Edinburgh students follow Indian cotton from farm to fashion

blue cotton thread
Edinburgh students follow Indian cotton from farm to fashion
University undergraduates will immerse themselves in India’s $200bn textile industry this month.

blue cotton thread

The week-long programme will see business, economics, politics and philosophy students, come together with geographers, biologists, artists and fashion students to tackle real-world challenges.

It is one of the first interdisciplinary initiatives to come out of the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Enlightening experience

Following the supply chain from the pickers and growers of Gujurat, to the fashion houses of Mumbai, the trek will ask the group of 32 students to consider the environmental, social and economic implications of the country’s primary export, cotton.

Now the second-largest producer of cotton in the world after China, India is responsible for 18% of the fabric’s global production.

It is also the second-largest employer in the country after agriculture, providing employment to over 51 million people directly and 68 million people indirectly, including unskilled women.

Important discussions

During the trip they will visit the Better Cotton Initiative and Nabha Foundation, both working toward rural development, better working conditions and more environmentally sustainable farming practices.

Students will visit the factory of high-end fashion label, The House of Anita Dongre, to follow the production and retail process, and chart how the brand is expanding into international markets. They will also meet with Vogue India to discuss the industry’s impact on local and global fashion trends.

Collaborative workshop

The trek will culminate in a day-long interactive challenge, where the group will join students from Mumbai’s Indian School of Design and Innovation to come up with innovative solutions to the Indian cotton industry’s most pressing challenges. Promoting water stewardship to creating economic opportunities for under-represented groups are among issues the groups will consider. Trek-leader, Dr Winston Kwon from the Business School, said:

“We all wear cotton, but rarely think of how and where it’s made, its environmental impact or the people behind growing, refining and designing it. With this experience, we are giving Edinburgh students a chance to get under the skin of one of the developing world’s largest industries and fastest growing economies. We want them to put themselves in the shoes of the farmers, manufacturers and exporters to ask whether fashion can ever be truly sustainable.”