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Meet Ayako Yoshida: 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 Ayako, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Ayako Yoshida

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Ayako:
I started to become interested in sustainable fashion when I visited Shima Seiki which is Japanese knitting hardware and software maker in Japan.
WHOLEGARMENT® developed by Shima Seiki produces knitwear three dimensionally
in one entire piece without seams and cut loss. Also, simple knitwear can be made in less
than 1 hour by the machine, so the technology can reduce material, time, and costs
for a garment. I was very surprised when I saw the production process in the company.
Before visiting Shima Seiki I didn’t realize that making clothing could be so wasteful,
but after I realized that with good concept or good technology, we can create garments that are zero waste.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Ayako: My inspiration came from Tsukumogami, the obsolete tools which according to Japanese folklore acquire a spirit after many years, even if they are broken. Tsukumogami can apply to how I see sustainable fashion. I applied the design techniques of reconstruction and up-cycling to transform abandoned materials such as discarded tatami mats and old kimonos into beautiful pieces giving them a new lease of life.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Japan_AyakoYoshida_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Ayako:
3 main things:
1. Close communication is important.
2. I increased my knowledge about “ethical” and “sustainable” fashion.
3. I also learned more about considerations for sustainability through the process of producing garments.
When I visited to TAL Apparel in China as part of Redress Design Award challenge, I learned that considering every trivial step (e.g. an arrangement of patterns, division of labour, and  packaging) in the manufacturing process can lead to make a significant difference in cost. In japan, it is very difficult for a fashion designer start own brand and continue it for ten years. Creating a sustainable mechanism for producing is important to keep spreading sustainable fashion to consumers.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Ayako:
I think it is possible!  Joining the Redress Design Award, and through my many experiences there, this opinion has strengthened!
Changing consumers’ attitude is needed.  It is important to communicate to them information on strengths and other good points of sustainable fashion, as well as weaknesses of fast fashion.  For example, garments dyed with natural dyes and by hand all looks unique, no garments are exactly alike.  There is a possibility that we can create originality which fast fashion doesn’t have. By showing and appealing the added values, I believe we will be able to get customers hooked more.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Ayako:
The biggest misconception is the thought that sustainable fashion is boring.
The concept of sustainable fashion has expanded to luxury, sophisticated, and modern fashion fields. Consumers can choose garments freely in sustainable fashion depending on their taste or needs.  Sustainable fashion is not only environmentally-friendly but also can be combined designability and comfort.
I think nothing is more wonderful fashion than sustainable fashion. If you buy clothing of your favorite design, and it is made in consideration of environment and ethical besides, your choice is the best!

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Ayako:
Be aware that to producing sustainable clothing is not only about upcycling or reducing waste, but also whether your design is what consumers like and want – and will use to its fullest.
Also, your process of producing garments needs to be sustainable as a business.
I think these things are the most important to bring your designs into the world.
Don’t be afraid to broaden your world. In fact, when I participated Redress Design Award 2017, it was the first time that I had spent time with people from other countries and cultures, abroad. Everything was stimulating, and it was a big motivation and influence on how I create my designs, even now.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Ayako:
I will start to work at a company as a knit designer in April and will acquire new sustainable technology knowledge here. Simultaneously I will improve my skill of pattern making and draping that I have studied in my school.
Although many small textile companies which have amazing techniques in Nishiwaki, Bishu, Tango, and all-around Japan exist, the number of those is decreasing year by year, because of gaining momentum of fast fashion. Eventually, I want to be a designer who have both fabric and knit skills and spread my country’s traditional techniques working together with fashion companies.

 

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You can follow Ayako’s work on Instagram and Arts Thread.

Catch the debut broadcast of Frontline Fashion 2 on Lifetime Asia at 8 pm (Hong Kong/Singapore time), 23 March 2018. Watch the trailer here.

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

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Meet Lina Mayorga: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

Posted on Updated on

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 Lina, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Lina Mayorga

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Lina:
Sustainable design is my medium to promote love and compassion for our planet while honing my passion in fashion design. When I became vegan, I started reading about the detrimental effects of the fashion industry and decided that I wanted to be ethical in every aspect of my life, including my design philosophy and practice.
Fashion and sustainability should not be mutually exclusive, but mutually beneficial to create a better world for future generations.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Lina:
I was inspired by a United Nations youth conference on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals that I attended.
To my surprise, no one talked about the fashion industry, so I wanted to promote the goals through my colour – blocking graphic collection. I believe that our planet should aim to reach these goals no matter how far-fetched they seem to be to us. If our society is aware of the problems, subconsciously or consciously we can start creating a positive change. For this collection, I applied the design techniques of up-cycling and reconstruction using textile waste sourced from a textile recycling company and leftover fabrics from old projects.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_USA_LinaMayorga_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Lina:
I learned that there are always new ways to improve your designs and make them more sustainable. Also, that the road to sustainability is a never-ending path of acquisition of valuable new knowledge, and that I should trust my hard work and my good intentions.
I also learned that as a designer I should educate my customers on how to care the garments to make them last longer since the biggest pollution production comes from the time we wear our clothes.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Lina:
We need to break the stereotypes of sustainable fashion and show to people that the resources available in the world are coming to an end because of the mass production. We need to be aggressive in spreading the word about these issues in order to finally move sustainable fashion from being niche to mainstream. There are enough ethical ways to source and use materials for the production of sustainable clothing, these can look as beautiful and well-done as regular clothing.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Lina:
I’m always explaining to people that sustainable clothing doesn’t mean recycled junk made into clothing. There’s a misconception that sustainable clothing is bohemian, hippy-like and not versatile. This is incorrect because sustainable clothing can be made with different design styles and can look amazing.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Lina:
If you believe that your designs and philosophy are right, ethical and key for the future of the fashion industry, you shouldn’t listen to people who want you to remain working in the wrong mindset. Be honest to yourself and the planet and eventually you will find the perfect path for you and your designs.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Lina:
I’m planning to apply for the Redress Design Award 2018 as well as look for options that would help me to start my own sustainable brand. I am still designing sustainable vegan clothing and spreading the word about sustainability through my website, youtube channels and instagram.

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You can follow Lina’s work on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

Catch the debut broadcast of Frontline Fashion 2 on Lifetime Asia at 8 pm (Hong Kong/Singapore time), 23 March 2018. Watch the trailer here.

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

 

Meet Joëlle van de Pavert: 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 Joëlle, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Joëlle van de Pavert

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Joëlle:
I used to be an over-consumer – at times I still am – driven by the satisfaction of a purchase. During my studies in fashion design I have learned how to appreciate a good garment through tailoring and design and hope to inspire behavioural change through my own exploration with textile waste, encouraging a shift away from one of the most challenging human issues of our time that is over-consumption.

I think it is important for the new generation of fashion designers to communicate a message about being aware of what happens in fashion nowadays, and to confront “over-consumers” about their behaviour.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Joëlle: 
The concept of my collection was about confronting myself as an ex-over consumer who has learned to value timelessness. For this collection, I was inspired by the multiple ways the same materials can be manipulated and transformed, creating the sense of a never-ending story. I’ve used design techniques such as zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Netherlands_JoellevandePavert_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Joëlle:
A few things! I discovered the world of sustainable fashion. Before the Redress Design Award, I wasn’t familiar with sustainability, so this was the most interesting aspect for me when developing my collection. It was also an experience that made me confront myself as a designer in general and discovering where I want to be as a designer. Finally, it was fantastic learning other approaches and perspectives on sustainability from the all other finalists.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Joëlle:
When people become more aware and better informed about sustainability, they will also become more open for changing their behaviour – just take myself as an example. We all have to do it together for it to become mainstream.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Joëlle:
The biggest misconception about sustainability is that it’s for a certain group of “green” people. That it’s kind of boring and “old”. That’s so not true because there is can do so much more you can achieve with various sustainable fashion design techniques. You can also get very creative because of various limitations.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Joëlle:
Just show the world what you can do with what you think is sustainable. Even if you don’t know that much about the topic, you’re already taking a big step. Just go for it!

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Joëlle:
This March I am going to start my career, working as an assistant designer at a Dutch sustainable womenswear brand called Vanilia, based near Amsterdam.

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You can find Joëlle’s work on Instagram.

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.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Meet Amanda Borgfors Mészàros: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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Through the next two months, 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 Amanda, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Amanda Borgfors Mészàros

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Amanda:
I wanted to work within fashion mostly because it truly is a main tool for many people to express their identity and we are all constantly surrounded by fashion. I was intrigued by how we can work with fashion to really contribute to a change towards a more sustainable way of dressing and producing fashion. I would say that I am very driven by challenges, and we sure do have a large challenge in front of us within the fashion industry. I feel that I have a great responsibility by working within fashion, and that makes me excited and very determined to contribute in my best possible way through sustainable thinking and acting.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Amanda:
I draw inspiration from the contrasts seen above and below the ocean surface. I am applying the design techniques of zero-waste, and up-cycling to industry surplus textiles, blending diverse fabric textures to form my collection.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Sweden_AmandaBorgforsMeszaros_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Amanda:
1) A key way of creating visionary and innovative design is through collaborating with others with similar areas of expertise.
2) I learned to challenge my design process, and to push myself to make more sustainable decisions.
3) The most interesting thing I learnt is that designing sustainable fashion is fortunately no longer a trend. For me, it is the only way of designing that should exist. Hopefully all individuals working within the fashion industry will soon come to that conclusion so that we can create an all-sustainable and innovative fashion industry.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Amanda:
I believe that the big companies within the fashion industry have a role to play, as they have a great impact on society and also impact what trends the smaller brands pick up. I also believe that fashion and designs schools that produce the next generation of creatives have a great responsibility to teach sustainability.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Amanda:
People always think sustainable fashion is not fashionable enough, and that it is too time-consuming to produce. For me, it took less time to produce my collection ‘Global Nomad’, compared to my previous collections because I had limited choices of fabrics to work with. I also actively tried to reduce the man-hours and construction methods to make this collection as productive and sustainable as possible.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Amanda:
Challenge yourself when it comes to your selection of materials and your working hours. Best of all, try to collaborate with people that share the same love for innovation and desire to question our current fashion industry as you do.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Amanda:
I am working on my graduate collection at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm. I will graduate with a BFA (Bachelor in fine arts) in June 2018. I will continue to question our fashion industry and work towards a more inclusive, explorative and innovative industry.

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You can follow Amanda’s work on Instagram and her website.

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.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Meet Claire Dartigues: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

Posted on Updated on

Through the next two months, 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 Claire, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Claire Dartigues

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Claire:
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. If we want to live better and longer, we need to dress smarter! Sustainability has been part of my education and now I consider it as a core value of my activity.

I always had a sustainable frame of mind, but it was only at university when I was getting some sustainability teaching that I put two together and realized I was a sustainable designer.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Claire:
The collection takes inspiration from polluted rivers all over the world because of chemicals products used to dye fabrics and sets out to connect the two very different worlds of finance and blue-collar workers. I applied the up-cycling and reconstruction techniques along with natural dyes to industry surplus clothing and textiles.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_France_ClaireDartigues_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Claire:
During the challenges I learnt a lot about the circular economy and how you can make it work on a bigger scale. Redress took us to visit manufacturer, TAL’s facility in China, where they make shirts for big brands all over the world. This visit was an amazing experience, I learnt so much about the manufacturing world and how to make it more sustainable on a huge scale.
I discovered different visions of sustainable fashion thanks to the other competitors. We came from all over the world with so many different culture, it was a pleasure to learn from them and listen their vision of fashion.
I also learnt a lot about myself, this competition helped me to grow as a fashion designer. It increased my motivation to develop a better fashion industry! 

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Claire:
We need consumers to change their behavior. If they show – through what they buy – that don’t want to buy fast fashion any more, the industry will start to change their strategy seriously. Fashion companies also need to communicate about their products better to be more transparent.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Claire:
In France, one misconception is that most of the people think that you can’t do sustainable fashion if the production is in Asia, which is completely wrong. I think every country has a specialty and we live in a globalized world. I agree that producing in the same country where you’re selling your product to avoid transportation and carbon impact is good, but at the same time if you can’t find the expertise you need to relocate this to get your best product. The problem is not the relocation but how brands can make sure that they continue to respect their sustainable values wherever they produce.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Claire:
Sustainable fashion is not an exact science. You can do your best to be sustainable, but you don’t have to fill all the criteria immediately. Take one step at the time!

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Claire:
I just returned from the USA to live in France. I have my own atelier in Paris Suburb where I am developing my transformable zero-waste accessories line. I am also working as a free-lancer for other brands all over the world. I am actually working on some projects with Indian brands right now!

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You can follow Claire’s work on Facebook and Instagram and her website.

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.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Do You Have What It Takes To Rethink Fashion?

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Global expansion of Redress Design Award feeds urgent need to embed sustainability into the fashion industry as an economic necessity.
Social media_Redress Design Award 2018_AWARD

Entering the eighth competition cycle of the Redress Design Award, organisers

Redress – a Hong Kong environmental NGO committed to reducing textile waste – are as determined as ever to intensify their impact on the fashion industry. In a year which is widely marked as a critical tipping point for consumers, designers and brands to incorporate sustainability across the fashion value chain, the 2018 cycle of the world’s largest sustainable design competition has expanded to a truly global search for emerging talent. Amidst ongoing industry pressures to produce more clothes at less cost, the Redress Design Award continues to shine a light on the push for sustainability, and the growing power of the circular economy, whilst championing emerging talent to fuel this new future for fashion.

An official launch event at Eaton House in Hong Kong marked the opening of the Redress Design Award 2018 (formerly the EcoChic Design Award), further strengthening Hong Kong’s position as a leading sustainable fashion hub in Asia. With the continued support of Create Hong Kong, who have sponsored the competition since its inception in 2011, the award offers the top ten finalists the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong in September 2018 to present their innovative waste-reducing collections and vie for First Prize, to design a collection for up-cycled brand, The R Collective, proving to the world that sustainable fashion is not just a trend but instead a business reality.

Social media_Redress Design Award 2018_Design

FEEDING AN INDUSTRY GAP

A recent industry report predicts sales across nearly all fashion categories will almost triple between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile the number of garments produced annually now exceeds 100 billion pieces. With this rapid rise in production and consumption comes a staggering increase in waste, as consumers buy more and more whilst simultaneously disposing of their clothing twice as fast as they did 15 years ago. In Hong Kong alone, approximately 125,195 tonnes of textiles were sent to landfills in 2016.

Redress Founder, Christina Dean commented, “The fashion world’s ethical barometers are now switched on and we’re seeing an overarching yearning for positive change. Hope is now sewn into the core of fashion. We are now at a critical tipping point to act, especially for emerging designers who are ready to prove to the world that circular fashion can be a beautiful, retail reality.”

Hong Kong designer, Victor Chu, who is one of over 130 fashion game-changers in the growing Redress Design Award Alumni Network, co-designed The R Collective’s inaugural up-cycled collection, which launched in Lane Crawford and Barneys New York. He commented, “I remember being quite shocked as a student when I learned through the Redress Design Award that around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage. My experience in the competition and then later joining the design team at The R Collective has shown me how my design decisions can be part of a positive solution from the outset. What’s more, I really believe that there is retail appetite for sustainable fashion in Hong Kong, Asia and the rest of the world!”

The Redress Design Award 2018 is now open to emerging designers and students with less than three years’ industry experience. Applications are now being accepted until the closing date on 13 March 2018. Applicants are tasked to design a sustainable collection that re-claims unwanted textiles in unexpected ways and they must source 100 percent textile waste for their competition collections. In addition to this, designers must incorporate one or more of the three core sustainable design techniques of zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction in their designs. Various career-changing and educational prizes are up for grabs, including first prize with The R Collective to create an upcycled collection for retail, a mentorship with sustainable visionary, Orsola de Castro and multiple other professional prizes. The ten finalists will later compete to win in Hong Kong in early September 2018 at a live grand final fashion show at the city’s fashion week.

Redress Design Award 2018_Instagram_KeyVisual

Watch Frontline Fashion, a documentary that traces the journey of finalists from the 2016 cycle in Mumbai on 17th February.

For a True War on Waste, the Fashion Industry Must Spend More on Research

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by Mark Liu

The rise of fast fashion in Australia means 6000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes. The ABC’s War On Waste visualised this statistic by piling a giant mound of clothing waste in the middle of the city. So what to do about it?

A scene from the ABC’s War on Waste. ABC

Sustainable fashion experts advocate abstaining from buying fast fashion, promoting clothing swaps and repairing old clothing. Others suggest buying organic and ethically-sourced clothes or designing clothing using zero waste techniques. The hope is that greater transparency in supply chains will lead to an end to sweatshops and unsustainable fashion practices.

These are admirable initiatives, but they only reduce wastage or delay garments from ending up in landfill. They do not address the fact that the scale of fast fashion is so massive it can easily eclipse other sustainability initiatives. Nor do they address the wastefulness of existing technologies and the urgent need to research new ones.

Even if we could magically stop the global production of all garments, we would still need new, green technology to clean up the waste we have already created. There are long-term strategies for green technologies such as electric cars, but where are the major companies and research institutes developing the next generation of sustainable fashion technologies? The development of new synthetic biology technologies may be the key.

From catwalk to research

I would like to share my journey from zero waste fashion design pioneer to trans-disciplinary fashion researcher to highlight the challenges faced by sustainable fashion and the need for more research.

Ten years ago, I presented my “Zero-Waste” Fashion collection at London Fashion Week. I and other sustainable designers at the time took the waste streams of other industries such as scrap materials and leftover fabric and created our collections from them. I was selected for “Estethica”, a new initiative created by sustainable fashion gurus Orsola De Castro, Filippo Ricci and Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council. Sustainable fashion was shown on London catwalks next to luxury fashion – a revolutionary step for the time.

I pioneered a way of creating tailored, high fashion garments so that all the pieces of a garment fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle and no waste was created. Conventional pattern cutting creates about 15% wastage of material, even if the pattern has been optimised by a computer. I wanted to systemically change the way clothing was made.

To design a garment with zero waste requires new patternmaking techniques, based on advanced mathematics. Author provided

But the problem with zero-waste design is that it is very difficult to create. It requires a skilled designer to simultaneously imagine the garment as a 3D item and a flat pattern, while trying to fit the pieces together like a jigsaw. It is easy to make an unfitted or baggy garment, but creating something that looks good and fits the body was a real challenge.

Even after all these years, most contemporary zero-waste fashion is still not tailored to the body. I practised this technique for years to master it. It required breaking all the rules of conventional pattern-making and creating new techniques based on advanced mathematics.

These were exciting times. Our fabrics were organic, we made everything locally and ensured everyone was paid an ethical wage. The press loved our story. But problems started to emerge when it came to sales. We had to sell more expensive garments, using a smaller range of fabrics – our materials and labour costs were higher than those of companies that produced overseas. Often fashion buyers would say they loved what we did, but after looking at the price tag would politely take their business elsewhere.

As a sustainable fashion designer, my impact was limited. It was also impossible to teach zero-waste fashion design without explaining how advanced mathematics applied to it. It was time to try a new approach, so I decided to apply science and maths to traditional fashion techniques.

My PhD research explored the underlying geometry of fashion pattern-making. Combining fashion with science allowed the traditional techniques and artistry of making garments to be explained and communicated to scientist and engineers.

Consumers have embraced fast fashion. Shutterstock

In the meantime, fast fashion companies rapidly expanded, with Zara, Topshop and H&M reaching Australia by 2011. They produced massive amounts of cheap products making low margins on each garment. Consumers quickly became addicted to the instant gratification of this retail experience. The size and scale of their production produced hundreds of tonnes of garments every day.

The limits of fashion technology

Fast fashion companies such as H&M have developed recycling initiatives in which consumers can exchange old clothing for discount vouchers. This is supposed to prevent clothing from going to landfill, instead recycling it into new clothing.

However, there are those who are sceptical of H&M’s recycling process. In 2016, investigative journalist Lucy Siegle crunched the numbers and concluded that “it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up 1,000 tons of fashion waste”. This, she said, was the amount of clothing they produce in about 48 hours.

A 2016 H&M sustainability report reveals that only 0.7% of their clothes are actually made from recycled or other sustainably-sourced materials. In the report, H&M acknowledges :

Today, this is not possible because the technology for recycling is limited. For this reason, the share of recycled materials in our products is still relatively small.

In fact, their 2016 annual report states that more research is needed:

if a greater proportion of recycled fibres is to be added to the garments without compromising quality, and also to be able to separate fibres contained in mixed materials.

Sustainable technologies strive for a “circular economy”, in which materials can be infinitely recycled. Yet this technology is only in its infancy and needs much more research funding. H&M’s Global Change Award funds five start-up companies with a total of 1 million Euros for new solutions. Contrast this with the millions required by the most basic Silicon Valley start-ups or billions for major green technology companies such as Tesla or SolarCity. There is a dire need for disruptive new fashion technology.

Many of the promising new technologies require getting bacteria or fungi to grow or biodegrade the fabrics for us – this is a shift to researching the fundamental technologies behind fashion items.

For example, it takes 2700L of water and over 120 days to grow enough cotton to make a T-shirt. However, in nature, bacteria such as “acetobacter xylinum” can grow a sheet of cellulose in hours. Clothing grown from bacteria has been pioneered by Dr Suzanne Lee. If a breakthrough can be made so that commercially grown cotton can be grown from bacteria, it may be possible to replace cotton fields with more efficient bacteria vats.

But why just stick with cotton? Fabrics can be generated from milk, seaweed, crab shells, banana waste or coconut waste. Companies such as Ecovate can feed fabric fibres to mushroom spore called mycelium to create bioplastics or biodegradable packaging for companies such as Dell. Adidas has 3D printed a biodegradable shoe from spider silk developed by AM silk.

Although I began my journey as a fashion designer, a new generation of materials and technologies has pulled me from the catwalk into the science lab. To address these complex issues, collaboration between designers, scientist, engineers and business people has become essential.

To clean up the past and address the waste problems of the future, further investment in fashion technology is urgently needed.

*This story first appeared on The Conversation