Students and staff are celebrating after De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) was named one of the country’s greenest universities.  

DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles was named winner of the Next Generation Learning and Skills Award in this year’s Green Gowns Awards, which reward the most sustainable projects happening in higher education today.

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DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles wants its graduates to make positive change in the fashion industry

It has enhanced its courses and curriculum to ensure that graduates are empowered to create positive change and reverse the devastating environmental impacts of the global fashion industry, which is currently responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability is a huge focus for DMU, which is the only UK university to be a hub for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a series of 17 targets to make the world a better place.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Katie Normington said: “Winning this award means the world to DMU as an UN SDG hub. The reputation and global reach of our fashion school drives us to produce graduates leading on responsible design and practice in fashion, ensuring the next generation of designers make a positive impact on our world.”

The School of Fashion and Textiles, which is home to 1,200 students, recognised that the fashion industry needs seismic change to tackle challenges such as fast fashion, synthetic materials that take decades to decompose, and unethical supply chains.

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Fabrics like this – created from sugar cane fibres – are offering sustainable alternatives to synthetics

It tackled these issues head on, changing up its curriculum, bringing in industry experts to share the changes being made in their businesses, and setting creative briefs that focus on sustainability and the principles of recycling and reuse. Research into sustainable textile design and manufacturing processes, circular fashion and the ‘slow fashion’ movement aim to find an alternative to today’s throwaway culture.

On a practical level, students are asked to produce two outfits for their final collection instead of six, reducing the environmental impact reducing the environmental impact. A £30,000 fund has been created that offers small grants to help students researching projects that focus on sustainable fashion. So far more than 100 students have been given money towards ideas including zero waste pattern cutting and leather alternatives.

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Fashion student Maddie Ryall’s coat design won the Graduate Fashion Foundation awards

Professor Carolyn Hardaker, Head of DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles, said the team was delighted to win. She added: “I am so proud that the work of staff and students has been acknowledged at a national level. It is great to have this recognition of our holistic and innovative approach to contemporary challenges. ”  

Judges praised the thoughtful, methodical way in which staff had approached the problems and involved the whole school in making the changes. They said: “There are great links to the local fashion industry and a real commitment to tackling these local challenges, while also making connections with international experts and considering the sustainability of assessments.”

DMU also reached the finals in another category Build Back Better, which saw the university bring people together from businesses, organisations and communities to come up with ideas to support Leicester’s recovery from lockdown.

Posted on Friday 19th November 2021