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Fashion Meet The 2020 Winners Of The World's Largest Sustainable Fashion Design Competition

Meet The 2020 Winners Of The World's Largest Sustainable Fashion Design Competition

Meet The 2020 Winners Of The World's Largest Sustainable Fashion Design Competition
We spoke with the 2020 Winners Of The World's Largest Sustainable Fashion Design Competition (Photo: Courtesy of Redress)
By Doris Lam
By Doris Lam
September 10, 2020
We spoke with the four winners from this year's Redress Design Award to learn what inspires them as a sustainable designer

The Redress Design Award is the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, an environmental NGO that aims to reduce waste in the fashion industry

Prizes for this year’s competition included a chance to design a ten-piece womenswear collection for The R Collective for the best Womenswear Prize, a spot on VF’s Timberland Global Apparel design team for the best Menswear Prize, a mentorship opportunity under sustainable fashion designer, Orsola de Castro for the Runner-Up Prize, and a place in the Grand Final and more for the Hong Kong Best Prize winner. 

We spoke with the winners from the four categories to learn more about their motivation and work as a sustainable designer and how The Redress Design Award impacted them.

See also: 18 Asian Fashion Designers Who Are Doing Us Proud

Womenswear Prize: Juliana Garcia Bello

Photo: Courtesy of Redress
Photo: Courtesy of Redress

How has your place of birth influenced your path and work as a designer?

I was born on a small island in southern Argentina, it's called Tierra del Fuego. There, people live in contact with nature and the environment. The cities are small, surrounded by forests, steppes, rivers, mountains and sea. Cold and windy weather. Respecting people and where you live is something I learned while living there.

What was the turning point that made you realise the severity of the fashion unsustainable practices?

During my university studies, I observed the amount of raw material that was wasted in the production processes. I thought that if on a small scale this happened, on a large scale it was tremendously dangerous. The year of my graduation, the La Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed which was a sad time for the fashion industry. It opened my eyes to understand that what happened on the other side of the world, was happening in Argentina. I didn't want to be part of that system, so I started to think about what kind of designer I wanted to be.

How do you approach your pieces in order for them to be sustainable?

I work in my small atelier, with simple machines, I like to live the process of a garment so I make all my garments. That helps me reflect and think of new possibilities. I am looking for a simple and fluid job. Use my machines when it is really necessary. Make garments well so that their useful life is extended. Find a concept to connect people with their clothes.

What does winning the Redress Design Award mean to you?

This award is very important to me, I am really happy. My way of being is for my family, my city, my university. At the University of Buenos Aires, classes have groups of at least 100 students. My work represents me and all the people I know, that is why this recognition is very important. I share it with them!

What's something we can each do every day to cut down on our carbon footprint?

It is a difficult question, because there are many possibilities and ways. I like to think that connecting with the place and the people where we live helps us to move less and buy local.

Menswear Prize: Ngoc Ha Thu Le

Photo: Courtesy of Redress
Photo: Courtesy of Redress

How has your place of birth influenced your path and work as a designer?

It provides one of the impetus for my journey into sustainable fashion. Vietnam— among the world’s five biggest textile exporters and producers, plans to switch orientation from processing to producing, by building textile mills, spinning plants, and dyeing facilities. With grossly fouled rivers in China and the Rana Plaza building collapse as alarming examples, for our citizens and environment, it is crucial that the nation does not make the same mistake. I am determined to prove that a sustainable apparel industry is entirely possible in my home country.

What was the turning point that made you realise the severity of the fashion's unsustainable practices?

I first came to know about sustainable fashion in late 2014, when I stumbled upon the book "Eco Fashion" by Sass Brown. At the time I was in high school and was a member of a local fashion club while also participating in environmental activism. "Eco Fashion" serves as an excellent introduction, showing me the importance of the fashion designer in driving change and urges me to take action against the current state of the industry.

How do you approach your pieces in order for them to be sustainable?

I closely followed the 4 core circular design strategies I mainly sourced secondhand Japanese traditional clothing, end-of-rolls, cut-and-sew waste. Some fabric is plant-dyed using indigo, turmeric, yam roots, as they don’t require metal mordants which are harmful water pollutants. 

70% of my collection used zero-waste pattern cutting. To give a garment a long life, I use sturdy & durable finishing. Garments are cut to fit well on average Asian figures, both men and women, encouraging trade/ borrow between friends. I also consider customer care for clothing. Fabrics that could be washed easily are used for "everyday" items like T-shirts and pants; while heavier textiles that require more rigorous cleaning become outerwear, which only need to be laundered once every 3-6 months.

What does winning the Redress Design Award mean to you?

Over my 7-year journey of sustainable fashion as a student and practitioner, I have encountered and become part of various alternative / green business models; however, all of them are small to medium enterprises— meaning there is a limit to what they can do. 

Therefore, I’m incredibly grateful to be the Menswear winner and have the chance to work along the Timberland design & sustainability team. I would use this opportunity to closely study the strategies that could help an international company to not only reduce its environmental impact but also give back to the Earth, by leveraging its global scale & influence.

What's something we can each do every day to cut down on our carbon footprint?

Eat less meat! I haven’t tried lab-grown meat like the Beyond burger yet, but in Vietnam we also have plenty of meat alternatives. I personally try to eat at least one vegan or vegetarian meal per day.

See also: Eco-Friendly Style: 11 Sustainable Fashion Brands To Shop Now

Hong Kong Best Prize: Grace Lant

Photo: Courtesy of Redress
Photo: Courtesy of Redress

How has your place of birth influenced your path and work as a designer?

I was born in Hong Kong and lived here until I was 18, I then moved to England for university and spent 8 years there before returning. It’s always been a strange one as my whole family are English and apart from my mum and dad they all live in the UK. 

I think there will always be a pull and push between the two for me, and this is reflected in my design aesthetic. Returning to Hong Kong as a working adult I have seen it in a completely different light, especially in terms of the opportunities within the fashion industry.

What was the turning point that made you realise the severity of the fashion's unsustainable practices?

It was during my Masters in Italy that I realised the resources and processes that went into making one garment. We visited many of the world's best mills and factories which was amazing, as well as eye opening to the sustainability issues the industry faces.

How do you approach your pieces in order for them to be sustainable?

I have a few key points that I try to stick to, the first being using all natural fibers ensuring biodegradability at the end of life. I use deadstock materials that otherwise would go to waste, which also means the energy needed to make something new is removed. Finally, I try to make the whole process as local as possible. In the near future I want recycled yarn and 3D design to be added to this.

What does winning the Redress Design Award mean to you?

I won ‘Hong Kong Best’, it’s really amazing to represent Hong Kong, it’s a city that is still developing its fashion identity and footprint, designers based here are often unknown to the rest of the world. I hope I can play a big part in that development of being sustainable as well as raising the profile of Hong Kong as an emerging fashion city.

What's something we can each do every day to cut down on our carbon footprint?

Use public transport! Travel less (which the current global situation has taught us we can do), and write to local politicians about implementing better incentives and options for using renewable energy.

Runner Up Prize: Ruth Weerasinghe

Photo: Courtesy of Redress
Photo: Courtesy of Redress

How has your place of birth influenced your path and work as a designer?

I am from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s apparel manufacturing landscape is quite broad and has been developing for over three decades. We also have rich artisanal handcrafts that have been practiced over centuries and are now our country’s heritage. 

During my time at university, I experimented with most of these techniques and also collaborated with various large scale apparel manufacturing companies for various projects both design and sustainability based, which gave me firsthand experience and a lot of exposure  to understand the industry better. It helped to expand my scope as designer in many ways. 

Being in a country that has a large-scale apparel manufacturing industry drew my attention to think about waste more and more. Large scale manufacturing results in large scale waste and landfill. This got me curious and inspired to find sustainable solutions from the start as a designer.

What was the turning point that made you realise the severity of the fashion's unsustainable practices?

During my time at the university, I took part in an industry collaboration project organised by the Cambridge University-TransTextile. This project was a joint effort between the Cambridge University, the apparel industry in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan design students. 

This project helped me understand the major problems the apparel industry is facing in terms of sustainability, scale of waste produced, its impact and depth of the issues. It really inspired me to look into sustainable design solutions that were innovative and effective.

See also: The Production Chain: How Sustainable Clothes Are Made In Hong Kong

How do you approach your pieces in order for them to be sustainable?

The collection pieces are based on three principles. Designed for longevity, adaptability, and versatility. Designing for longevity has been identified as the single largest opportunity to reduce the global carbon footprint, therefore designing products to last longer from the material to the actual design is essential to maintain physical durability. The physical durability will then eventually create an emotional durability to the garment as people get more attached to products that spend more time with them. 

The concept of garment spare parts is introduced to keep giving new life to the garment upgrading by replacing only the part of the garment that is worn out or damaged with a new spare part to fit the exact base. Giving a new life to the garment through colour, shape, material, aesthetic. 

All materials are sourced from second hand fabric sellers, garment sellers (thrift stores) or industrial waste collectors and almost 90% of the trims are also sourced from second hand sellers or garment manufacturing plant access material and trim sellers from sourcing markets in Sri Lanka. These materials are discarded from manufacturing plants due to (over sourcing, rejects, end of roll and other issues) and are destined to end up in land-fill sites or to be burnt.

What does winning the Redress Design Award mean to you?

It means a lot to me, my career, and my life. It is one the greatest achievements. Taking part in the finals of the Redress Design Award and showcasing on the Redress Runway was a great opportunity and experience.

Becoming the Runner-up Prize Winner of the competition will be a turning point in my career as a designer as Redress is the world’s largest sustainable design competition and to place in that is a great achievement as a sustainable designer. 

It would help me gain more exposure and experience in sustainable fashion as I get the amazing opportunity to be mentored by Orsola De Castro – Founder of Fashion Revolution and also to travel to London where I would get the opportunity to meet industry experts as well as learn more about sustainability and widen my scope as a sustainable designer.

What's something we can each do every day to cut down on our carbon footprint?

Use what you already have in your wardrobe, care more for your garments. Just by choosing to wear what you have for extra 2 months saves vast amounts of resources that would be wasted to make new garments. Cut out of the seasonal trend driven purchase pattern and invest on timeless pieces that would live with you for a longer time. Buy local. Care more. Buy less. Upcycle – in terms of fashion.

A simplistic lifestyle would be the ultimate remedy that will help us heal this planet. A slow-paced world that values and emphasises more on needs over wants and cares more than tears. Consume less, throw less, be conscious of yourself and the whole planet. Choose emission free transportation, reduce energy consumption.

See also: The Production Chain: How Sustainable Clothes Are Made In Hong Kong

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Fashion Design fashion redress design sustainable sustainability design award fashion design Redress Design Award Redress Design Award 2020 fashion designers sustainable designers sustainable fashion Redress

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