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London College of Fashion

Rawnie Whittow-Williams

Profession
Sustainability Coordinator
College
London College of Fashion
Person Type
Alumni
Rawnie  Whittow-Williams

Biography

Rawnie studied BA Fashion Management at London College of Fashion (now BSc Fashion Management) she has since carved out a career working in sustainabiltiy.

Interview

Did you always know you wanted to work in sustainability?

It wasn’t until my final year at LCF that I decided I wanted to work in sustainability; the curriculum in was heavily focused on sustainability within the industry and that really opened my eyes to the sheer impact of the fashion industry. After that year I decided no matter what job I was doing, I would aim to bring sustainability into it. Following graduation, I was offered a buying assistant position for a department store, in the womenswear branded denim team. As denim is a high cotton product it is a high-impact product category in terms of sustainability. I took it upon myself to research and push for new brands that had sustainability in their DNA and products, as well as highlight product lines within the existing brands that had good sustainability credentials – like certified organic cotton and BCI cotton. Although I felt like I was only making a small impact, I felt like I wanted to do more. So, when a position arose internally for the businesses first sustainability coordinator I knew it was for me – and that my path had led me here for a reason.

Why did you choose to study at LCF?

When I decided I wanted to work in the fashion industry I set my sights high. I knew that by going to a world recognised educational inspiration – like London College of Fashion – I would be giving myself a head start. The connections the college has, and that industry recognition really does do a lot. You’re taught by industry professionals who not only know their stuff but are genuinely dedicated to nurturing the next generation.

What key skills did you learn during the course that you still use as a Sustainability Coordinator?

Aside from industry awareness and understanding of how the fashion industry works in its entirety. The Fashion Management course was fantastic because the skills and lessons I was exposed to were so broad and expansive. Projects were built to replicate real work place scenarios so when I graduated I felt really confident in my soft skills. Overlooked traits, like leading presentations and working in a team, are things that I learnt at LCF that to this day are extremely valuable. From a hard skills perspective, having the ability to read and analyse data has been surprisingly useful, and shouldn't be disregarded as a student!

Since graduating, which of the projects you've worked on are you most proud of?

My work on the Conscious Design program at Swarovski, which aims to use the strength of the brand to promote collective action and to nurture future generations of mindful designers, is something I am particularly proud of. In 2019, I worked with Central Saint Martins on a program that crossed three degree disciplines to integrate sustainability in their curriculum – reaching over 100 students. The program challenged them to directly answer briefs based around sustainability; seeing the students’ work at the end was awe-inspiring. It truly is a pleasure to work with the next generation of designers, who are genuinely beginning to feel the necessity of working with sustainability at the forefront of their minds. Speaking to the students at the end of the project and hearing them say they’ll change the way they work in the future is an incredible win.

Between the business of fashion and sustainability, where do you enjoy working the most?

Smack bang in the middle! I definitely feel I thrive working in between sustainability professionals who have spent their careers working on the nitty gritty of sustainability issues and working with the creatives on the other end of the spectrum. It allows me to identify the areas that still need work and to learn from the experts on how to improve. It's a constant learning environment!

You've only been working in the industry around2(3 years! I graduated in 2016!) years, since graduating, but what is the biggest highlight of your career so far? 

I think the biggest highlight was being recognised in Drapers Magazine ‘30 Under 30’ in 2018. It was absolutely incredible to be included and to be recognised by highly recognised trade press. It continues to be a huge driver for me in terms of commitment, drive and passion.

What do you love most about your profession?

I find it inspiring to know that in some capacity I am contributing to making a difference in our world. I also love that every day I learn more and more about how I can improve as an individual – this ends up spilling over into my personal life too and my friends and family also reap the benefit!

Which plans do you have for your career?

I’m a firm believer in not to having set plans for my future as I don't want to pigeon hole myself – and then miss opportunities in the future because I am too concentrated on another pathway! In saying that, there are lots of areas that I would love to work closer with. This includes educational institutes through teaching, as well as the public sector and government. I have found that career progression and personal development is key to being open to new opportunities – you never know who you may meet, learn from and where these things lead.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sustainability?

Know your stuff! Read and absorb as much information as possible. Having a real understanding of sustainability across industries is so helpful, other industries are a lot more innovative in terms of working toward solutions compared to the fashion industry. I think it's important to be able to draw inspiration from other places. Sustainability is also an extremely broad topic, I think it's really helpful for you to identify what it is that is your drive and passion - it could be energy management, it could be ethical audits and supply chain, it could be sustainable fabrics and fibres.

The world really is your oyster – I think that finding your niche and your area of expertise is really important. That’s something that comes from reading and researching independently to find what makes you tick.

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