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 Kate, winner of the Redress Design Award 2017!
What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Kate: The time I was getting into fashion design coincided with the Rana Plaza disaster which, like for so many people, really opened up my mind to how critical the problems had gotten in the fashion industry. Part of me wanted to run screaming, but a bigger part of me wanted to design fashion to contribute to change.
What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Kate: A lot of my inspiration for my Redress Design Award collection came from my fine art background and through visiting art galleries. I looked at pop art visuals of food and was interested in how people’s attitudes to food have changed in relation to attitudes to fashion.
Cutting out wasted time and energy as well as materials inspired me to create minimal seam silhouettes combined with zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction techniques to create a diverse range of knitwear. The concept behind the collection is technology and hand craft working in harmony, I wanted to celebrate the possibilities within digital knitwear production as well as maintaining a tactile connection with the wearer and encouraging people to get making, mending and reusing through the hand-crafted elements.
3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Kate: This competition really has been the biggest adventure I have ever been on!
Creating my collection transformed my view of what up-cycling can achieve as well as what’s possible in a small time frame!
I learnt how easy it is to source luxury materials the industry considers waste, companies were really keen to get involved and I was doing them a favour by taking the materials off their hands.
The week of the grand finale hugely broadened my mind-set and horizons alongside meeting so many fantastic people. Winning first prize has bought me confidence, exposure and the valuable opportunity to work and learn with influential platform.
How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Kate: I predict that sustainable fashion design will become the normal practice and any brand who is not following this will not last very long. Consumers will keep demanding to know more about their clothing and tighter regulations will be put in place for more ethical manufacturing.
What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Kate: I think the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion is that aesthetics have to be compromised in order to create low impact products. A lot of designers believe it has too many limitations, but it is working within these boundaries that leads the most exciting and rewarding designs for me.
What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Kate: I believe to be a successful fashion designer today you have to be aware of how your design decisions will affect the rest of the supply chain, the planet and creatures within it. I also think that having good time management, organisation, communication and calculation skills are just as important as being creative!
My advice is to try and not feel overwhelmed by all the different factors within sustainable design, start by picking one aspect that you feel most passionate about, for example minimalising waste in fashion, and other elements will lead on from there. Try to see the limitations as opportunities to create unexpected designs that will have a story that consumers can connect to.
Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Kate: I just launched a sustainable knitwear ‘Pop’ collection with The R Collective. It is now available to buy at http://www.thercollective.com and select pieces will be available exclusively at Lane Crawford, Asia’s leading iconic luxury department store, from March 2018. Working with The R Collective opened up my eyes to the sheer scale of surplus yarn stock that accumulates through current manufacturing systems. We were working with perfect condition, extremely luxury yarns that were considered waste as the result of brands changing their minds after sampling a dye-lot, cancelling orders or miss-calculating, or the aversion to replicating the same colour across two seasons.
I am also hoping to slowly launch my own brand CROP by this year. To enable this, I am currently looking into working with start-up company ‘Kniterate’ who are producing affordable compact digital knitting machines aimed at enabling small labels to create custom made/small runs and bring local manufacturing back to their neighbourhoods. When exploring conventional manufacturing routes, so far, I have been stunted by high minimums and the struggles of maintaining a transparent supply chain/ connection with my product’s story.
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.