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8 August 2016

College Collaboration Case Study: The Rebel Tartan Project

Contributor Ethical Fashion Forum

Rebel Tartan Project

This case study looks at a collaborative ethical fashion project between the Ethical Fashion Forum, two leading UK universities and industry.

The Rebel Tartan Project was launched in Spring 2016 by Giles Jackson of Liberation Kilt Company, and Juliana Sissons, university lecturer and independent fashion designer.

The goal? To set a brief for students that would encourage them to think creatively about textiles inspired by ethical issues. The benefits? The innovative exploration of ideas that can only come about from fresh student thinking.

The collaborators

Liberation Kilt: a textiles company specialising in tartans that symbolise contemporary social movements. Their ‘Blueheart tartan’ was the centrepiece and inspiration for this project, a UN-recognised tartan that represents the issues around human trafficking.

The Educational Institutions: both the University of Brighton (second year students) and Nottingham Trent University (first year students) embedded this project into their course curricula for 2015-2016. Juliana Sissons, knitwear lecturer at both universities and fashion designer in residence at the V&A museum led the project at both universities, setting the brief and helping to steer the students to develop their creative thinking.

The Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF): as the industry organisation and resource centre for ethical and sustainable fashion, the Ethical Fashion Forum supported this project by providing the students with a sustainability introduction as part of their brief and then took part in the judging at both universities. EFF also awarded the winners from each university with a year of free SOURCE membership giving access SOURCE online resources in order to continue their sustainable design thinking.

The brief

To develop a range of textiles in teams (across disciplines including print, weave, and knit) that are inspired by and complement the Blueheart tartan. Teams had to develop a theme that gave their research a focus in addition to the broader human trafficking idea, then visually develop these ideas to create a collection that sits well together.

The presentations

The level of student work on this project was extremely impressive. With only a short time frame of around six weeks to turn the entire project around, the small teams of three to four students worked incredibly well together and developed some truly inspiring ideas.

Avenues of research delved into several different areas of human trafficking. From looking at the geographical placement of trafficked individuals on maps, to the main industries in which trafficking occurs, through to the colours of bruises associated with physical abuse, and symbols of hope and freedom when the chains of human trafficking are broken, the students were able to take these ideas and turn them into beautiful textile designs across print, weave, and knit.

Explore the slideshow below to see some of these ideas:

College Collaboration Case Study: The Rebel Tartan Project from ethicalfashionforum

Learnings and Insights

  • Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive at the opportunity to explore an ethical topic as part of their design inspiration, especially one that is so linked to fashion supply chains.
  • The opportunity for organisations such as Liberation Kilt to both learn from, and influence, sustainable student design is huge; if this can be harnessed, sustainable innovation will flourish.
  • The project gave the students an important window into real-life fashion industry considerations by being able to work with Giles and Julianna on the development of their concepts.
  • Teamwork was an important and valuable part of the project which the students learnt a great deal from – a useful skill to move into their careers with.
  • Most students were much more aware of sustainability considerations when designing their textiles after having had the sustainability introduction. For example, several students’ work featured eco-friendly considerations and production processes that could empower people’s lives.

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