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Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation donation supports sustainable fashion at NSCAD

Hands at a loom weaving materials

The path from field to fashion has just been widened, thanks to a generous $500,000 gift from the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation.  

The gift supports the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation Sow to Sew project, which will help to establish NSCAD University as a centre of sustainable fashion in Canada. Over the next two years, this gift will provide bursaries for graduate and undergraduate students in the textiles and fashion program, welcome artists-in-residence, expand programming for the NSCAD Art Factory’s Fashion Hacking project and resources for the Alfoldy Craft Institute at NSCAD.  

“NSCAD’s location of fashion within craft is unique and helps our students understand the processes of fabric creation, to design, to production. Sow to Sew will build capacity in our textile/fashion program, provide essential resources to attract top graduate and undergraduate students, and place NSCAD firmly at the centre of dialogue about sustainable fashion in Canada.  This kind of support from the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation is a strong endorsement of NSCAD as well as artists and designers as leaders in sustainable economic development in Canada,” says President Peggy Shannon.  

Learning to design, fabricate and produce responsibly made fashion and textiles 

This funding will build awareness and create opportunities for NSCAD students and youth to understand the connection between the source of materials and to be active participants in the sustainable processes for creating them.  

“Students will learn how to design and fabricate objects that are beautiful, functional and can be manufactured, distributed and sold responsibly,” says Professor Gary Markle.  

Faculty members Assistant Professor Leesa Hamilton and Professor Gary Markle (MFA 1995) will lead this work on the academic side, consulting with Associate Professor Jennifer Green (BFA 2009). 

“Craft at NSCAD is rooted in sustainability. The textiles and fashion program is led by faculty who practice slow fashion and research sustainable materials, the circular economy, and the connection between agriculture and fashion,” says Green, whose Flaxmobile project to grow flax as a textile crop has generated over $350,000 in provincial and federal research funding.  

Staging community events to introduce young people to fabrics and fashion 

Bursaries of $5,000 per year will be given to six undergraduates in third and fourth years of the textiles and fashion program and $10,000 bursaries will be awarded to graduate students. 

Annual prizes for sustainable fashion totalling $5,000.00 will be given to students as well.  

Hamilton, who coordinates the Art Factory with NSCAD Extended Studies says that the additional funding will enable NSCAD to expand its community-based sustainable fashion hacking programming.   

“The NSCAD Art Factory, trains and supports senior NSCAD students in the development and delivery of accessible arts programming within community settings.  Although Art Factory programming is not exclusively fashion-based, the fashion hacking program has been popular with youth who don’t see themselves reflected in mainstream fashion.  Through Fashion Hacking citizen designers can create new garments using thrifted items.” 

Creating new networks between growers, makers, artists, designers 

The expansion of the Alfoldy Craft Institute is an essential part of this gift, explains Markle. Having dedicated staff for the Institute means that NSCAD can promote academic research and creative products that result from the Sow to Sew gift.  

“Through the Alfoldy Craft Institute, we will promote evidence-based research that offers alternatives to fast fashion holding symposium, and inviting artists-in-residence,” says Markle.   

“Students will benefit enormously from expansion of the Craft Institute as a research hub, but so will Nova Scotians – not only by raising awareness around the sustainability, but by creating new networks between growers, makers, artists, designers and small businesses in our region,” says President Shannon.