Unschool Fellowship: Solving the Unsustainable Fashion Industry

How Might We…

Create a business that disrupts the environmental harm caused by the fashion industry?

So this is the story of how I ended up in Cape Town, South Africa working with a global team of young leaders to disrupt the unsustainable fashion industry. I blame it all on a wildly improbably goal I set in early 2018 to go back to Africa. I had traveled to the continent once before on an eye opening trip to Kenya with my family in 2009, but as a single woman traveling alone, it felt far from home and dangerous.

A few weeks later I was brainstorming things to do in the summer between semesters of grad school, and so I did a google search for ‘design thinking fellowships’. On the first page of results was the Unschool, an experiential education organization based in design thinking methods with week-long fellowships held around the world. Their next session was being held in Cape Town the month directly after school let out for the summer! I excitedly read the page, and felt deeply aligned with their philosophy of unlearning what we’ve been taught in order to redesign our systems towards social and environmental equity. The application deadline had passed, but the opportunity felt too perfect, so I sent in an application anyways. And a few months later, I was having the adventure of my life.

Check out this Unschool blog post to read more about the Unschool Fellowship and our cohort’s Cape Town experience.

There are so many stories I could tell about my Unschool week, but I really want to highlight our final capstone project, a 24 hour design sprint where our teams were each challenged to solve a social or sustainable issue using the methods we had been taught in design thinking, systems mapping, circular economy, and behavioural science.

What: 24 Hour Design Sprint, Unschool Fellowship, Capetown, SA
Team: Alyssa Burtt, Neha Rao, Kausar Khan, Sizwe Nikholas Mxobo
Timeline: 24 hours (May 2018)
Process: Using systems mapping, lifecycle mapping, cognitive science, and design thinking tools, we hunted for the biggest leverage point to disrupt this industry.
Customer Segment: Eco-warriors, fashion minimalists
Outcome: We pitched in front of Dr. Leyla Acaroglu (the founder of the Unschool Fellowship), and presented to the whole cohort. Our team won for best concept based on viability, change potential, and community impact, with a close second place team who’s project was on reimagining incarceration.

Our Solution: CPSL Closet

I even designed a mock website within the 24 hour challenge! Check it out:

Some More Cool Projects