Céline Semaan is Changing the Way We Think About Sustainability

Can fashion ever be sustainable? Over the past year, this question has turned into the topic of choice, increasingly favoured by everyone in the fashion industry.

Yet, has 'sustainability' become the chosen buzzword brands are recklessly bandying about, or is this topic finally getting the attention it deserves?

For the designer, activist and writer, Céline Semaan, tackling this issue first hand is no novelty. Semaan, who founded Slow Factory in 2012, a design lab working with companies to research and implement sustainability-focused initiatives, has been on a mission to create "frameworks of transparency within the fashion industry," ever since.

Throughout her collaboration with MIT Media Lab, she was also asked to put together a conference called Study Hall, which would act as 'a masterclass for the Fashion Industry' on sustainable literacy. Study Hall has, over time, been serving as an open forum for education for anyone interested in the topic. It has also been gaining traction since the launch of the first conference, which kicked off New York Fashion Week in February 2018. After a year of collaborations and successes, this year's global summit will take place Friday, January 31st at the New York Times Centre, in New York City.

This edition will focus on 'climate positivity' and scaling effective solutions by bringing together creatives, scientists, professors, brands and more.

"We look at solutions from different angles and perspectives, because the problem is complex and for complex issues, you need to have complex solutions or at least have solutions that address different areas at a time," Semaan said.

Sustainable practices are not just environmental but pertain to their governance, corporate structure and social impact as well. And Semaan has, with her work, been taking a multifaceted approach to educate the public, by addressing this from a grounded perspective around data, information and knowledge.

From biomimicry to lab-grown solutions and waste-led design, the world's brightest innovators will be discussing ways in which the public can be educated on these issues. The speakers will also be offering a science-centric perspective and continuing Slow Factory's mission of democratizing the sustainability movement through hosting conversations led by people of colour.

This edition will also be launching an exciting initiative called OnexOne, the first science incubator in fashion, in collaboration with Slowfactory and supported by the United Office of Partnerships. The project will be pairing a scientist with a designer, providing them with a grant and an advisory board to come up with innovations, whether its a product, a framework or a methodology - the perfect way to push scientific innovation faster in the fashion industry.

"It is the first time we do something like this in the fashion industry, and the designers involved in the project are true innovators (Mara Hoffman, Philip Lim, Telfar are just a few of the names involved), so it's not a small little project, but it has the chance to make a wrinkle in time," she said.

The conference is free to attend and will also be broadcasted live across social media channels, running from 1 PM EST until 6 PM EST.

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