If you think about the fashion industry, the images that come to mind will probably be catwalk models strutting their stuff at glamorous launch events, Hollywood A-listers naming “who they’re wearing” on the red carpet on Oscars night, or the glitz and in-your-dreams prices of the top luxury brands.

But a better indication of the scale and importance of the industry is just how constantly present it is in our everyday lives. This is a reality addressed by our new program, the Bachelor in Fashion Design, which recognizes that fashion is about much, much more than just creating beautiful garments. 

In the clothes we all choose every day—in the street, for nights out or special occasions, and in our professional and personal lives—fashion is not just about looking good, or feeling comfortable. Our clothes are sometimes subtle but always powerful statements of our individual and collective identities; as expressions of culture or subcultures or even beliefs, what we wear matters. So it’s no surprise that fashion is a huge global industry, corresponding to 2% of the world’s entire Gross Domestic Product.

All this means that the industry cannot afford to ignore new, disruptive forces when they emerge in the sector. Lately, that’s been sustainability—more than ever before, it’s a metric that matters in fashion. So what impact is a greater drive for sustainability having on the sector?

It’s what customers want

Research has shown that 88% of consumers want brands to help them become more sustainable. They’re not looking for snappy catchphrases or vague promises to help the planet—modern consumers are clued up on greenwashing and won’t buy it.

So it’s no surprise that some of the cutting-edge brands in fashion today are leading the way in driving impactful sustainability in the sector. Some of the less globally recognizable names are, understandably, the leading innovators in the effort, whether it’s producing garments from previously unused, ethically sourced and sustainable materials like cork or coconut, or using recycled polyester or even plastic bottles to make clothes.

But even industry giants like Levi’s are making an impact, with new lines of jeans that use 96% less water in their production than traditional models. This is critical in an industry that’s previously been responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide!

Ethical production

Ethical considerations in material and production are coming to the fore, as well. We’ve all heard the negative stories about poor labor conditions and low pay for the often very young people making our clothes in developing nations. Changing that is an important part of the business strategies of many new brands, with transparency in their sourcing and production processes providing clarity and provenance to their sustainability claims. Even the UN is driving coordinated action in the sector through their Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, looking to turn the fashion value chain into one of the key drivers behind their Sustainable Development Goals.

To join the UN in addressing complex issues like these in fashion design, education in the sector has to evolve to play its part. That’s precisely what the Bachelor in Fashion Design has been created to do—not just to impart the skills to create original and cohesive clothing collections, but to teach students to lead sustainable strategizing in design by leveraging the latest tools, techniques and business know-how alongside their creative excellence. 

Modules like Fashion Management and Production and Distribution take a deep dive into the entrepreneurial elements of the industry, while Fashion Logistics provides a comprehensive overview of the day-to-day realities of doing business in the sector. Founded on four pillars: Creativity for Good, Sustainability and Social Responsibility, Fashion Tech and Craft, and the Business of Fashion, this is a holistic program that’s not just fit for the modern age of fashion, it’ll empower you to shape it.

New roles emerging

Graduates of the program will enter the industry armed not just with the creative, practical, tech and business skills they need—not to mention a network of contacts among international partners and the support of IE Talent & Careers as they launch their careers—they’ll be equipped to compete for and win roles that simply didn’t exist even a few years ago. 

You might have set your heart on founding your own label, designing new textiles or creating beautiful costumes for film, television or theater. But the Bachelor in Fashion Design sets you up to be a consultant specializing in sustainability in fashion design, or a virtual fashion designer or avatar stylist. The drive for sustainability in fashion is having a huge impact on sourcing, production, distribution and even styles. Now, thanks to this purpose-driven program for creative people who are as passionate about the business and ethics of fashion as they are about its beauty and originality, it’s over to you.