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September 18, 2018


New generation are leading the way in sustainable design

Retailers and brands are looking to the new generation of emerging designers to inject creativity and unique appeal into their retail offerings.

Not tied to the constraints of industry, New Gen designers are pushing boundaries in how they make their clothes, and the materials they use. Recognising that waste generated by the fashion industry is a major issue, emerging designers are using innovative techniques to give new life to waste generated all along the product life cycle, from the cutting room floor, to excess mill stock, to old uniforms and brand deadstock.

Now in its 8th year the Redress Design Award is one such forum for emerging designers to showcase their talents. Founded out of the nonprofit Redress Asia, that works to cut waste out of fashion, the award was established to educate emerging designers about the use of innovative design techniques to drive growth towards a circular fashion system. The sustainable design award was held last week in Hong Kong, where eleven designers from around the world presented their 5 piece collections on the catwalk to an internationally renowned judging panel. Australian Tess Whitford collected the grand prize for her zero waste collection created using end-of-rolls and cut-and-sew waste, hand-painted with eco inks and embellished with salvaged hardware. Tess says, “I used a very experimental approach and took a lot of risks, which fortunately paid off.

"For me, being a sustainable designer means being a bit of a rebel, and not being afraid of doing this differently.”

Utilizing waste as a resource is a smart approach. With overall apparel consumption predicted to rise by 63 percent, from 62 million tonnes today to 102 million tonnes in 2030, and an estimated 87 percent of the material produced each year ending up in land after its final use, it seems there’s a lot of it. So much so, the UK has recently launched an Environmental Audit Committee investigation into the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry.

It’s about designing a new reality,” Marine Serre explained backstage at her autumn/winter 2018 show, FutureWear. “One that doesn’t compromise but simply reacts to and works with the real needs, situations and fantasies of garments today.” For her namesake brand Marine creates dresses from precisely patchworked vintage scarves sourced from a French warehouse, and shirts and wetsuit materials upcycled from used garments.

This approach is much in demand, with innovative designers being enticed by large retailers to provide a unique aesthetic to their customers, and satisfy the growing movement towards a more unique and personalised style. Working with reclaimed materials elevates handmade to another level, where not only is the garment designed in a bespoke manner, but the fabric itself is crafted into a workable material able to be formed around the body, giving a real sense of connection between where its come from and where it is going.



Making his Paris Fashion Week debut in March 2018, designer Kevin Germanier creates entirely upcycled collections, sourcing waste garments from London to Paris and Switzerland.  All the garments are crafted by a six-person team in Paris and then embroidered with unwanted beads using a proprietary technique the designer developed himself. He says,


“I love having limitations, and situations where I have to make things work.” 

Jesse Lee is winner of the Redress Design Award 2018 Second Prize Mentorship with Orsola de Castro and the Redress Design Award 2018 Hong Kong Best Prize. For his collection, Jesse up-cycled and reconstructed textiles including old curtains, sofa fabrics, umbrellas, bed sheets and socks, transforming objects with sentimental value and memories into timeless pieces. "Sustainability has always been a core part of my design concept and I was influenced by my upbringing where we were encouraged to appreciate the potential of all objects for re-use. By designing fashion in a sustainable way, I find new possibilities for collected objects, creating an unexpected journey for both the object and wearer. Jesse says.

Orsola de Castro, a pioneer of creating fashion from discarded materials, is head judge of the Redress Design award and mentors emerging designers. De Castro is a visiting fellow at Central St Martins on the BA and MA, and describes working with emerging designers as one of the most rewarding parts of her work. “The Redress Design Awards is an important thing in my life - I have been involved from the very start and it feels like family. I am committed to it completely, and I often describe it as my favourite event in the year - it is! And as for this year, I couldn’t be happier to have the chance to mentor Jesse, I literally cannot wait to get started with him!”

British designer Christopher Raeburn has been working with waste for years. In his Remade studio, covetable and functional products are created from surplus textiles; notably repurposed military parachutes, liferafts and coats. With a focus on creating intelligent fashion, every decision the business makes is underpinned by the core considerations of Remade, Reduced and Recycled. Raeburn says,


“I think as a designer you have an obligation to consider what you are doing and why; ultimately, we want to make strong, sustainable choices that provide our customers with a completely unique and desirable product.”


With sustainability a key focus for brands and retailers alike as we start to imagine what a modern fashion industry looks like, innovative approaches to cutting waste out of fashion show us a way forward that is creative, experiential and sustainable. A tangible solution that can be acted on immediately and is increasingly relevant to global consumers and businesses alike. Where waste is transformed into desirable pieces with stories of their own to tell.

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