NEW YORK — When the incoming dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons School for Design, Burak Cakmak, officially starts at the downtown campus in August, he will be all about sustainable design.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In his previous role as vice president of corporate responsibility for the Swarovski Group in London, Cakmak traveled extensively to establish global environmentally minded programs and forge strong research partnerships with retailers and luxury brands. Connecting with suppliers, stores, non-governmental organizations, governments and media, Cakmak put in place best-practice industry standards across all business functions including raw material sourcing and supply chain management. His experience in the area included a run as general manager of Made-By Benelux in the Netherlands where he worked with H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Acne, Primark and other brands. Before that, he was Kering’s first director of corporate sustainability. Cakmak started his career as senior manager of social responsibility at Gap Inc., a post he held for eight years.
Cakmak succeeds Simon Collins, who relinquished his deanship last summer, but remains as the school’s creative adviser and board of governors member. Following an international search that culled “several hundred candidates,” five external ones and one internal candidate made formal presentations before Cakmak was chosen, said Parsons’ executive dean Joel Towers.
Aside from his 15-year commitment to sustainability issues, Cakmak brings with him numerous connections to the fashion world and significant international experience, including setting up academic projects in the U.S., U.K., France, China, Brazil and India. With firsthand knowledge of how a business evolves based on designers’ and creative directors’ key decisions, Cakmak decided that education holds the best opportunity to help instill in aspiring designers the need to further sustainability, by respecting nature and society and providing more traceable products. He said his experience developing products from beginning to end “through production and process,” and a sound understanding of marketing and communications, should serve him well in his new role.
Intrigued by how technological changes dovetail into design, Cakmak pointed to 3-D printers MakerBot, Shapeways and Carbon3D’s CLIPs [Continuous Liquid Interface Production] technology that grows parts instead of printing them layer by layer as examples of new ways of approaching sustainability. In addition, the fact that last month a $1 billion valuation was given to Farfetch, which links up shoppers with independent retailers “is an indication of how the company will become the enabler for young designers in the future” as it expands, he added.
When Towers met Cakmak for the first time in his New York office two years ago to discuss sustainability, he was struck by how “extremely smart” and in-the-know Cakmak was. As The New School’s self-described “resident tree hugger,” Towers has long been committed to environmental and urban ecology issues as an associate professor of architecture and sustainable design as well as a practicing architect with 30 years of experience in sustainable design and urban ecology. Reaffirming the school’s multidisciplinary approach to design, Tower said, “Fashion is not something that lives in isolation.”