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 Cora, an Italian freelance fashion designer living in Spain.
What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Cora: Fashion has always been in my dreams, but I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be a designer until I did a training course in tailoring at the age of sixteen. I always loved to create, to physically make things: that’s my favourite part about being a designer, together with the definition of the design concept, which is the stimulating part behind everything.
Regarding sustainability, fashion waste has always been one of my concerns. Since my very first project in fashion academy, I’ve been interested in investigating what in our society is considered to be trash.
I did my bachelor’s thesis under the supervision of designer Marina Spadafora (who recently won a big prize at United Nations for her commitment to sustainable fashion) and she really boosted my interest in this area. After graduating, I did an internship with her at Cangiari, a sustainable fashion brand from southern Italy, working towards combating the spread of the Mafia and raising employment opportunities for women.
What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?
Cora: My concept for the competition was LOVE ENDINGS, since the materials I decided to use for my collection were all related to marriage somehow.
For example, I up-cycled and reconstructed second-hand wedding dresses and vintage trousseaus, which I sourced from my network of friends and family. I saw the potential for these items to be part of new love stories through a new life. Vintage linen and all the materials from vintage trousseaus have always fascinated me: the sophisticated touch of these fabrics was my first source of inspiration. I worked on a comfortable, smooth silhouette, where asymmetrical cuts meet a delicate palette of fresh and pale colours. I also up-cycled different textile leftovers by weaving them into brand new fabrics.
Weaving took up a huge amount of time, but I did it as an artistic expression: it was my statement against the rush that fashion industry is urging to all of us all to follow, designers and consumers alike.
3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
– The most stimulating and enriching aspect of the competition was that each participant had his/her own personal view on sustainable fashion and a different approach to deal with sustainability.
– We also had the opportunity to listen various talks held by experts and learn specific topics.
– I was quite astonished when I found out that the most pollutive stage in the life-cycle of a clothing item comes after manufacturing, and it happens during the machine-washing. I learnt that, on average, we wash an item fifty times before we dismiss it.
How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Cora: I don’t believe this is possible. In my opinion, the right question would be: how can mainstream become more sustainable? And my answer is: through education, through consciousness, through a deep awareness of the catastrophic effects of our current way of manufacturing and consumption and, last but least, through an expanding recognition of human rights in the developing countries.
What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Cora: A common misconception is that sustainable fashion is not cool, or it is something only for hippies or vegans. This is not true; and I wanted to demonstrate it with my own capsule collection. I wanted to show that a sustainable luxury is possible, and I wanted my clothes to be attractive because of their sophisticated style, then subsequently for being sustainable.
What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Cora: Try to design good quality products that people would love to wear as long as possible and don’t forget to consider the environmental and social impact of each manufacturing stage and process.
What is next in store for you?
Cora: My main objective right now is to implement production and work on distribution. It’s very hard for a young, independent designer to be noticed in such a saturated market and reach new clients. I am now looking for international shops and online platforms interested in selling my collections. In the meantime, I am working on a new winter collection!
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.
The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.