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.
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.
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.
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.