eco-fashion

From Cotton Fields to High Street Racks, Fashion Bids to be 100% Sustainable

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Conservation charity WWF and the fashion industry aim to make desirable clothes that have zero impact on the environment

Are Ethical Brands Greenwashing?

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5 questions to figure out which brands are LEGIT

As a responsible shopper looking to do the right thing, you might think if a brand is openly talking about their environmental or labor practices, they’re probably legit. And if they show you a picture of a happy worker or an NGO partner, it’s probably a sign of good intent and practices, right? Swipe that credit card.

WRONG!

Buyer beware — greenwashing is definitely a THING, and it’s not just the big fast fashion brands.

We’re always getting questions about H&M, Zara and others. Are they “greenwashing”? (i.e. exaggerating their environmental chops or social practices in an effort to make themselves seem sustainable, and even diverting attention away from negative practices like child labor, or the consumption-driven fast fashion model. Ew.)

But recently, savvy readers, like yourselves, have been asking more questions about the credentials of smaller “ethical fashion” or “eco-fashion” brands, and whether their practices add up to all their marketing.

Greenwashing is never good. But with the smaller “ethical” new kids on the block, it’s almost even more dangerous if they don’t stack up to their claims. It seeds pessimism and cynicism among consumers, just as a new vision of a sustainable industry is starting to gain traction.

So over the last month we did a mini experiment to dig into the practices of a few exciting and popular “ethical” brands, who outwardly celebrate their positive impact, intentions or transparency, and see what evidence they had to back up these assertions.

We looked at:

  • Everlane, the “radically transparent” basics brand
  • Warby Parker, the “social impact” eyeglasses company
  • Kowtow, a fairtrade, organic cotton brand making knitwear and basics from New Zealand
  • Krochet Kids, a social impact brand, empowering women in Uganda and Peru

We studied their websites and social media, contacted them through numerous channels, looked at publicly available records and everything else we could find. We did an intensive search beyond what a consumer could do in an afternoon, but without using any tools you wouldn’t have at the ready.

We went to these brands with a lot of questions surrounding labor practices, environmental practices, community engagement, management practices, size and business model, intention, innovation and transparency.

Below we’ve shared some highlights, AND, as we did this in-depth research, we pieced together the five questions we realized could help you sniff out greenwashing. (If you’re a nerd for this stuff like us, you can view everything we found on their updated brand pages on our Project JUST wiki)

So check out what we found and TRY these questions on for size:

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Curious about fibres?

1. First, check out what kind of fabrics / materials they are using.

Fabrics are an easy way to really change the impact of a supply chain for the better. PLUS it’s a super easy way for you as a shopper to know which brands are serious about changing the game. Raw materials are a big portion of the product, and consequently, its environmental and social impact. As a designer or a brand, committing to a restricted set of fabrics can be difficult — sustainable fabrics can be more expensive and not as easy to source — but it pays off in both your impact and performance in the end. So how did the brands we picked stack up?

Kowtow uses organic and fair trade cotton. Organic cotton is proven to be significantly better for people and planet, and fair trade means farmers and workers get fair wages for their work.

Krochet Kids uses some sustainable fabrics, but also uses acrylic and polyester (oil). They’re in the process of rolling out an organic cotton line.

While Everlane uses some natural fibres, none of them are certified from sustainable supply chains — you can read all about the impact of basic fabrics here. And, they also use synthetics like nylon (again, oil).

Warby Parker uses cellulose acetate, titanium, and stainless steel in its frames for both eyeglasses and sunglasses. Cellulose acetate is usually made from wood pulp. In February 2014, the brand reported via its Facebook page that Warby Parker frames are made of acetate that comes from a family-owned Italian manufacturer.

2. Second, do they have any certifications?

When you’re shopping, check out the tags — any symbols or certifications there? A certification offers a brand a rigorous program of standards and assessment, and a signal to shoppers of monitoring, high standards, and intention. A brand doesn’t have to have a certification to do good work, but often times, brands use them as a roadmap to build out a more sustainable supply chain. You have to be cautious though — some certifications aren’t that rigorous, or have major flaws in monitoring or auditing what’s actually happening on the ground. You can read more about certifications in our New Slang dictionary.

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Fair Trade Cotton UK

Survey says?

Kowtow has organic and fair trade certifications. Plain, simple and thorough.

Warby Parker is a BCorp, but we couldn’t find any information about what this means in terms of their environmental impact, or how they treat their workers. However, their recently released response to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act means that the brand has now made its Code of Conduct publicly available (check out this release of new information on our Warby Parker brand page).

Krochet Kids is launching an organic line, and has their own special impact measurement tool that they use at each of their facilities.

Everlane doesn’t have any certifications that provide us with an easy signal to show that they’re trying, but it’s clear they like to set things up their own way. For their supply chain, they have three pillars of work: they started with transparency, are currently building their compliance, and sustainability is next. They do hold the factories they work with accountable to a 85% or higher score on the labor audit. If they don’t hit the mark, they step in with a corrective action plan, in partnership with their auditing firm, Intertek, to help.

Certifications aren’t for everyone, nor do they always work, but for the shopper and for us, it’s an easy way to know what standard a brand is holding themselves to, what are their intentions and to look into what’s actually happening to meet it.

3. Third, how transparent are they… really?

This basically comes down to what — and how much — they’re truly sharing with us. What’s on their website? Their social media? What data do they share to back up their claims of social or environmental impact?

Let’s stack ’em up.

Everlane: As fashion supply chain nerds, ever since this brand came out with their tagline, radical transparency, we’ve been curious to know what constituted “radical” from the information they shared. After all, “radical” by definition implies something beyond average. But, when we looked on the Everlane website, we didn’t really find much beyond where some of their factories were located, and what they made. What were we looking for? How they guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions, what kinds of environmental policies they had in place, and their intentions for future improvement.

So we reached out to their team with a list of questions, and low and behold, got to sit down with the Founder & CEO, Michael Preysman —getting serious now.

He shared quite a bit of info with us including:

  • Their code of conduct
  • The average score of their factories on quarterly audits: 90.1%
  • The number of times a year their team visits their factories: 3
  • Their current lack of environmental policies, but their intent to work on this as the next phase in monitoring their supply chain
  • And lots more! (available for you to see behind a tiny little paywall, but trust us it’s worth the 5 bucks)

So why isn’t all this info available on their website?

Michael said (paraphrased) that they prefer not to reveal their work until it’s fully complete, so that the company can figure the right strategy to communicate the information to their customer, in a way that makes sense.

Legit?
You tell us. Given that these guys have shaken things up before, we’re excited to see what they churn out in the coming months to truly be “radical” in their supply chain practices.

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More than just transparent pricing?

Warby Parker: When it came to Warby Parker, we received not one answer to our questions. Not one! Between January and February 2017, we reached out six times to the PR company and twice to the brand, who then redirected us back to the PR company (head spinning emailing 😕).

This brand that claims positive social impact, and even has a BCorp certification (!), never answered our questions about whether they can trace their entire supply chain, where their suppliers are located, if they have a code of conduct, how much the workers in their supply chain are paid, how they monitor their social and environmental practices, and what their goals are to decrease their negative impact. In just the last two days, they did release a new set of info to comply with the California Transparency Act. Great – but we’ve still got questions.

Kowtow and Krochet Kids: These two brands both have a lot of information available on their website. Krochet Kids was willing to answer any question we threw their way, while Kowtow had enough info on their website and via their certifications to thoroughly answer our questions.

4. Do they express intention for improvement?

No brand is perfect. But given the major impact of fashion supply chains on people and planet, it’s important to at least have the intention and plans to continue to improve. Do they have goals on their website? Any plans that they share with the media, or consumers?

Krochet Kids told us all about their future plans. So did Everlane. Warby Parker — no answer and nothing available on their site. And finally Kowtow, who by committing to only use fair trade and organic cotton, has restricted their growth and made a sustainability commitment for the long run.

5. Fifth, and finally, will they get back to you / us / anyone?

When you ask a question — do they respond? And do they give you a straight answer?

After we emailed them this month, Everlane gave us a sit down with their founder & CEO. We had also reached out to them before with questions through various consumer channels, and had received responses — but not nearly as comprehensive as this. We appreciate this, but we also recognize that not everyone is afforded this kind of access. We hope they continue to strive to be as responsive to consumers as possible to attain this same standard of radical transparency.

Krochet Kids’ CEO and COO had a phone call with us after they answered our comprehensive survey. We were impressed with their brand, and especially with their willingness to share and open up to us.

Kowtow and Warby Parker both didn’t answer our repeated efforts to get in touch with them with our questions. That said, Kowtow has a ton of information about their brand and practices available on their website for anyone (not just supply chain dorks like us) to see. Warby Parker? Not so much.

So what did we learn?

In this day and age, with consumers buying products made by global supply chains, and with issues of human trafficking, child labor, worker abuse and environmental violations — the consumer should have a right to know how the product they’re paying for is made and be able to see the evidence to back it up.

And with brands like these, consumers should also know legitimately that the brand’s vision and proclaimed values match how they treat workers in their supply chain, and how they treat our planet. If you’re paying, you deserve to know.

So don’t get taken for a ride— keep searching, keep asking questions and tell your friends to ask, too. From our experience, you might even get to sit down with the CEO.

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*This story first appeared on New Co Shift

Push for the Plastic Weave

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By Pankaja Srinivasan

From the Paris runway to Chennai’s pop up, we trace the journey of Coimbatore industrialist Kavitha Chandran’s brand of bags, Urmi

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The colourful koodais (baskets) that your grandmum wove with tubes of plastic just became haute couture. All thanks to Kavitha Chandran and her brand of bags, Urmi. Chandran, who employs women from in and around Coimbatore to hand-weave totes and clutches from recycled plastic, using age-old basket-weaving techniques from the region, says it’s all about women empowerment, sustainability and reviving an almost-forgotten craft.

The stylish Chandran could easily pass for a model herself, but is intensely private and would rather not have her photo taken. “But you are welcome to ask me anything,” she says. Chandran speaks about Urmi’s collaboration with designer Manish Arora at the recently-concluded Paris Fashion Week 2017 (PFW). His models carried Urmi bags, and now, boutiques in New York, Tokyo, Ibiza and Paris are selling them. The bags will also be seen at the London Design Fair in September.

Chandran, who was always fascinated by baskets, says the idea for Urmi was born when she saw an employee’s wife and mother hand-weave baskets. The idea took shape when she got into a discussion with Amirthavalli who ran a small shop near her textile factory in Udumalpet. From her, she learnt about the various weaves. “I learnt about the Malli Muggu (jasmine or flower bud weave), Shiva’s Eye, Star and the regular weave. The Nellikai (gooseberry) and the biscuit weaves are in the pipeline,” she says. Amirthavalli became the first point of contact and she gathered together other women who still practised basketry.

Speaking of her first lot, Chandran says, “I showed the first batch of bags at ‘Who’s Next Paris 2015’ and people loved it.” She was flooded with enquiries from across the world, and that got her thinking. “It was not just about a fashion accessory,” she says, “but one that ties in with my commitment to sustainability and women empowerment.” Chandran, who recently received the Astitva Samman Award by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was the President of the FICCI Ladies Organisation in 2012. “We provide women the opportunity of working from home, as for many, stepping out to work is not an option. They are given the raw material and specifications. The bags can take anything between eight to 22 hours to weave,” says Chandran, who now employs 40 women in Udumalpet and Coimbatore.

The Urmi collection has evening clutches, box clutches, shoppers, tote bags and casual bags. The next big thing is going bigger with events like the Amazon Fashion Week and Lakme Fashion Week.

Urmi is available on 16 stores online, besides their outlets in Puducherry, Kochi, Delhi and Jaipur. Bags are in the ₹3,200 – ₹5,000 price range. The Chennai pop up is at The Amethyst Room, from April 5 to 15.

*This story first appeared in The Hindu

 

 

From Fungus to Fiber: Developing and Using Mushrooms to Make Textiles

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Image: MycoTEX

Forward thinking design innovation is showing us we need to rethink the resources available to us. For many designers, the future of fiber is not in pulling more resources from the ground; it’s growing them.

Consider the mushroom. While most of us are used to fungi as food, many designers have turned to mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus (basically the roots of a mushroom) for use as fiber. The latest designer to make waves is Aniela Hoitink. With help from the Myco Design Lab, a collaboration of the University of Utrecht, Officina Corpuscoli and Mediamatic, Hoitink concocted a way to make a garment entirely from mycelium, and the resulting dress made from her MycoTEX fiber is currently on display at the Fungal Futures exhibit at the Universiteitsmuseum in Utrecht.

“I have a great interest in technology and microbiology and am always looking for potential opportunities to use one of them in textiles,” says Hoitink. “So when I saw an open call for mycelium research, I was immediately interested. Mycelium has a lot of great properties like isolating, water repellence, anti microbial or even skin caring. These properties are perfect to use in textiles.”

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Image: MycoTEX

This fungal fiber begins in a petri dish, where Hoitink grows the mycelium.

“After 2 weeks the mycelium is fully grown and can be harvested. After that, the mycelium shapes have to be marinated in another liquid. Then I take them out and put the circular shapes on a 3D mold of a women’s figure, that is when I make and shape the garment. During drying, the mycelium will stick together and the garment is ready.”

This makes for a garment that is not only unique, but also entirely compostable, something that Hoitink believes should be a consideration of the design process. “Nowadays our consumption rate is ever increasing and, as part of such disposable culture, we hardly repair anything. So why not base our textile and clothes production on this disposable culture and make garments that are 100% biodegradable and maybe only last for 1 or 2 years,” says Hoitink. “This way, we can still buy new stuff and throw away the old, without actually adding to the huge textile waste mountain.”

From growing shoes to building materials, when it comes to a sustainable material, mycelium has a lot of potential. But first we have to tackle our perception of it.

“People tend to disregard fungi because they associate them with disgust,” says Maurizio Montalti, the designer behind the Fungal Futures exhibit. Montalti also works with mycelium, founding the company Mycoplast in 2015.

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Image: The Growing lab ©Maurizio Montalti

“If only we would accept being part of nature instead of always drawing the typical separation between man and nature ,” says Montalti, “it’s food for thought for the public.”

But it’s not only food for thought for the public; exhibits like Fungal Futures are a challenge to the industry as well.

“Designers hold a great responsibility,” says Montalti. “If you really think that this kind of material and product can make a difference and can positively impact our relationship to our ecosystem [then] the only way to make this happen is to make this come to the consumer,” says Montalti, “and the only way to do that is through industry.”

Like Montalti, while her dress design is unique – a kind of fungi couture – Hoitink sees potential for the use of mycelium on a larger scale, particularly given its properties. For example, its antibacterial powers. “Mycelium can be anti microbial or skin caring. Those properties are already part of fungi; it is just a matter of using it in the correct way,” says Hoitink. “We don’t need chemicals or silver layers to add these extra functions.” To give a textile antimicrobial properties, silver nanoparticles are incorporated into fibers like nylon. But these nanoparticles come at a cost. According to the nonprofit Beyond Pesticides, “Many consider silver to be more toxic than other metals when in nanoscale form and that these particles have a different toxicity mechanism compared to dissolved silver. Scientists have concluded that nanoparticles can pass easily into cells and affect cellular function, depending on their shape and size.”

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Image: Fungal Futures – Kristel Peters10 ©Marja_Verweij

 

For any textile application where antimicrobial properties are desirable, Hoitink sees a potential for mycelium.Clothing is my ultimate goal, but there are more applications,” says Hoitink. “Think about antimicrobial curtains in hospitals or moist absorbent textiles for old houses.”

In fact, mycelium is already being used in a variety of fiber forms. Ecovative Design produces both Myco Foam and Myco Board, environmentally-friendly alternatives to styrofoam and particle board and for anyone who is interested in experimenting with fungal fibers, the company makes a GIY Mushroom Materials kit (that’s Grow It Yourself) so that you can grow your own fibers at home. In Denmark, product designer Jonas Edvard has used mycelium to create a fiber he calls MYX, which he uses in lampshades. These designers and others see mycelium as a sustainable, renewable alternative to petroleum-based products, and Montalti is confident that if time and research can continue to be devoted to mycelium, we have the opportunity to transition away from petroleum-based products.

“I feel certain about the fact that these materials will strongly impact the market and become one of the most viable alternatives to synthetics,” says Montalti.

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Image: Ecovative

Getting there however requires not only thinking innovatively about materials, but about the entire system at hand.

“The moment that we try to compete with plastic materials it’s a difficult challenge,” says Montalti, noting that “there are different parameters to take into account when looking at the value of the product.”

A more sustainable system will require innovative materials, but also, as Montalti points out “a new form of business model.” One that isn’t just focused on short term profits that come at any cost. “Everything needs to be questioned,” says Montalti, and that means not only how we make materials, but in what system we sell them and how we do business.

When it comes to the future of fashion, Hoitink agrees, pointing out that to move forward, we need to challenge ourselves to not just apply new materials to old methods, but to rethink the entire way of making clothing.

“People are stuck in the old ways of clothing production,” says Hoitink. “People ask me if I could make a yarn out of Mycelium. But why should I put a lot of effort in trying so, if growing pieces is much quicker and environmentally friendly? One of the problems of recycling is that the yarn is not strong enough for weaving, one needs to add new yarns to the recycled yarns in order to use them for the industrial machines. But why not be open for new ways of making garments?”

*This story first appeared on Bk Accelerator

Meet Patrycja Guzik: Winner of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

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The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 1st and special prize winner_Patrycja Guzikjpg.jpgThrough 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 Patrycja, the winner of the EcoChic Design Award 2015/16.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Patrycja: I asked myself: what I can do as a young fashion designer without big financial capital. And I realized that the answer is really simple: I can make a difference in a fashion industry. My artwork means something more for me than just a clothes. I’m glad that I can tell story through my collections. To me sustainable fashion means living in balance. We need to change our thinking around clothes and more designers need to show consumers that we are able to make beautiful clothes using old clothes and damaged textiles.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

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Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Patrycja: My interpretation of the phrase ‘Heaven is a place on Earth’ was the starting point for the The EcoChic Design Award. This corresponds to the everlasting pursuit of perfection in life, and is a condition when the feeling of emptiness and stagnation is able to be balanced, allowing us to be in harmony – to find your own place on earth. I aimed to make my clothes a shelter; a dreamy, heaven-like space that one could just settle into.

Texture, color and shape are the main codes of the collection and the forms are enhanced by the prints. My jumpers are knitted with rug-making techniques using secondhand wool. ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’ was also the inspiration for the colour theme with tints of black, white, blue, violet and cobalt dominating the collection.

I collaborated with a Polish illustrator, Mateusz Kolek, who designed the print based on my inspiration pack and colour palette. This print developed from lots of discussions about the theme and is a labyrinth of symbols which take you through my story. This re-printing technique has also enabled me to bring new life to discarded textiles.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Patrycja: In time of the competition we went to a factory in Dongguan China to see what the typical process of production clothes looks like. Then I realized that every new, decorative line of my design drawing involve 5 more process, peoples, more water and electricity.

Of course that trip to the factory made me more aware. Every production process involved in each garment is in my hands during the time of design. It is my responsibility as a fashion designer.

What was the impact of this award on you?

Patrycja: It has been the most important experience and biggest adventure in my life so far. All the designers I met through The EcoChic Design Award are so talented and conscientious in sustainable fashion. Each of them have their own stories, own experiences, and own way perspective on things…it was pleasure to spend time and work with the group of finalists and the Redress team.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Patrycja: Consumers are constantly wanting more and for a cheaper price. As designers, we should stop for a moment and consider why sustainable fashion is important for us today and what it means for each of us in our work. Today’s fashion industry is so fast paced and we’re constantly looking for new things made from new materials.

But it’s also important to remember that designers are able to make beautiful clothes using waste that are equally, if not more, original and creative. It’s not about wanting new things all the time.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Patrycja: Using waste can sometimes be challenging, but no one said life would easy! Easy can be boring! We need to recognize that less is more: we need to slow down our consumption, change our thinking around clothes, return to our roots, not forget our past and start thinking about our future.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Patrycja: Just make a first step into sustainable fashion. You’ll love all those sustainable fashion technique. And the moment when you see your collection on a models on a catwalk and you realized that 3 months ago these were ugly leftovers and secondhand wool yarn and old school sweaters, hats, scarfs is unspeakable.  So just start and go for it!

What is next in store for you?

Patrycja: I have just completed designing my capsule collection for Shanghai Tang, I’d now like to spend more time developing my own designs using the zero¬waste design technique, adding more everyday wear items to my existing collection. I really fell in love with this technique during The EcoChic Design Award. Farther into the future, I’d like to develop my own brand.

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You can follow Patrycja on Facebook and 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.

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.

 

Meet Cora Bellotto: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

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The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 2nd prize winner_Cora Bellotto (1).jpgThrough 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?

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Image: Tim Wong, Redress

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?

Cora:
– 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!

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You can follow Cora on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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.

 

Meet Tsang Fan Yu: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

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The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 Hong Kong finalist _Tsang Fan Yu - Copy.jpgThrough 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 Fan Yu, a Fashion Design student at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Fan Yu: I believe in Zen philosophy, and so I respect the balance between nature and human lives. When Zen philosophy is then combined with sustainable fashion, both concept and design style should enhance the overall quality of the product. This helps to maintain sustainable fashion in simple and high-end styles – much like the concept of “wabi-sabi” which is an aesthetic that accepts and celebrates imperfection. As a fashion designer, I believe less is more.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

The EcoChic Design Award 201516_Asia Finalists_TSANG Fan Yu_Photo credit Tim Wong.jpg
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Fan Yu: “SAN(さん)” in Japanese is a title of a person, much like “Mr/Ms” in English. In this collection, the “SAN” is representing a Zen master Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木俊隆). The collection is inspired from his book called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.

The soul of book is about an attitude called “Beginner’s Mind”. It emphasised that stay initial as beginner when you face every challenge, then you can feel real and enjoy lives in details. As a modern, energetic Chinese lady, contemporary sustainable fashion serves as good accessories to help them to stay true and stay initial; and displaying their beauty towards others.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Fan Yu:

– Sustainable fashion design techniques

– Sustainable materials/textile

– Sustainable technology application

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Fan Yu: Sustainable fashion is a trend around the world.

Education and promotion is the most important factor, such as carrying out workshops, talks, competitions, flea markets and second-hand pop-up stores etc. It will be easier to spread the message of sustainable fashion to the public through these activities.

It is also important to encourage popular fashion brands to become leaders of sustainable fashion in the industry.  For example, brands such as H&M, Stella McCartney play a huge role.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Fan Yu: People think that sustainable fashion is rubbish, for example, they would think the clothes are old, dirty, damage, second-hand, uncomfortable, disgraceful or have poor finishing (patching everywhere).

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Fan Yu: Be yourself. Do not be the kind of person you hated when you were young.

What is next in store for you?

Fan Yu: Preparing for my fashion label. Keep explore sustain fashion techniques and promote to my friend of designer.

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You can follow Fan Yu on his website, Facebook and 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.

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.

 

Meet Annie Mackinnon: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

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The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 UK finalist_Annie Mackinnon.jpgThrough 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 Annie, a Fashion Design student at Central Saint Martins.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Annie: Honestly I am completely appalled and disgusted by the fashion industry. It is infuriating to see how such a natural and beautiful craft has turned into a wasteful, environmentally and humanly-damaging mess that only cares for the gain of money and popularity, as with most things in the world.

I am trying my best to develop my own practice of work to be as environmentally aware as possible is really the least I can do. I want to be a sustainable fashion designer to raise awareness and change the way people think about consumption and waste and I want to develop alternatives to an industry that is primarily based on ephemeral trends and mass production.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

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Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Annie: The collection was inspired by paintings by Karel Appel, Kandinsky, Kirchner and Matisse, and in particular one of Matisse’s paintings in which naked bodies recline and walk freely around a garden. My collection was based on a series of textiles I created which used up all the waste from the collection by cutting up and fraying all the off cuts and painting over them. These decorated simple silhouettes and all the fabrics used were obtained from old furnishings or off cuts.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Annie:
– Considering the human conditions of production are just as important as the environmental impact when designing. Because I have never had to design on a huge scale, I had never really thought about how mass production factories work, but visiting one of the largest shirt producing factories in the world during the Ecochic Design Award was incredibly eye opening and shocking.

– There are so many aspects beyond the garment itself that need to be taken into consideration when designing. For instance will the user need to wash or iron the garment often? Is the garment easy to dispose of or transform into something else?

– There are always so many ways to improve the sustainability of a design, so it is a process that keeps growing.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Annie: There are very few new and exciting designers who genuinely care about sustainability, and it would be great for this to change. Large designers are often guilty of green-washing consumers, or making poor attempts at sustainability that make this branch of design seem like a joke or a fad. Then of course, there is the problem since brands have to sell to make money ; nobody wants to slow down the pace of fashion, or create fewer, longer lasting garments. The whole attitude towards consumption needs to change, and consumers need to start appreciating craftsmanship and slow fashion more.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Annie: The biggest problem in my opinion is green-washing, and large companies using sustainability as way of advertising and marketing. This sort of false “sustainability” or “eco-friendly” clothing is damaging to those who genuinely care about the environment and workers rights.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Annie: Start learning about ways to be more sustainable as early on in your education as possible.

What is next in store for you?

Annie: This year I will be interning for Bernhard Willhelm, Vivienne Westwood and then a new brand in Shanghai, after which I will go back to university to begin my final collection.

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You can follow Annie 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.

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.