Mark Joseph O’Connell
Professor in the School of Fashion, Seneca College & Former Clothing Line Owner
Professor in the School of Fashion, Seneca College & Co-Founder Ontario Textile Diversion Collaborative
Seneca’s School of Fashion has woven sustainability through its entire curriculum, creating highly sought-after graduates in this evolving industry.
Do you hear “fashion” and think of trends, runways and red carpets? What about globalization, mass production and ethical, environmentally-conscious products? The world of fashion is changing, and today, one of fashion’s hottest topics is sustainability.
For fashion lovers and students seeking to find their place in the industry, Seneca is the place to be. Seneca’s School of Fashion teaches fashion arts, fashion business management, visual merchandising and fashion studies. Sustainability is a common thread throughout these programs.
Diving into the world of fashion sustainability
“Sustainable development means that we take social, environmental, and economic aspects equally into account,” says Sabine Weber, a professor at Seneca’s School of Fashion and co-founder of the Ontario Textile Diversion Collaborative.
From overconsumption and consumer behaviour to ethical production and manufacturing to designing for circularity and textile waste, there are many components of sustainable fashion — and Seneca’s School of Fashion is tackling them all head-on.
“The School of Fashion at Seneca is an ideal place to study fashion sustainability,” says Mark Joseph O’Connell, a professor at the School of Fashion and former clothing line owner. “Our curriculum is grounded in the principles of sustainability, social justice and ethical manufacturing. We’re one of the top fashion schools in Canada, our faculty come directly from industry and we offer industry-standard sewing labs and design studios.”
Be inspired by industry-leading research and expert faculty
Seneca’s passionate professors are demonstrating leadership through research designed to solve some of the industry’s most integral issues. Students at Seneca get hands-on experience working on projects that make a difference.
“My research focuses on Canadian fashion systems in the global market,” says O’Connell, who is conducting field research on First Nations weaving in Mexico and fashion upcycling in Cuba. This work supports the idea that globalization benefits communities that are able to create fashion enterprises that engage with globalized systems.
Weber’s research focuses on textile waste. “There’s no data on textile waste in Canada,” she says. To close this data gap, Weber undertook Dumpster Dive, a research project with Seneca students to analyze how many textiles end up in the garbage. With the non-profit Fashion Takes Action, Weber completed a feasibility study of textile recycling in Canada.
From Seneca to major fashion brands
With such inspiring teachers blazing the way, it’s no surprise that Seneca’s students are inspired to take on their own big projects. And with its deep industry connections, Seneca offers students hands-on experience in the classroom and through applied research that prepares them for successful, meaningful careers in fashion.
“Students who are thinking sustainably are the ones who are going to be able to make a change,” says O’Connell. “Our students are graduating with sustainable principles and working in all of the major fashion brands in Canada. They can’t help but make a change as they move through the industry and become successful in their careers.”