DMU prepares fashion buyers for a sustainable future


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De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is preparing students who are about to enter one of the world’s major polluting industries with a valuable lesson in sustainability.

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Final-year Fashion Buying students visited the UK’s Lenzing factory in Grimsby, to see first-hand how the Austrian brand produces biodegradable fibres used internationally by the textile industry.

Donning hard hats, ear defenders and goggles, students had an exclusive tour of the plant, seeing what goes into each step of the technical process of turning wood chips into pulp to produce fibres.

Siobhan Merrall, the senior lecturer at DMU who organised the visit, said: “The textile industry is the second greatest polluting industry in the world, so understandably, there is a big focus on sustainability within fashion.

“Our students are the buyers of the future and we need to educate them to do so responsibly so they can make a difference in the industry. This insightful visit was an unforgettable experience for them.”

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During the tour, students discovered that Lenzing fibres are made of cellulose extracted from wood that comes from certified sustainable sources. This natural component makes them biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle.

Students also learned about the manufacturer’s closed-loop production method, which ensures that the majority of water and chemicals in the process are re-circulated and used again.

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Fashion Buying with Design student Umaimah Mussa said: “Sustainability is becoming really important to consumers, so brands are having to pay attention and take action.

“It was interesting to see the process at Lenzing. It’s something I’ve always wanted know more about and this opportunity gave me a good understanding. I just didn’t realise how intricate the process was.”

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Umaimah is directly applying the knowledge she gained to her university projects and beyond.

“I feel like it’s given me a real advantage. I can adapt what I’ve learned to benefit my own work, and when I start looking for jobs I already have valuable industry insights,” said the 21-year-old from Leicester.

“At the moment, I’m in the process of designing my final university collection and it’s made me think carefully about choosing and sourcing fibres. I’ve been researching details like where to get cotton from, how sustainable it actually is and the waste it produces.

“No individual is 100 per cent sustainable but I feel like I’m making a good start.”

Before embarking on her degree, Umaimah completed DMU’s Foundation Diploma in Art and Design in the hopes of pursuing graphic design.

She said: “The diploma gives you a great grounding in so many different disciplines and that’s when I developed a passion for fashion and textile design.

“I feel like my degree has opened up lots of career options for me, from merchandising and design to buying and visual merchandising. I wouldn’t change anything."

Posted on Tuesday 4th February 2020

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