Levi Strauss & Co. has recently begun to work closely with the Rhode Island Institute of Design (RISD) on sustainable design education. The collaboration is emerging out of  Fabric Transformation Takes Form, a five-week program the apparel company and fine arts and design college launched last week.

The hands-on program is another step in Levi’s work to become a more sustainable and responsible apparel manufacturer. In addition to the iconic company’s work on water efficiency and climate change, the San Francisco-based firm has also led in the push to end the sandblasting of denim and even held a contest to rethink the clothesline. Since so much of the sustainability of a product relies in its design, the Levi’s-RISD partnership is a nimble approach to embed ecological thinking within the fashion industry.

Paul Dillinger, Senior Director of Global Design within Levi’s Dockers division, is one of the participants within the Fabric Transformation Takes Form program. Working with his colleague, Nada Grkinich, Dillinger will work with art and design students to intertwine fashion and sustainability within a product. Students and instructors will work together to find new approaches towards the foundation of fashion design: the sewing, cutting and manipulation of fabric. And similar to a Project Runway episode, additional Levi’s designers will arrive at RISD for a critique at the end of the program--hopefully without the cattiness and melodrama, and assumedly no one will bark auf wiedersehen and will be told he or she is “out.” This is not just a sustainable fashion course: students in programs such as interior architecture and graphic design will join those from the apparel design and textiles programs.

As more consumers become aware of the impacts that the textile and fashion industry have on the planet, watch for more companies to follow Levi Strauss’ lead. The company has already started to rethink its lifecycle assessment (LCA) evaluation by involving designers in the beginning steps of its products' designs . So rather than suddenly deciding to include a certain amount of recycled PET bottles in a jacket or pair of jeans, designers can use the firm’s LCA software to make decisions where they are most critical--at the point when they decide what kind of fibers, dyes and washes to use for new clothing designs. Apparel companies have a long road ahead until they are truly sustainable and low-impact companies, but Levi’s has certainly been no slouch on this front.

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.

[Image credit: Leon Kaye]

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.