ACTAsia’s groundbreaking Future Learn course inspires compassion among emerging fashion influencers and professionals

The six-week course digs deep into the impact of fashion production on people, animals and the environment, questioning the viability of fast-fashion trends and motivating students to reflect on the need for sustainability within the industry. Each week’s learning is based on two hours of educational videos, podcasts, slidecasts and articles, comprehensively supported by materials and activities. Assignments aim to equip students with the understanding and skills they will need to write their own compassionate fashion manifestos.

The course has been designed and written by ACTAsia together with John Lau, Associate Dean at the London College of Fashion:

“As the Associate Dean of one of the most important fashion colleges internationally, I take pride in ensuring the education we provide is first class yet most importantly, embedding a deep sense of compassion for the future of the world. My meaning for a more considerate future in the fashion industry is one that is fur-free.”

This is the first academic course of its kind in the world to be offered by a non-profit, bringing a new level of learning on the subject of sustainability, through the lens of fur. Available to listen in English with Chinese subtitles, transcript and supporting materials, the course takes students week by week through a syllabus with peer support, as well as ACTAsia’s online educators to guide and facilitate learning. Through this course, ACTAsia is broadening the boundaries of academic study, working hand-in-hand with fashion professionals to bring discussion around social justice, environmental protection and animal rights to mainstream fashion education.

Who is the course for?

The course caters for fashion industry students studying design, communication specialists and business scholars. At the genesis of their career, they’re ready to launch into a world where profits all too often come above values that show a wider responsibility for our planet. The course strives to tip fashion motivation from profit to compassionate values.

Launched on 24 May 2021, over 300 students to-date have taken part mainly from China, India and the UK. Although the primary focus is Asia, widening the scope to Europe and North America helps global students to understand the context of international resources, such as animal fur. It also promotes understanding of international barriers to Compassion in Fashion, such as different attitudes towards animals and sentience. All participants will examine why sustainability in fashion begins with fur-free.

Why does sustainability begin with fur-free?

Fashion is one of the top five polluting industries in the world. Throw-away fashions and untenably produced materials contribute to unfolding environmental disasters, as well as human exploitation and animal cruelty on an immense scale. Consider climate change, global warming, production of waste, human use of resources. 

As the fashion industry’s future leaders and decision-makers, students today have the potential to steer the industry to a fur-free and sustainable future. The facts behind fur production have been a key component of ACTAsia’s remit for educating consumers for more than a decade, with annual fur-free fashion shows and forums in China bringing humane and sustainable alternatives to animal fur to the public realm. 

A syllabus by fashion and NGO experts

The course was written and recorded by ACTAsia, in collaboration with John Lau, Associate Dean at the London College of Fashion. Supporting materials have been shared by many industry experts, as well as other NGOs, who also supported production. These include major sponsor Animal People Forum, also Anima, Open Philanthropy and World Wide Animal Rescue. Hosting the course through a digital platform is the shape of education to come, enabling a vast and cost-effective reach. 

What the course includes

The course helps students develop their knowledge of how the fashion industry impacts air, water, land and waste pollution. It takes fur as a focus topic and examines the impact on all involved, from farmers through to animals. Activities are tailored to specialisms, while a Miro board gives students the chance to share ideas and showcase their creations. Peer review of assignments and open-learning comments give opportunity for deeper reflection. 

Industry experts deliver informative seminars from their own varied perspectives, allowing students to make up their own minds by exploring their inner values and core ethos. They discuss corporate social responsibility, which ultimately values people, the environment and animals above profit.

The ultimate goal

ACTAsia’s Programme Director, Dawn Peacock, believes “By the end of the course, students will be equipped with the knowledge to write their own manifesto for compassion in fashion, identifying the problems inherent to the fashion industry and visualising change. By connecting emerging fashion entrepreneurs, the course will help to build an international fur-free community, where individuals can share fabric sourcing and collaborate to exhibit new ideas.”

All students should finish the course by identifying ways in which they themselves can be the change.

It is expected that in the long term, the course will support the further development of the Fur Free Retailer scheme in China. Mutual support between consumers and fashion professionals should raise both demand for and supply of ethical fashion alternatives.

Future Learn is a global online platform founded in 2012, delivering expert education by world-class universities and organisations. It promotes transformative, social learning, connecting people and ideas through free online courses.