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A Better Sustainable Future

Timo Raissanan
9:00 am, May 6th (EST) 
Expert Guest

Timo Rissanen

Associate Dean at School of Constructed Environments
Parsons School of Design
Dr. Rissanen an educator, artist and designer. He was born in Finland and trained as a fashion designer at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in Australia. He completed a practice-based PhD on zero waste fashion design at UTS in 2013. As an artist he has focused on the (in)humanity of labour, politics and love through installation, performance and cross-stitched poetry. He co-curated Fashioning Now with Alison Gwilt in 2009 and Yield with Holly McQuillan in 2011, and he has co-published two books on fashion and sustainability, Shaping Sustainable Fashion with Gwilt in 2011 and Zero Waste Fashion Design with McQuillan in 2016. He has been the Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability at Parsons School of Design since 2010 and am currently the Associate Dean, School of Constructed Environments at Parsons School of Design - The New School.
Expert Guest


This special bonus session will focus on a vision of the future where we, the fashion industry, adopts environmentally beneficial manufacturing methods and dedicates itself to act in a socially responsible manner. The discussion will also address the need of “closing the loop” and move towards a circular fashion ecosystem. We will seek to answer crucial questions such as: how will we accomplish this? What changes will the fashion industry have to undergo? And, what are the necessary changes in consumer behavior?

Our Better Sustainable Future

In Dr. Rissanen’s conversation with WeDesign founder, Simon Collins, he discusses his work as an academic and scholar of sustainable fashion. He discusses his new project with The Union of Concerned Researchers, its origin and co-founders/ signees concerned about the current and future practices of the fashion industry. Dr. Rissanen discusses the number of movements such as the global Sunrise Movement, the inspiring re-sale shops of Eileen Fisher (Renew) and Patagonia (Wear Worn) as promising examples which can help contribute to a better future. He cites concerns around the findings of the IPCC Climate Change Report and notes the imperatives to eliminate research redundancies and search to find solutions-- quickly. Additionally, he states that though H&M had $4.3 billion of unsold clothes in 2018 and Burberry burned $37 million worth of their clothes they are making advances towards better sustainable practices through their leadership. Other fashion and sustainability courses such as the The Center Sustainable Fashion at the University of Arts: London have, alongside luxury conglomerate Kering, produced a similar course to bring more understanding of fashion and sustainability, particularly for luxury markets, among other numerous outlets and resources online and in-person. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace, and the World Economic Forum confirm that our world is at a critical point in our environment’s future and well-being. If we do not act not act now, as Dr. Rissanen states, “there will no longer be a fashion industry to care about.”

Masterclass Intro

“We should listen to [our] children because I think we have huge opportunity in really making an intentional, different kind of future for them and that is the opportunity. That's the thing that drives me in all of my work is to leave this world a little better than how we found it.”

Key Takeaways

Let Companies Know Your Purchasing Values

“I would encourage consumers to... let companies know, because if you’re boycotting a store but you’re not telling them that you’re doing that, there’s actually very little value in that. But if you actually let the company know that “I did some research on you, and I have a problem with the labor conditions in your production facilities and until you deal with it, I’m not actually buying anything from you.” I think that does have value.”

Embrace Knowledge Sharing and Open Source

“Knowledge is one of the [most important] things and it’s also one of the issues that we need to solve is: who has access to knowledge? Because [I] think that everybody should have access to knowledge [but]... it's important to acknowledge the tension... Sometimes there is a tension between knowledge sharing or information sharing and the need to actually make a profit. And there are no easy answers to that either [but] I think it needs to be acknowledged. But whenever it is feasible to share information, share the information.”

We Can Change Our Systems Through Design

I talk about the economic system as a design project. [We] need to redesign the economic system. The economic system that we currently have is not something that came into existence with the universe after the Big Bang. We made it. We know there's parts of it that we didn't necessarily design by intention, but nonetheless it's something that humans created. And to me, that's the good news because we can also redesign it.”

We Must Act. And Act Soon

“If we don't take this seriously... there won't be a fashion industry for us to care about in twenty years from now because the potential negative implications [of climate change] will have [an irreversible] impact on… cotton farming for production and [on] all kinds of [other] resources that [the] industry relies upon. And so we need to act. And I do think that there’s never been a better time for really bold action.”

key steps

Ask Yourself

  • What is your vision of a sustainable future?

  • What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned through the online conversations for Executive Education in Sustainable Fashion?

  • What are the other areas of sustainable fashion you would like to explore?

  • From what you have learned in the course, what sustainable fashion principles will you be incorporating into your life

Continue Your Learning

Further Learning

 * Paton, Elizabeth. “H&M, a Fashion Giant, Has a Problem: $4.3 Billion in Unsold Clothes,” 27 Mar 2018.

 * Paton, Elizabeth. “Burberry to Stop Burning Clothing and Other Goods It Can’t Sell” 6 Sept 2018.

Thank You

Thank you for watching our Online Speaker Series in our Executive Education in Sustainable Fashion program. We hope that the resources and conversations have presented you with a lot of ideas and considerations for sustainability implementation either in your company, your organization or your life. We encourage you to keep learning and to keep looking for alternative ways to make this world better place through sustainable fashion. Together we can truly make a difference in a better path towards the future. 

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