Meet Sarah Devina Susanto: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress 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 Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Sarah, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Sarah Devina Susanto

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Sarah:
Previously, I never thought that someday I might go down the path of being a sustainable designer, but the Redress Design Award was a light bulb moment for me, offering me the opportunity to explore and demonstrate my researches and techniques under a sustainable lens.
Environmental issues are something that I have learnt in class, but by joining this competition, it enabled me to challenge myself as a fashion designer to develop my own practice of work to be as environmentally aware as possible and reflect it through my collection.
To me, sustainable fashion means living in balance. Maintaining sustainability is creating a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. I am aware of the amount of waste created in the production process and I see the potential for this waste to be transformed into new garments or details throughout my collection.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Sarah:
The name of my collection “Dirghayu” comes from the Sanskrit words “Dirgha” (which means “long”) and “Ayu” (which means “life”). My collection was inspired by the historical story behind Indonesia’s Independence Day tradition. The infamous competition of the Independence Day celebration is a jute sack race which marks the time under Japan occupation when Indonesian workers were forced to wear jute sacks as clothing. Jute sacks are the focal of this collection, coexisting with Japanese inspired silhouettes and elements, such as kimono shapes, obi belt and pleats. The ropes and braids details throughout the collection resemble the tug of war tradition also occurring during the Independence Day celebrations. The aim of this collection was to deliver a heart-touching tale and evoke the emotion of the Indonesian peoples suffering and struggle before the country’s independence.
I applied the up-cycling technique of jute sack fabric, hand painting them and created new clothes by combining them with secondhand bed sheets that i sourced from hotels in Jakarta. I also created tassels and braid detailing throughout the collection using cut-and-sew waste scrap fabrics.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Indonesia_SarahDevinaSusanto_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Sarah:
During the process, I learned to be more considerate  when designing and practicing the sustainable techniques. The amount of production scared me the most as I only had two months to make the collection! It required more, even double time in outsourcing materials, designing, creating details, and production compared to the production of normal collection. Throughout the busy competition, I definitely learned to deal with my stress levels!
Another challenge was thinking whether people would accept my designs because they didn’t follow trends, in term of materials.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Sarah:
It all comes down to the way how consumer perceives sustainable fashion. We, as the designers have to prove that there can be a balance between sustainability and aesthetics; then people will start to change their thinking about fashion. We also can slowly change consumers’ misconceptions around sustainability in general by spreading more positive information about the opportunities.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Sarah:
Sustainable fashion is not just some homemade craft making use of recycled waste – I think this may be the biggest misconception. Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be like secondhand, old clothes with lot of patches and poor finishing. Sustainable fashion is about looking at the processes along the entire fashion supply chain, and improving them.
Meanwhile, the consumers have no idea what actually goes on in the supply chain, which makes it difficult for them to make enlightened decisions about sustainability. The whole attitude towards consumption needs to change, and consumers need to realize that they need to understand the resources required to produce a garment/item, appreciating craftsmanship and stop demanding fast fashion.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Sarah:
As today’s fashion industry is so fast paced and consumers are constantly looking for new things made from new materials, it is important to remember that we, as designers, are able to create new clothes using waste that are equal to new through originality and creative ways. It’s not about wanting new things all the time. We should stop for a moment and consider why sustainable fashion is important for us today and how to reflect it in our work.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Sarah:
I’m planning to continue my studies for my bachelor’s degree next year. I also want to focus in developing my own brand, so stay tuned!

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You can follow Sarah’s work on Instagram

The 30 Redress Design Award 2018 semi-finalists will be announced on 17 April at www.redressdesignaward.com when Redress will also open up public judging for the People’s Choice Award.

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

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