Kelly Cobb, Assistant Professor, Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies

As an academic member, we have some unique opportunities within the SAC. We are using the Higg Design & Development Module (Higg DDM) and Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) to train future apparel workers. Our students are digital natives and can play a role in tool development. We’ve tested various interfaces of the Higg Index product tools as they’re introduced. We’ve had so many great relationships with the members of the SAC through different research projects and working side by side. They’ve come to understand the value of academia. It’s seen as part of the life-cycle of fashion — there’s a component that starts with education.

If we can change the way the designers and developers and merchandisers are educated, and they can come into the industry with a knowledge of sustainability and with a knowledge of how to navigate tools like the Higg DDM, it’s going to push the work of everyone interested in sustainability further. These students are a game changer for the industry. Through a grant funded project, we’re working on opportunities to lessen environmental impacts through virtual product development. We’re looking at ways to mesh the Higg MSI and Higg DDM data with 3D technology in the initial sampling process so designers can better understand material impacts and “design out waste” in the product development stage. Our project simulates a 3D pattern drafting program with embedded Higg MSI data in customized fabric libraries. We also embedded the Higg DDM into our fashion curriculum. All the learning outcomes from my class are based on the Higg Index. We offer a lecture on fashion and sustainability that is a required course for all incoming students. It’s about issues related to the environment and social and labor issues.

We have a course module (within a larger course called lecture on fashion and sustainability required of all students) called Designing Sustainability into Jeans.

When students first come to the class, they don’t know what questions to ask. We use the Higg DDM as a conversation starter. We use the tool to help us start a dialogue about trims, manufacturing finishing, end of life, etc. It’s inherently a teaching tool — it’s very visual and interactive. Our students also look at materials and components of apparel. They use the Higg DDM and reverse engineer an outerwear jacket. They dissect the jacket and then rebuild it. In our textile science classes, our students apply what they’re learning through the Higg DDM. They start to comprehend how many moving parts are involved in the production of any one garment. Oftentimes their first reaction is shock. And then their second reaction is, “we have to change this.” The students have an “Aha” moment when they realize they can design impact out of any garment.

Ready to use the Higg MSI?

This easy-to-use tool offers several ways to improve the sustainability of materials used in production.