Campus for Design and Art

International exchange project PROGRESSIVE SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION with universities from Porto, Maastricht and Birmingham

The partner universities as guests at the Irminenfreihof as part of the 100th anniversary of the fashion design department.

Students from the fashion design department in Trier worked on the topic of "Progressive sustainability in fashion: design and product development in the context of material culture" in seminars, exchange projects and summer schools with three other international fashion schools and with the support of the practical partner C&A. For the 100th anniversary of the fashion design department, the partner universities were guests in Trier in the summer of 2022, and in the fall the Trier team participated in a project week in Portugal.

Progressive sustainability in fashion: design and product development in the context of material culture
Students were asked in the project to develop solutions and perspectives for more sustainability in product development, communication and business models, conditioned by digital opportunities and international collaboration.

The project was divided into three phases:
1) In preparatory virtual meetings and seminars, three internationally staffed teams formed to develop solution approaches for three challenges in the area of product development, communication and business models of the practice partner C&A. Accompanying the work virtually and in the context of a kick-off project week at Trier University of Applied Sciences, publicly accessible lectures on questions of ecology, economy and culture in the fashion industry under the aspect of sustainability were held by renowned experts from the fashion industry. In a closed setting, the interim results were presented to the practice partner. The students then received feedback. For this purpose, the Head of Sustainability and Head of Communication were on site in Trier.

2) In transnational virtual teams, the students developed concrete solutions for the practice partner to make products and processes in the fashion and consumer goods industry more environmentally and socially compatible. They were accompanied by the practice partner and the teachers in regular virtual coaching sessions. 

3) During a final project week in Portugal, the international student groups finalized and presented their proposed solutions. This time, they received feedback from representatives of the practice partner's communications departments. Beforehand, the results had already been presented virtually to representatives of the sustainability, visual merchandising and product design departments. Likewise, production sites and lectures by fashion companies and designers were visited, where the students were able to obtain detailed information about professional practice.

The on-site meetings were accompanied by a cultural program that gave the students an insight into the culture of the host location.

Among other things, UN goals were addressed. For example, to promote sustainability in the areas of industrial production, consumption and climate protection as well as socio-cultural development with regard to gender equality. The project also provided high quality education and international networking for participants within the framework of these goals.

The one-week Summer School was held in Trier as a prelude to the project as part of the 100th anniversary of the fashion design discipline in July 2022. Here, various workshops and lectures on progressive sustainability in the field of fashion design at the Trier location, as well as a cultural accompanying program for the students of the partner universities and the students of Trier University were offered.

This was accompanied by digital lecture series and project work, which took place in various seminars of the fashion design department. This was supplemented by coaching sessions on intercultural communication and virtual project work.

The practical partner C&A acted as the impulse-giving client, which reserved the right to integrate the developed solutions and recommendations for action into the processes of the company or institution. C&A is currently considering a traveling exhibition of the student results in selected stores. Likewise, the participating partner universities would like to initiate a traveling exhibition about the project through the universities' locations.

The added value of the digital formats and processes was mainly formed by the simplified access to the content and the communication between the project partners. As it turned out and was emphasized by the students, the meetings in presence were equally very important.

All in all, this form of organizing and carrying out projects reflects very well the professional practice in the field of fashion design/fashion industry and enables the students to gain improved knowledge for a successful career start. Also from other collaborations with the industry, which have been carried out for several decades with students of the discipline.

The wish expressed at the final meeting by all participating representatives of the partner universities was for the project to be continued. The international knowledge transfer among the partner universities and the practice partners was very high. All partners emphasized this once again.

Likewise, strong competence gains could be observed among the students, who also confirmed this in the same way. The international connections, which also hold out the prospect of more long-term cooperations, are to be emphasized as particularly sustainable. Portugal is particularly interesting for the German fashion industry as a strongly developing partner in sustainable textile production. Strengthening this axis is very important for the university as a location for industry-related fashion courses, which have shaped the profile of the discipline for years.

The challenge for the students was the continuous cooperation of the teams, cultural differences of interaction and the virtual work in the group. By the first meeting on site, after several months of virtual collaboration , turned out to be very important, as this changed the dynamics in the groups very positively. Likewise, a second meeting was important to deepen and consolidate the connections between the project participants and the practice partner.

Also to be mentioned is the very high quality of the student results, which were also confirmed by the practice partner C&A. According to C&A's own statement, the expectations were far exceeded. The very practice-oriented work of the students and the results they achieved in the portfolio will be of great support to many when they start their careers. It also turned out that this type of project should be placed especially for the offer in higher semesters, as it forms an optimal extension of the knowledge acquired during the studies, which can be applied here.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Prof. Christian Bruns, Prof. Dr. Christina Threuter, Prof. Dirk Wolfes


PHOTOS: Michelle Geist, Christian Bruns


Lecture by Michael Kampe, Creative Director at Armed Angels.
Lecture Kai Kuennecke, Global Sustainability Manager at C&A.
Visit to a recycling textile production as part of the project week in Porto.
Impressions of Porto
Surf School - social programme during the project week in Porto.
Students working together in Porto.
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