Case Study

The University of Delaware uses Higg Co to teach future apparel workers the best practices of sustainability standards.

Products used

Higg Design & Development Module

Higg Design & Development Module


Apparel sustainability has so many variables, where do you begin teaching it to students? There is much to consider, from sampling, materials, and trims, to manufacturing finishing and end of life.

The University of Delaware needed a tool that could both be a rich source of sustainability knowledge, plus be delivered in an engaging, easy-to-digest way, to solidify the knowledge with beginners.


The University of Deleware’s apparel program uses several Higg modules as sustainability standards, to teach its students best practices in sustainability, and open them up to the world of impact. When new designers can better understand material impacts, they can design out waste, and factor in a myriad of environmental, social, and labor issues.

Products used

Higg Design & Development Module

Higg Design & Development Module

The Story

When we imagine a more sustainable future, it starts with educating young people. “If we can change the way the designers, developers, and merchandisers are educated, and they enter the industry with sustainability knowledge and ability to navigate tools like the Higg Design & Development Module, it’s going to push sustainability work farther,” said Kelly Cobb, an Assistant Professor in Fashion & Apparel Studies at Delaware University.

As part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the University of Delaware has had a unique partnership with Higg Co from the beginning. It’s been a fruitful partnership, where we provide the sustainability best practices for young designers, and they provide invaluable feedback on how to improve our tools.

“These students are a game changer for the future of the industry. Through a grant funded project, we’re working on opportunities to lessen environmental impacts through virtual product development. 

We’re looking at ways to mesh the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) and Higg Design & Development Module (Higg DDM) data with 3D technology in the initial sampling process, so designers can better understand material impacts, and ‘design out waste’ in the product development stage. 

Our project simulates a 3D pattern drafting program with embedded Higg MSI data in customized fabric libraries. We also embedded the Higg DDM into our fashion curriculum. All the learning outcomes from my class are based on the Higg Index,” said Cobb.

“All the learning outcomes from my class are based on the Higg Index.”
– Kelly Cobb, Assistant Professor in Fashion & Apparel Studies at Delaware University

“When students first come to the class, they don’t know what questions to ask. We use the Higg DDM as a conversation starter. We use the tool to help us start a dialogue about trims, manufacturing finishing, end of life, etc.,” she mentioned.  “It’s inherently a teaching tool — it’s very visual and interactive.”

“Our students also look at materials and components of apparel. They use the Higg DDM and reverse engineer an outerwear jacket. They dissect the jacket and then rebuild it.”

In their textile science classes, their students apply what they’re learning through the Higg DDM, and start to understand how many moving parts are involved in the production of any one garment. “Oftentimes their first reaction is shock. And then their second reaction is, ‘We have to change this,’” Cobb explained. “The students have an ‘Aha’ moment when they realize they can design impact out of any garment.”

We’re honored to share manufacturing impact knowledge with new designers, setting the stage for a more sustainable future in decades to come.

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