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STEM + Fashion: Tailor-made for a clean world

Sustainable Fashion Career

It’s Australian Fashion Week so we naturally have STEM + fashion on our minds!

Did you know you can mix your love of fashion with a STEM career to build a better, more sustainable future? Below, we take a look businesses, initiatives and individuals weaving their magic in this space to inspire you to build your very own sustainable fashion career.

Sustainable fashion warrior

Emma Foster-Geering

We all wear clothes and we all have a responsibility to the Earth we live on. Imagine combining the two? Emma Foster-Geering works to do just that.

When Emma nominated her startup LOWN to be considered for Taronga Zoo’s HATCH Accelerator Program she wanted to make a difference and create a business that would solve a genuine environmental concern. “Being in the HATCH program really drove home to me how hard it is to identify a problem that needs to be solved in our society, engineer a solution and make it a commercial success,” says Emma who is a senior manager of sustainable materials at Aussie fashion house R.M. Williams. “The mission of LOWN was to create high-quality clothing, made entirely of natural materials.” 

RELATED: Quiz – Can You Guess These STEM + Fashion & Beauty Careers?

While LOWN didn’t take home the win, Emma’s love for design and technology she tapped into at school – and her creative curiosity for how things get made – means she’s still laser-focussed on making change in the fashion retail industry. “Going back to first principles to create methods, test them and build something has set me up for life,” Emma says. “I rarely took things at face value and spent a lot of time going deep into topics at school. I spent a lot of time wondering how we continue to make decisions to extract natural resources from the Earth, even though we should know better. I was determined to change the world and do it my way.”

It wasn’t until university that Emma felt like she’d found her people. She met women from a bunch of industries – business and politics, sustainability and fashion – and the collab of minds, really helped her along the way. “I’m lucky to have had mentors influence me in profound ways and continue to call them my friends,” says Emma.

Now Emma’s day job is to “assess a company, its material impacts on the world and how the world impacts it,” she says. “The entire [fashion] industry has to be able to clean up the Earth and connect people. I believe it has the power to do this. In fact, it may be the only industry that can.”

RELATED: Why Our Beauty And Fashion Industries Are Crying Out For STEM Grads

Emma’s pathway to a sustainable fashion career

  • Bachelor of Construction (Project Management), University of Technology Sydney 
  • PhD in Sustainability Studies, University of Technology Sydney
  • Sustainability value chain management, Cambridge University
  • Director of sustainability, Vivobarefoot
  • Head of sustainability, The Iconic
  • Senior manager, sustainable materials, R.M. Williams

The lowdown on LOWN 

Read about Emma’s biz idea and her plans for shaking up the fashion industry. 

Good clothes

You may have heard of Australian Fashion Week or the international runways that roll out each year, but did you know there’s an environmentally focussed version? The Good Clothes Show hits the stage in the UK during September and will showcase sustainable fashion, feature preloved vintage and retro styles, as well as chats with fash innovators leading the way in next-gen textiles. 

Right here in Oz, there is The Slow Fashion Market, an annual event across major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra that allows ethically produced apparel brands to set up, sell their looks and make buyers sustainably aware. It’s all very cool (and good for the Earth). With initiatives like these, net zero in SO on track! (#crossesfingers)

Conscious companies and sustainable socials 

While the sustainable fashion industry is always growing and changing, it’s mostly the big orgs who are cashed up, leading the way towards net zero. Think: NIKE with their whole “Move to Zero” er, movement! But there are some retailers and fash friendly groups you might not have heard of who are also making a big impact. Throw them a follow and find out more… 

For more sustainable fashion career ideas, check out our STEM + fashion hub and role models.

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