“We must change fashion to avoid bankrupting the Earth of its natural resources.” It was with these words that dr. Jelle Stienstra, a digital strategy consultant, kicked off a special workshop on the future of fashion Tuesday morning at the Erasmus Education Lab. The workshop, which was organised by Lavanga, brought together international students from the three Master’s in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship to brainstorm on new ways of using technology to clean up the fashion industry.

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“At ESHCC I have co-founded a Minor in Fashion Industry three years ago as well introduced several courses on fashion at the MA level,” said Lavanga. “ A recent grant from the European Commission is now allowing me and my colleague Ben Wubs to develop new methodologies to involve fashion stakeholders in class. This workshop is a pilot that I co-created with Jelle Stienstra to explore how qualities of retail, e-commerce and next shopping experiences including VR, AR and AI can be exploited to market sustainable fashion”.

The future is now

Did you know that printing company HP is utilizing scanners to measure feet and uses those measurements to 3D-print tailor-made shoes? This is just one of the examples that Stienstra presented during his lecture on the latest gadgets being used within fashion these days. Following Stienstra’s opening lecture, the students on hand formed small groups and started coming up with their own innovative ideas that might ‘disrupt’ the fashion industry. Although the students are all currently enrolled in the same Master’s program, they come from a wide range of different educational backgrounds.

“We have business students, art historians, and others from all kinds of faculties who can bring new ideas to fashion”, said Lavanga. “That’s fantastic because they all see different ways of tackling sustainability at different points in the supply chain. I always tell them they will be the Trojan horse that will go to companies and instill change.”

The ideas

Despite having very little time to come up with feasible ideas, each group wound up with a clever business concept that intertwines sustainability and fashion. One group had the innovative idea of creating a sort of Airbnb for clothing, in which people can place the fine clothing they rarely wear online for others to rent. So, instead of spending a lot of money on a tuxedo or a Gucci jacket that you might wear once or twice, you can rent it online for a small fee.

Master’s students brainstorming ideas.

In similar fashion to HP, another group presented a brand that sells customized knitted sweaters by using a scanner to measure the exact body size of a customer. The customer can choose the pattern, colour, and type of sustainable fabric for the sweater, which is then created using a 3D-knitting machine (yes, those exist). The environmental benefit of this idea is that the brand would know exactly how much thread they would need to make a sweater, meaning no extra material is wasted. As for the slogan of the brand, the students came up with ‘Just knit it’.

“What they’re doing here is great, especially since there are students from multiple disciplines all focusing on sustainable fashion”, said Boris Pulskens, who works as the University’s Strategic Policy Advisor for Sustainability. “Maybe in the future we can have these students team up with RSM and other faculties across campus to think of even more creative sustainable fashion ideas that we can roll out in the real world.”