University of Technology Sydney: UTS and TAFE NSW unite for a sustainable fashion future

The University of Technology Sydney and TAFE NSW will develop a new Centre for Fashion and Textiles Sustainability in Sydney, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the NSW Government.

NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Mr Geoff Lee, today announced the development of the Centre, which aims to fast-track the Australian fashion industry’s post COVID-19 recovery, and usher in a new era of sustainable fashion using cutting-edge design technology.

Mr Lee said the partnership between UTS and TAFE NSW had the potential to make the Camperdown/Ultimo precinct “Australia’s home of sustainable fashion and textiles”.

“Here we have two of the absolute leaders when it comes to supplying the next generation of Australia’s fashion industry,” he said.

“They both have outstanding reputations in fashion, textiles, sustainability and design, and together they could create amazing opportunities for both students, and local fashion businesses alike.

“The two organisations are near neighbours and are both nestled in one of Australia’s largest creative precincts, so there is massive potential there.”

Vice-Chancellor of UTS, Professor Attila Brungs, said the future of education required a “lifetime of learning” approach, that wasn’t about choosing between TAFE NSW, university, and on-the-job training, but instead involved all of these sectors working seamlessly together.

“Because the rate of technological innovation is increasing at such a rapid rate – including in industries like fashion, design and textiles – our future workforce will need to constantly be moving in and out of education, both formal and informal, throughout their working lives. This partnership would help make that much easier.”

The Managing Director of TAFE NSW, Steffen Faurby, said the two institutions were already collaborating on engineering qualifications, and would be looking to further develop their existing strong partnerships with the local fashion industry.

“If you want to enter the fashion, design and textiles industry, having relevant industry skills and experience is absolutely essential,” he said.

“COVID-19 has forced the fashion industry to rethink past practices and this new centre will provide a hub of research and innovation to propel the new era of sustainability in fashion.

“If TAFE NSW and UTS can share and grow their established industry connections and future-focused sustainability techniques, then that can only help our students, and fashion businesses themselves, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the talented fashion professionals we help produce.”

UTS Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles graduate Alyssa Sun said the future of fashion should not be about fast fashion but rather customised to individuals for a reason.

“People shouldn’t be wearing the same clothes everywhere. It can be slightly different, individual and unique,” she said.

Gabby Morassut, a current honours student in Fashion and Textiles at UTS, said it is critical, now more than ever, to challenge traditional design methods and the current fashion system in order to achieve a sustainable future.

“A Centre for Fashion and Textiles Sustainability will give emerging designers the opportunity to develop their practice in a space where important conversations on sustainability can take place,” said Ms Morassut.

UTS fashion and textiles researcher Timo Rissanen said the development of high-tech modern fabrics, such as seamless knitting and digital jacquard weaving, could see the return of textile and clothing manufacturing in Australia.

“We won’t see the return of old-fashioned garment factories with rows of sewing machines, but there are a lot of advantages to having clothes manufacturing in Australia. As we saw during the pandemic, shorter supply chains are more resilient,” Dr Rissanen told the AFR.

“These technological advances also require different ways of thinking from the designer. Education plays a key role in ensuring that industry has capacity to work with those technologies. And it’s more than just the technician operating machine. There’s a whole chain of people and workflows that need to be aligned with the new technologies,” he said.

The $200,000 grant, awarded under the Government’s Higher Education Strategy – Collaboration and Innovation Fund, will provide initial funding to further develop the concept and early-stage collaboration on the project, and accelerate the development of the Centre.

The Centre will work with local fashion, technology and creative industries in the Camperdown/Ultimo precinct, and host specialised equipment and facilities, such as 3D knitting machines, body scanning, digital pattern cutting and 3D printing.

It is the first collaborative initiative captured under a new agreement between UTS and TAFE NSW – two of the biggest names in fashion education – and students and industry are set to be the big winners.

Other collaboration possibilities in fashion, design and textiles being explored under the new agreement include:

• pathways between TAFE NSW and UTS courses, including credit for prior learning;

• joint course offerings, including in sustainable and ethical production of textiles, the circular fashion economy, as well as advanced manufacturing techniques;

• a Precinct Fashion Roundtable that brings together TAFE NSW teachers, UTS academics, and local fashion businesses to collaborate and share ideas.

The NSW Government’s recently announced plans to invest an additional $480 – $500 million to transform the nearby Powerhouse Museum into a fashion and design hub further solidifies the precinct as an emerging epicentre of Australian fashion excellence.

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