A shift in the right direction

SHIFT, ('Student happenings influencing fashion and textiles') is the very first student conference held by the School of Fashion and Textiles. The conference presented students with a platform to highlight innovation and showcase research ideas.

The concept of the SHIFT conference

Caroline Raybould, lecturer in BA (Hons) Fashion Business and Promotion:

The fashion industry has been under the spotlight recently, as one of the most polluting industries globally, with issues of over-consumption, waste, toxic chemicals, and workers’ rights. On reflection of these topics, a series of questions came to mind;

  1.        What do our students think about the issues?
  2.        Do they care about the concerns raised?
  3.        How can we create a more sustainable industry?

For me, it was really important that for our first conference we would review these matters so we asked our students the question: ‘How can we create a more positive fashion and textile industry?

SHIFT: More than just a table for discussion 

The student conference was an excellent ground for networking and celebrating innovation. Students were able to express their ideas, inspire one another and pitch their work to a panel of experts. This included the Head of School and key note speakers Caryn Franklin MBE and Johnny Kerkhoff from Holland.

The guest speakers were also able to share their knowledge on sustainability and challenging the ‘industry’s norms’ e.g. thoughts on body image, beauty, trends - what is normal?

“Bring fashion to life on your terms” Caryn Franklin, Fashion Editor, Co-editor, TV presenter and broadcaster.

Pictured below, Caryn Franklin, Johnny Kerkhoff with staff and students from the school.

The student voice

Caroline Raybould:

The idea was to create an event that was all about the students and what they have to say, especially as it’s normally staff who are doing the talking!

With all the talk of climate change and sustainability we can all feel a bit overwhelmed and powerless, so another important part of the conference was for students to feel like they could contribute something positive to industry, create more positive futures and ‘be the change’. After all our students are the next generation of the industry.

Student presentations were centred on four key themes to reflect the diversity of our fashion and textile industry.

  • ‘Rethink’: the business and the consumer, are there new ways to do business and new types of consumer behaviour?
  • ‘Activate’: an energetic theme with people and activism at the heart of it, it includes issues of diversity, identity and subcultures.
  • ‘Invent’: considers innovations in materials, technology and sustainable design.
  • ‘Cherish’: valuing what we already have; whether this is our clothes or the environment. It might also be about slow fashion, upcycling, craft or luxury.

Alice Johnson, BA (Hons) Fashion Business and Promotion student:

For me, out of all the themes 'activate' is the one I am the most passionate about. Recently, we’ve seen a massive trend in brand activism. Brands are no longer sitting on the fence and are taking a stand on political and social issues. At a time when we are suffering a lot of political unrest, it’s interesting to see

How do the conference themes relate to the future of the industry?

Caroline Raybould:

People tend to think the fashion industry is just about making nice fabrics and clothes, but actually it is a multi-trillion dollar industry, cleanclothes.org states that 60-75 million people are employed in the textile, clothing and footwear sector worldwide. As a School we are full of talent, skill, knowledge and expertise, and can shape the direction the industry takes in future

Find out more about the SHIFT conference