and ASOS Africa, Eileen Fisher (Eco Collection), Levi’s (Water<Less by Levi’s), Urban Outfitters (Urban Renewal), and Zara have also jumped on the bandwagon.  

Besides playing a huge part in helping preserve the environment and promoting ethical business practices, sustainable and ethically designed clothing has created a new job market that values designers with both creative and sustainable design skills. Fortunately, many of the world’s top fashion schools are onboard. Take a look at five of the best. 

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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Esmod Berlin - International University of Art for Fashion, Berlin, Germany
International Master of Art (MA) Sustainability in Fashion

Launched in 2011, ESMOD Berlin’s MA in Sustainability in Fashion is an 18-month program that highlights three areas of sustainable design—sustainable design strategies, sustainable production and textiles, and sustainable marketing. Not only does the program prepare students for success in the world of sustainable fashion, it prepares them for leadership positions and design entrepreneurship within the global fashion industry. On September 20, 2013, graduating students of the program presented for the very first time in Paris during Paris Fashion Week.

London College of Fashion – University of Arts London (UAL), London, UK
Master of Art (MA) Fashion Futures

Home of the Center of Sustainable Fashion (CSF) since 2008, London College of Fashion is a leader in sustainable fashion education. The school recently launched the UK’s first Sustainable Fashion Lab in the center of East London with multinational retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) and Oxfam International. According to the school, the MA in Fashion Futures program “looks beyond fashion design as we currently know it. Mixing design practices, innovative thinking and conceptual speculations, along with technology and science,” the program “finds strategies for the future state of fashion in ecological, cultural, and social contexts.” The MA program offers two options—full-time (15 months) or flexible (up to five years).

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, New York, USA
Sustainable Design Entrepreneur Certificate 

The Sustainable Design Entrepreneur Certificate “gives design entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, and access to resources they need to build a viable business based on sustainable design practices,” says FIT. Students take a total of 10 courses (eight required and two personal choice) to complete the program. Just a few required courses include The Sustainable Organization, Sustainable Material Sourcing, Navigating Sustainable Manufacturing, and Sustainable Design Thinking. Personal choice options include Ethical Fashion, Social Responsibility and the Apparel Industry, and Collaborative Design with Artisans, and Materials and Eco-Labels to name a few. The Sustainable Design Entrepreneur Certificate typically takes two years to complete.

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA
Master of Business Administration (MBA) Design Strategy and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Fashion Design

The BA in Fashion program at California College of the Arts features a course titled “Eco: Sustainability Seminar,” which explores the “the social, cultural and environmental ramifications of our design decisions, and how can we mitigate or leapfrog them through our ideas,” says the school. “Students use their skills as designers to develop creative solutions to technical challenges in moving our industry and our society towards sustainability. More specifically students review the ecological crisis and how fashion/textiles contribute to this crisis.” BA students may then move into the MBA in Design Strategy where “sustainability is a theme throughout every course in the program.” The BA program takes four years to complete full-time and the MBA takes two years (four semesters) to complete.

University of Delaware, Newark USA
Graduate Certificate Program in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business 

According to the Department of Fashion Studies at University of Delaware, “the Graduate Certificate Program in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business addresses the labor and environmental problems in the global supply chains for the apparel, textile, and footwear industries.” In order to complete the program, students must take nine, one-credit courses. Offered online, coursework is “grounded on principles of the United Nations (UN) Global Compact, a voluntary international initiative bringing together companies, labor and civil society groups, and various UN agencies in support of human rights, labor, and the environment.”

Just a few course titles include RedeSigning Green Apparel: Design, Sourcing & Packaging, Sustaining Global Apparel Supply Chains, and Producing Environmentally Responsible Apparel.

Students typically enroll in three to six courses per semester, which means the program usually takes 12 to 16 months to complete.

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