Through the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.
The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.
Today we meet Esther, a fashion design assistant for a bridal wear design house in Hong Kong.
Esther: I first heard about sustainable fashion design through Redress at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI). I debuted my first sustainable collection for my graduation project, where I recycled textile waste from several garment factories to make my collection. I now put more thought into recycling and reducing waste through various fabric cutting techniques.
As a designer witnessing our earth’s resources rapidly diminishing and the increasing amount of textile waste discarded day-by-day, I’ve become very motivated to utilise every piece of textile in my creations. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to give a new life to previously discarded textiles.
What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?
Esther: It all started when I saw the waste from a clothing label vendor. I took some of the unwanted labels home and weaved them into a fabric. During the weaving process, I was reminded of the legend of Mulan, a woman warrior who was known for being strong on the outside but had a gentle heart. The concept for collection was then born.
In my final collection, I applied the up-cycling design technique using surplus textiles and discarded clothing labels, which I sourced from garment manufacturing factories in Hong Kong. I also applied traditional hand-weaving techniques and 3D cutting technology in my work.
3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
– During The Redress Forum: Ford Design Challenge I learned a good lesson to trust myself and believe in my instincts. The thought of only getting three and half hours to make our piece was daunting, and nothing like the way I would normally design. But after completing the challenge I felt sense of accomplishment!
– And I think time limitation is the best driving force for creation. We were all focused on what we were doing during that time and we all only want to do our best in 3 hours!
– Lastly, I thought it’s hard to do the sustainable fashion before that because it costs a lot and needs to concern multiple stages during the process . Ford showed us how they use the high technology to make the inside of their car in sustainable way. That inspires me to rethink sustainable fashion through the way that I cut fabric, the methods of making fabric, etc.
How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Esther: Fast fashion brands have been providing consumers with a large quantity and variety, as well as offering high fashion brands clothes at more affordable prices. This allows consumers to get their hands on fashionable clothes more accessibly. I have no doubt of the economic benefits, and am sure this also pushes designers to improve and bring forth new ideas.
However, fast fashion also brings with it low quality fashion and copies because the provider is always rushing against time. We’ve already seen this being a problem with few big fashion retailers. Consumers have lost the focus, and no longer care about the details of the clothes and the quality. And designers feel tired when they’re constantly designing and producing new clothes day by day without enough time to find new inspiration.
Recently, a few designers from the high fashion brands realised that there was a growing problem and they have begun to change. For example Jean Paul Gautier is now focusing on haute couture only as he wants to spend more time on the design details and quality instead of quantity.
I think it’s good that high fashion brands designers are starting this trend, as they have a power to turn the people’s eyes. But it might take a bit of time to change, as fast fashion remains a very attractive option.
What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Esther: I think people might still think sustainable fashion means use the creating fashion using trash or rubbish bag, or only wear second hand clothes. Honestly speaking, this was what I thought too before I learnt about sustainable fashion from college.
What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Esther: Have persistency and passion. You really need to stick to it and keep going, as it is never easy to develop your design or a brand, whether it is sustainable, or fashion in general.
What is next in store for you?
Esther: I am starting a collection of gowns in which I am using textile labels as the fabric Why gowns? It is because I worked for a wedding brand for 5 years and I found that I really love to make gowns! Besides, I want to use the textile waste to make couture dresses because I think it seems like turning trash into gold for me.
You can follow Esther on Arts Thread
Watch Frontline Fashion, a documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.