What has farming got to do with fashion? SWFC’s Anna Heaton talked to students at the world-renowned French Institute of Fashion about animal welfare and sustainability in the fashion industry — a huge potential market
In November 2019, Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) – The French Institute of Fashion (pictured above in Paris) – launched the IFM-Kering Sustainability Chair, with the support of the global luxury group, Kering.
The chair’s brief was to ensure that fashion students attending IFM would learn about a wide range of topics related to sustainability. Just one year later, IFM launched a new specialised certificate in sustainable fashion. Aimed at Masters students, the curriculum is designed to provide knowledge and skills in the main areas that are integral to advancing sustainability in the luxury and fashion industry.
As part of the new course, SWFC’s Anna Heaton was pleased to be invited to take part in an online presentation and Q&A discussion on animal welfare, giving the students an introduction to definitions and measurements of welfare, as well as looking at different systems of management for different species and how these impact on their welfare.
SWFC was pleased to play a small role in educating the next generation of the fashion industry about animal welfare and sustainability.
Speaking alongside Anna was Yoann Regent from Sustainable Sourcing at Kering, who explored Kering’s work on animal welfare and sustainability, while Sandy Bensoussan-Carole from the French NGO, Welfarm, discussed the organisation’s campaigns and successes in raising the topic of animal welfare in the food sector.
The bigger picture
It was interesting that the first question in the Q&A session that followed the presentations was about the need to combine both good animal welfare and good environmental management when sourcing animal products. This is something that SWFC sees as very important and that we have talked about before in a previous blog. We need our food, fibre and leather to come from regenerative farming systems that deliver high welfare and excellent environmental outcomes.
Feedlot and grassfed: Anna talked about the variety of living environments for farmed livestock
Other questions touched on the topic of fish (farmed and wild), and why their welfare and the welfare of other marine creatures that are impacted by fishing receive less interest than cattle, sheep and other mammals. We agreed that, rightly or wrongly, most people are concerned about the welfare of animals that they have close relationships with, and which they see in their everyday lives. Fish do not fit in that category – and are also not “cute” or “cuddly”. We agreed that while this didn’t make their welfare less important, it may be harder to implement societal changes.
We also discussed the use of alternative products, such as pineapple or mushroom “leather”, and agreed that these have a place in fashion, but should be seen as novel materials in their own right and not necessarily replacements for leather. Anna pointed out that hides are already being sent to landfill as demand for leather has decreased in recent years, and that this is an appalling waste. As the driver for food moves towards less but better meat, this could help to balance out the excess and deliver less but better leather.
The next generation
All in all, it was an interesting event. The three speakers complemented each other well and the questions from students led to some interesting and thought-provoking discussions. It is encouraging to see IFM offer the sustainability course, equipping their students with so much information on different aspects of this important topic at the start of their careers. SWFC was pleased to play a small role in educating the next generation of the fashion industry about animal welfare and sustainable fashion.