An education in the realities of fashion

Fashion in Schools
United Kingdom (London)

Bel Jacobs and other fashion experts talk to students about the ways that fashion can be damaging to human wellbeing and the health of our planet.

 

Over the 14 years that Bel Jacobs spent as Style Editor for UK newspaper Metro, the Rana Plaza disaster and the growing urgency of the climate emergency led her to reassess her relationship with her profession. Today, instead of encouraging readers to purchase ‘this season’s must have’, she is an activist, speaker and writer on animal rights, the climate crisis and the harms of the fashion system.

One of her initiatives is Fashion in Schools – a UK-wide project to introduce the realities of the fashion industry to children aged 11+. Bel and other fashion experts talk to students about the ways that fashion can be damaging to human wellbeing and the health of our planet. Discussions cover exploitation of natural resources, human and animal rights issues, workers’ conditions, and the waste, toxins and pollution created by the production of over 100 billion items of clothing per year.

Crucially to engaging young people in being part of the solution, the talks offer suggestions as to how students can be active citizens and help accelerate the positive changes that are so desperately needed. As one student put it: “I gained an understanding of both the exhilarating and devastating elements of the fashion world. Bel interrogates the seductive forces pushing us to buy, buy, buy, asking us to question why we believe material goods will make us whole.”

Bel started the project because she felt “a need to reach young people as they entered the social media spaces in which fashion and consumption are quite aggressively marketed to that age group. For the past two years, I’ve volunteered as a school speaker on animal rights for Animal Aid and I’ve seen how young people can engage with issues of equity, fairness and futurehood – all aspects we touch upon in Fashion in Schools,” she continues.

Fashion in Schools aims to engage local makers, menders and crafters to offer interactive workshops alongside the main talk. These will introduce students to ways in which they can turn the clothes they already own into items that express their interests and personalities, through simple customisation. By adding these hands-on elements, Bel hopes to inspire new relationships to creativity and empowerment.

Young people are also encouraged to use the skills they have – whether making TikTok videos, posters or newsletters – to campaign for an industry and a world that they would like to see instead. “Young people have a strong sense of right and wrong. Once they know what’s really going on behind the scenes, they often want to help. I’ve had students come up to me and say, ‘I’d really like to get involved but no one listens to us.’ Fashion in Schools is about helping them understand their voice is important, both in the future of fashion and of the world itself.”

Just as campaigners have worked to help children understand where their food comes from, Fashion in Schools encourages students to think about where their clothes come from – and become part of a fairer fashion future.

Bel Jacobs. Fashion in Schools

AtlasAction: If there’s a school, college or teacher in your area that you think might be interested in a Fashion in Schools talk, email info@beljacobs.com. The talks are free to state schools and can also be delivered virtually. Fore more information visit Bel’s site.

Written by

Cathy Runciman, Atlas of the Future (14 April 2021)

    Project leader

    Bel Jacobs, Founder

    Partners

    This project has been selected as part of FashionFutures, a new  content channel that maps the work of people transforming the fashion sector: the designers, craftspeople, social innovators, educators, community leaders and communicators. Atlas of the Future is excited to partner with Makerversity, with the support of The J J Charitable Trust and their network of fashion friends.

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