It is evident with the rising climate crisis that we are slowly and inevitably turning to sustainability and greener practices. Businesses are certainly aware of this, but when it comes to the fashion industry, (one of the largest polluters in the world), there is a growing demand for environmental protection and conservation, a movement that has now reached a fever pitch.
Basically, it is no longer enough for fashion designers to just make beautiful outfits. With the increasing number of conscious consumers around the world, the industry is grappling with questions about sustainability. This has enabled sustainable fashion brands to finally get the exposure they deserve and also led other brands to start practicing sustainability (those that are not still greenwashing us, of course). Basically, new green career opportunities are now on the rise within the fashion industry, providing us the opportunity to make actual impacts while focusing on our careers in fashion.
Fernanda Lopes Lima, Ethical Fashion Designer at TUAessence says, “Aiming for a Sustainable Fashion is the only way to make Fashion today if we want to think of a future. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. Those brands not focusing on social and environmental matters are doomed to fail very quickly, I believe.”
So what does it take to start a career in Sustainable Fashion? Let’s get started:
1. Identify your sector:
Start with identifying what you want to do. Knowing exactly which areas you want to work with will surely make your journey easier because then you can just focus on the knowledge, academic degrees, and skillset required for your preferred role.
Not sure what’s in store?
When it comes to sustainable and ethical jobs, there are a plethora of options available, some of which are linked to the fabric materials and design, others to supply chain management and ethical sourcing, and others are connected to the corporate social responsibility aspect of these businesses. Here are some examples for you (only some because there is so much more!).
As I mentioned before, these are just a very few examples. There are so many more exciting roles that the sustainable fashion industry can offer. By the end of this article, you will have plenty of resources to help you find out more about roles within the industry and relevant opportunities.
2. Educate Yourself:
To be able to thrive in the sustainable fashion industry, you will need to take out some time to educate yourself on topics like climate change, sustainability, renewable energy, circular economy, climate justice, sustainable fashion, worker health and safety, gender equity, etc.
For those wanting to start now, my advice is: EDUCATION! Be curious, wonder, ask questions, study, dig deeper and learn from brands who are truly committed to doing a Conscious Fashion.Fernanda Lopes Lima, Ethical Fashion Designer at TUAessence
Now, of course, for each field of work, you will need a specific set of skills along with theoretical and practical knowledge. Note that if you already have a degree but you don’t think it is relevant to the sustainable fashion sector, you might be wrong. The industry offers all sorts of roles and your degree in Business, Computer science, Engineering, Arts, Development, or even Social Sciences can still help. Yes, your degree is not wasted – well, unless you don’t intend to work within the field anymore.
So basically, if you already have a degree that you want to utilize, you only have to make the effort to educate yourself and sharpen your knowledge around the sustainable fashion industry, climate change, sustainability in general, renewable energy, circular economy, climate justice, worker health and safety, gender equity, etc (if your degree did not already cover these sectors). For this, you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune. There are plenty of free resources out there for you.
FutureLearn provides amazing courses on pretty much everything from Sustainable Fashion to the SDGs to help you get a solid concept idea. Apart from being super flexible, their courses are delivered by experts in these fields from world-class universities and organizations. You can access these certified courses on FutureLearn:
- Fashion and Sustainability: Understanding Luxury Fashion in a Changing World by University of the Arts London and Kering
- Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues by the University of Leicester
- Innovation: The Fashion Industry by the University of Leeds
- Fashion Revolution: Who Made My Clothes? by Fashion Revolution
- Understanding Fashion: From Business to Culture by Institut Français de la Mode
- Fashion’s Future and the Sustainable Development Goals by Fashion Revolution
- Upcycling: From Green Ideas to Starting a Business by Minca Ventures
And if you are looking for some free resources to learn about fashion and sustainability, you should definitely check out the list below:
- Fashion as design by The Museum of Modern Art ( Instructors: Paola Antonelli, Stephanie Kramer )
- Managing Responsibly: Practicing Sustainability, Responsibility and Ethics by the University of Manchester
- More than Garments (Sustainable Fashion) by Copenhagen Business School
- Business Models For Sustainability by Copenhagen Business School, NHH, ESADE Business and Law School, ESCP Business School
- Digital Fashion Industry by Parsons School of Design
- Fashion Systems by Parsons School of Design
- Transforming the Fashion Business Specialization by Parsons School of Design
If you’re looking to invest in a degree instead, there are a plethora of options out there for you. As for specific degrees or courses to take to pursue a career in sustainable fashion, there’s no “one size fits all” formula. Academic institutions around the world offer various programs that can help you not only get your knowledge and skills sharpened but also enable you to create a strong network of people within your area of passion.
3. Get Involved:
Get yourself out there, talk about your passion, meet like-minded people, and make friends who share similar beliefs with you – all while carving your way into a smooth career in sustainability. Here’s what I mean by getting involved:
Join local or online events: You can also join relevant workshops, seminars, and other relevant events happening around you or online. There are gazillions of these happening right now, so why not join one? Not only it’s an easy way to learn more about your sector from experts but also an incredible networking opportunity. Who knows? Maybe you will find a mentor or might even make some really cool friends who share your passion. You can follow these useful platforms that regularly organize workshops, campaigns, and relevant events that you can participate in :
Volunteer your time: Get involved in sustainable activities around you. You can start by looking for volunteer opportunities in the sustainability sector within and outside your community. These can include activities like plogging, planting trees, marine conservation, beach cleanups, community gardening, wildlife rescue and so much more!
Here are some useful links where you can find out more about volunteering opportunities locally and abroad:
- The United Nations Volunteers – UNV program offers a plethora of volunteerism programs worldwide.
- Idealist.org is a non-profit organization with plenty of volunteer opportunities to choose from based on your location and interests.
- Volunteer World is one of the most trusted platforms for people around the world looking for opportunities to volunteer abroad.
- Volunteer FDIP is another great volunteer abroad organization program that offers volunteer opportunities in over 16 countries around the world.
- Fuze Ecoteer also offers to connect you with various kinds of sustainable volunteer opportunities around the world.
- Habitat for Humanity offers many green building-related projects in various countries around the world.
- Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a wonderful space for you if you want to trade your time and work for rooms and boards in one of many countries around the world under the WWOOF network.
- The Student Conservation Association is a great platform if you live in the United States and are looking for local volunteering opportunities, an internship, or even a seasonal job in a national park around you.
- Friends of the Urban Forest is also based in the United States in San Fransico and they seek local volunteers to help with tree plantation projects.
Get some field experience: Many of these platforms above also offer wonderful internship programs around sustainability that might interest you. By joining an internship program relevant to your sector, you get some actual field experience before you apply for your dream job. Subscribe to our green opportunities newsletter to get updates on relevant internship opportunities in the sustainable fashion industry. You can also follow Green Jobs Board founded by Brown Girl Green as she and her team share green opportunities regularly. LinkedIn is also a great and easy way to find opportunities like these.
Pro tip: If you’re already involved in a company that does not really practice sustainability, you can take that opportunity to build sustainable initiatives within your company or organization. This really adds as an experience if you can manage your supervisors to get on board. This could be something as simple as organizing and leading a community gardening project or maybe a weekly/monthly plogging or beach clean-up activity with your co-workers.
4. Connect and engage:
Start talking about your passion with like-minded people, remember, the goal is to build relationships, not just connections. Get active on your social media, and share your experiences, learnings, and thoughts about all these volunteer events, workshops, and seminars. Talk about why you care about sustainability in fashion so much and share relevant studies to back yourself up.
Follow and interact: There are so many prominent communities and organizations working hard to bring sustainability in fashion in various ways from advocating for the rights of garment workers around the world to promoting awareness on the environmental impacts of fashion. Follow them on Instagram to learn and interact with them. Many of these platforms like the Slow Fashion Movement and Remake also offer ambassador programs where they encourage inspired individuals who are passionate about sustainability in fashion to become one of them enabling them to actively participate in and organize relevant campaigns and events. Here are some of the best online platforms and communities that you can follow:
- Fashion Revolution
- Slow Fashion Movement
- The Slow Factory
- Fashion For Good
- Clean Clothes Campaign
- The Center For Sustainable Fashion
- Fashion Act Now
Gear up: Now is the time for you to start getting active on LinkedIn. Establish your credibility by updating your experiences, educational background, and relevant courses on your profile, and make an effort to really brush it up to make it professional. Remember, you have got one chance to make a good impression, so you need to make it count by crafting a relevant compelling story about who you are and what you do and incorporating that into your LinkedIn profile. Once that’s done, find relevant peers, industry experts, and professionals to follow. Start connecting and actively engaging with people and communities who can introduce you to opportunities in the industry. Make sure to utilize the networks you have built through all those workshops, seminars, and volunteer programs.
5. Find job opportunities and start applying:
Now that you have the knowledge, experience, and network, you’re ready to apply for your dream job. Start with making a great resume that stands out. Here’s how:
- Highlight your skills and experiences, along with your degree of expertise in a visual and easy-to-read style.
- Keep it simple and relevant, not too cluttered
- Make sure to focus on your extracurricular activities. Yes, these play a huge role.
- Ensure that your resume/CV visually stands out, or is nice to look at.
Once that’s ready, you are set to apply for your dream job. You can find ethical companies with relevant opportunities on LinkedIn just by putting your keywords on the job board. As you’re already following your dream platforms on social media and LinkedIn, you will automatically know when there are new opportunities. Apart from that, you can also keep an eye on our green opportunities section to stay updated on current and upcoming relevant opportunities in sustainability.
6. Be patient and persistent:
It might take some time for you to hear back from employers, especially in the current times. Know that it’s completely okay and do not let that discourage you. Feel confident to follow up with the hiring managers with your specific queries like what the timeline is like for the position. Remember to always maintain a humble and positive attitude.
Bonus: Some extra useful resources for you:
1. Newsletters you can sign up to:
To help you learn and stay updated:
To help you find career opportunities:
2. Podcasts you can listen to:
- Crash Course Fashion (Brittany Sierra)
- Wardrobe Crisis with Claire Press
- Conscious Chatter with Kestrel Jenkins
- Pre-Loved Podcast with Emily Stochl
- Common Threads
- Remember Who Made Them
3. Eco advocates, greenfluencers, and journalists to follow:
- Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers
- Aja Barber
- Nina Gbor
- Venetia La Manna
- Elizabeth Cline
- Heidi Kaluza – The Rogue Essentials
- Besma – Curiously Conscious
- Danielle Alvarado
- Sophie Benson
- Style and Sustain
4. Books to read:
- Loved Clothes Last by Orsola de Castro
- Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best To Fast Fashion by Clare Press
- The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth Cline
- How To Break Up With Fast Fashion Notebook: A Guilt-Free Guide to Changing the Way You Shop, for Good by Lauren Bravo
- Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins
- Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter
Wishing you good luck on your journey, cheers!