Beneath the surface

Annick Schramme: ‘Awareness of sustainable fashion grows, but shopping behaviour doesn’t change’

3 min
Text Alexander Delport
Image Liz Dvorkina

In ‘Beneath the surface’, we take a deep dive into the mind of a UAntwerp researcher.  Stroom digs for experiences, interests and motivations, in order to discover: what makes a scientist tick? This time, we put Professor Annick Schramme in the spotlight. She is a professor and programme coordinator for the Master programme in Culture Management at the University of Antwerp. She is also the academic director of the International Master programme in Fashion Management at the Antwerp Management School. Fashion and culture connect, but they also pose a number of challenges. How can fashion be more sustainable? Are management and the creative sector increasingly coming to be at odds with each other?




Even as a child, I attended the music school and the drawing academy. I also took ballet lessons, and I was a member of the children’s choir for the Flemish Opera. I had the good fortune to grow up in Antwerp. During my youth, I was therefore able to immerse myself in the city’s vibrant cultural life. Culture has thus become a common thread in my life and career. Ironically, I still rarely find the time to be actively engaged with it. As an academic, I have my hands full with teaching, research and societal projects. Even there, however, ‘culture’ remains the common denominator. 


As a way of expressing myself, but also as an industry, I have always been interested in fashion. Two of every 10 people in the world are employed in the broad fashion sector. In economic terms, it is the largest creative industry. Experts estimate that, in 2025, the value of this industry will have increased to more than two billion dollars. At the same time, it also generates a large amount of pollution. At the summer school ‘Responsible Fashion Management’, we focus on sustainability within the fashion industry. Before an item of clothing arrives on the rack in a shop, it has already travelled a long way: from design through production to distribution. People do become more aware of sustainable fashion, but their shopping behaviour hasn’t really changed yet. The wallet is often still more important. Still, even if you don’t care about fashion at all, it is important to be aware of your carbon footprint while shopping. Although it is often easy and cheap to score ‘fast fashion’ in a major retail chain, it is not doing nature any favours. Critical consummation and transparency from the industry are crucial to changing the system.


Academics and artists have more in common with each other than it might seem at first sight. Both are driven by passion for their profession. This drives our inner engine and gives us that extra impulse to push our limits. At the same time, however, it is precisely where the pitfall lies. Out of love for their profession—artists often take on a lot. As an academic, I often catch myself keeping a lot of balls in the air. The autonomy that goes along with being a professor and a researcher is a privilege, but that freedom is also a double-edged sword. Our core task remains ‘doing research’. Nevertheless, I find that we often don’t around to it during normal daytime hours, due to all the many commitments that keep piling up. I see a similar tendency amongst artists. For them, there is often a lack of free space for creating. In addition to creating art, they are increasingly finding themselves occupied with management, bureaucracy and networks. 



I come from a warm family of six children. Our parents were socially engaged people. My 80-year-old mother is still active as a volunteer at the food bank. In my own way, I also try to make connections in society. To me, teaching is also a form of social engagement. It puts me in contact with young people, and this gives me the opportunity to pass on not only knowledge, but also certain values. For example, as the head of a programme, I am always stressing to our students of Culture Management that they should apply their knowledge to support creative minds. ‘Management’ often has a negative connotation: profit over people. This is even though culture management is precisely aimed at strengthening the sector. I try to do the same from my position by building bridges between various actors, like policymakers, artists, cultural organisations, creative businesses and academia. 

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The passion for our profession drives our inner engine and gives us that extra impulse to push our limits. At the same time, however, it is precisely where the pitfall lies.

Annick Schramme


As a Girl Guide, I was given the totem descriptor of ‘sagacious’. Many years later, I still identify with it. I am curious by nature, and I like to approach things with an open mind. This openness has taken me from one job into another. I obtained my doctorate in history, worked in the office of the Antwerp Alderman for Culture and eventually helped found the Master programme in Culture Management here at our university. Economics and history are both empirical sciences that generate insight into what is going on in society. Such societal relevance is also important to me. It’s therefore important to me for students to be able to do internships. This allows them to have both feet on the ground and apply the knowledge they have acquired.

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