Slow factory, fashion, sustainability, education, careers

Slow Factory Foundation is launching its Open Education initiative created for, and taught by, Black, Brown, Indigenous and minority ethnic communities with brands including Studio 189, House of Waris, Collina Strada, WWAKE and Scosha already pledging their support.

The program will launch this fall and provide skill-building in various areas of the fashion industry, including classes on regenerative agriculture, equity centered-design, sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, food security and social justice, all central to the organization’s existing mission. Educators for the launch will include Aja Barber, Teju Adisa-Farrar, Ibada Wadud, Sophia Li, Céline Semaan and the Slow Factory team of experts.

“When it comes to sustainability and activism, currently there is a gap between well-meaning intentions and thoughtful action,” the foundation said in a statement. “Slow Factory aims to bridge this gap through the power of knowledge. With this peer-to-peer education initiative, Slow Factory will bolster individuals from the communities whose environmental efforts have long been ignored and exploited. Intersectional environmentalism is the only way forward, and has always been.”

Since 2003, the nonprofit Slow Factory Foundation — cofounded by Céline Semaan and Colin Vernon — has worked to translate complex issues for the general public with a focus on sustainability literacy, colonial exploitation and environmental racism.

Regarding the latter issue, which is increasingly rising to the fore, a recent report from the U.N. secretary-general revealed the inequities. Climate-related and geophysical disasters claimed an estimated 1.3 million lives over the past 20 years, with poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities the most affected.

As the coronavirus has already split open existing issues with the fashion system, Semaan is calling on brands and retailers to offer long-term monetary support to advance the project, even “making it a core part of their strategy.” By visiting Slow Factory’s web site, the industry can commit to regular donations to Open Education.

She added that companies can and should divert some of their marketing funds toward Open Education, offer a paid apprenticeship to Slow Factory students in the fall to facilitate their integration in the workforce and exchange knowledge with Slow Factory educators in partnership.

Slow Factory’s partnerships with the fashion industry extend far past its latest launch or even its Study Hall events.

In September of last year, Slow Factory teamed with Swarovski to launch the One X One fellowship and accelerator program bridging fashion designers like Telfar Clemens, Phillip Lim and Mara Hoffman with the scientific community. Slow Factory has prepared progress updates on each team and looks to September as a capstone. “Landfills as Museums” was another educational highlight on waste management, in partnership with Adidas.

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