When it comes to fashion design, a lot of people’s opinions about the industry are shaped by popular culture and the media – what they see on shows like Project Runway or the snarky comments made about celebrities’ red carpet choices.
Sure, that can be fun stuff, but it’s a cheap kind of fun – sort of like a sugar high – with little redeeming social value. And it detracts from what fashion design can be, at its best: a merger of art, innovation, technology, science and sustainability.
I’m honored to have just been chosen as a First Movers Fellow by The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. The program’s mission is to equip business leaders with the vision and knowledge to integrate corporate profitability and social value. The two don’t have to be at odds, you know.
It’s also my honor to be the first fashion designer ever selected as a fellow by this prestigious organization.
I’m humbled. And excited.
My goal with this fellowship is to bring an academic rigor to the industry of fashion. I’d like to take a sustainable design methodology and create a business approach where the value of the product is based on the ethical values that guide its production.
It’s also my goal to help change the perception of the fashion designer to that of a serious thinker, someone who performs their function with the same work ethic, passion, social consciousness, and sense of ethical and professional responsibility as other business professionals.
The work of The Aspen Institute, and the skills I hope to acquire as part of this fellowship, align well with “my day job.” Levi Strauss & Co. honors and values the things that I care about most, including social and environmental sustainability. And I’m eager to bring my Aspen Institute experience back to Dockers® to lead change and grow the business.
I’m not alone in this effort. I have friends and colleagues here and across the industry who are interested in driving change within fashion design. And who knows? Maybe one day, discussions of the celebrities’ red carpet choices will be go beyond daring color and revealing neckline to include the use of sustainable fibers and natural dyes.
If you’re going to dream, dream big, right?