Compiled by: Courtney Hrabak, Apparel Design, St. Catherine University;Dr. Anupama Pasricha, St. Catherine University; Ashleyn Przedwiecki, Writer, Sol Inspirations
Following is an excerpt of responses to email interview questions by the ten finalists of the 2017 EcoChic Design Awards. These emerging designers represent the best of the best in sustainable design practices.
Tell us a little about your design process and how incorporating sustainability affected or altered your
On the design and creative process:
Many of the designers spoke to the idea of being flexible with their designs, as the available materials may not work as expected. Because of this, it is important to be able to adapt, or as Designer Candle Ray Torreverde stated, “keep an open mind to other possibilities. Many of the designers start the design process with sustainability at the forefront of their minds, whether this comes in the form of researching sustainable techniques and materials or in experimenting with the materials themselves to discover ways to waste as
little as possible.
What textile waste materials did you choose and what resources helped you define that as the most
These sustainable designers used a wide range of materials, such as damaged or secondhand clothing and fabrics, clothing from impulse purchases, end-of-rolls, fabrics made from recycled materials, and vegan fabrics composed of plant-based fibers like cotton. While most of the designers used one or more of these materials, others added in additional pieces with personal meaning. Designer Ayako Yoshida found her materials through her inspiration, which was Japanese culture, using tatami mats, umbrellas, and old kimonos. Designer Lia Kassif used Israeli military uniforms and extra bridal materials. Kassif says that “everyone in Israel has to serve the army for at least two years and during that time the uniform is the only outfit they wear.” The bridal fabrics provide a contrast, symbolizing the dreams of young Israeli girls. Regardless of inspiration, the overarching theme for sustainable material selections lies in utilizing available resources and working with what is available, which might be what some consider waste or trash.
What all techniques did you use in your work and which one was your favorite and why?
Up-cycling, reconstruction and zero-waste techniques were utilized by almost all the designers and interpreted differently to fit each designer’s unique perspective. Many of the designers enjoyed the experience of using natural dyes, and could witness unexpected color changes with their chosen materials. Others experimented more with the patterning process, challenging themselves to work with the innate characteristics of their materials. Designer Kate Morris has an interest in seamless knitwear and enjoys experimenting with this zero-waste technique to increase efficiency and decrease labor costs. Designer Sarah Devina Susanto used her inspiration of Japanese Hokusai-inspired flower drawings to influence her techniques, and utilized hand painting and braiding. She said that “the ropes and braids details throughout the collection resemble the tug of war tradition on the Independence Day celebration.”
Share some challenges you found in your process and how you overcame them, while keeping sustainability as your focus.
Although all the designers had the same focus on sustainability, each ran into unique challenges. Some designers found that the difficulty of their chosen materials necessitated advice from those familiar with the materials. This was the case for Designer Ayako Yoshida, who found that shaping and dyeing the tatami mats a challenge, and sought guidance from a craftsperson from Kyoto, Japan who had expertise in the dyeing process. Other designers found that time management became an issue, as incorporating sustainability into their usual design process required extra time for experimenting with materials and executing more complex techniques. Some of the materials were also not in immaculate condition from the beginning, so it became a challenge to take those materials and make them into spectacular, flawless final products. Despite the difficulties, many of the designers found enjoyment in the challenge. Designer Sung Yi Hsuan worked with weaving, but said that it provided “peace after a busy working day.”
What was your biggest discovery/most surprising part about the sustainable design process?
Some of the most interesting discoveries the designers experienced involved the reactions of others. Designer Claire Dartigues was surprised by the increased attention to her collection. “People pay more attention when you take time to explain your project,” she said, “The sustainability process makes each piece very unique”. Other designers found themselves examining their own consumption habits, and how strong the influence of “Fast Fashion” has become on the consumer. Designer Kate Morris remarked on “how easy it was to find textile waste and how willing companies are to give materials away”, and was found that she could obtain incorrectly dyed yarn from Filmar, an Italian spinner. “I was really surprised at how perfect the yarn was but was considered as waste”, Morris said.
How does your design challenge the traditional fashion industry process or standards? Where do you see opportunities for your design to push the industry to do better?
Many of the designers spoke about responsibility, both as a designer and a consumer. Efficiency, versatility, and creativity are important to these designers, and each seeks to come up with ideas for how to push the fashion industry to be innovative with materials and techniques so that clothes will last longer while still making a profit. Some designers see the solution in educating the consumer. Designer Lina Mayorga seeks to “challenge the idea that clothes have a limited life cycle and only a few things are recyclable.” Some of the designers also expressed interest in limiting the amount of animal products like fur and leather in the fashion industry by producing similarly beautiful and functional pieces that potentially eliminate the need for these materials.
How do you see fashion and sustainability working together in the future? What are the benefits? Limitations?
Designer Claire Dartigues says that “sustainable fashion needs to be understood as a non-negotiable action” (Claire Dartigues). This means that the pace of “Fast Fashion” will need to slow down significantly, which will require a major change in the perceptions of the designer and the consumer. The fashion industry needs to start producing higher quality clothing that lasts, and the consumer needs to learn proper care techniques to ensure the clothing will last as long as intended. Designer Amanda Borgfors Mészáros added that it is important to encourage collaboration between designers and professionals in other industries, such as biologists. In the words of Designer Sung Yi Hsuan, “The benefits if things change will be a rational and smart fashion era.”
What is the larger message you hope the audience learns or experiences after seeing and interacting
with your design?
A dominant theme among these designers’ messages was that sustainable fashion is not boring, limiting, or impractical. Designer Amanda Borgfors Mészáros “always try[s] to insert dynamism into simplicity, taking a simple object and work[ing] with it until it interacts with me strongly and I believe it will do the same to the person wearing it”. Many of the designers also stressed the seriousness of climate change, and how the fashion industry needs to start working on more positive contributions to the solution. “I create clothes that are aesthetically designed and socially charged”, said Lina Mayorga, “You look good, feel good, and do good by wearing them.”
Being the EcoChic Award finalist, you have demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability. What do you envision next?
Designer Joëlle van de Pavert says that sustainable fashion “starts with me and my consumption” and that the next step will involve “others and continuing the story through my work” (Joëlle van de Pavert). For many of these designers, sustainable fashion has become their focus, with some, like Lina Mayorga and Kate Morris, set on developing brands that are specifically focused on sustainable design. For others, it involves continuing to experiment with sustainable materials and technology. Ayako Yoshida plans to learn more about WHOLEGARMENTⓇ, a knitting technology that makes garments without seams or cutting loss.
If you could give one piece of advice to a designer who is interested in incorporating sustainability into their design, what would you share with them?
When asked to give advice for other designers looking to be more sustainable, the designers spoke about the importance of learning about sustainable practices, as well as the current impacts of the fashion industry on the environment. Designer Sung Yi Hsuan also says “efficiency is still a crucial factor in sustainable design [and] one has to consider the efficiency in time cost, the efficiency between our input and output when producing materials.” Most importantly, many of the designers encouraged those interested in sustainable design to
give it a try.
The EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organized by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste. Each competition cycle takes designers on an education and design journey lasting several theory and design-packed months. Firstly, we educate designers about the fashion industry’s negative environmental impacts and the sustainable fashion design techniques, zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction that can combat this. Secondly, we provide designers with the tools, via lectures, videos, articles and recommended links, in order to develop their understanding of sustainable fashion design. We also challenge them to source textile waste, in its many forms, to enable them to transition towards sustainable design and sourcing. Only then do we put designers to the ultimate test – to cut waste out of fashion – in our standout sustainable design competition. This puts sustainable design talent in the spotlight and rewards the best with career-changing prizes to change the pattern of fashion.( http://www.ecochicdesignaward.com/mission/)
2017 Winners: http://www.ecochicdesignaward.com/2017