“It is really urgent that we address the problems in the fashion industry. But we’re not here today to talk about the horrors. We’re here to talk about the solutions.” – Christina Dean, Founder of Redress
The EcoChic Design Award is the world’s largest sustainable design competition for emerging designers. It is organised by Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. On 2 November 2017, Fashion for Good partnered with Redress to launch an exhibition featuring designs from this year’s competition finalists.
The launch event featured a candid conversation between Fashion for Good Managing Director Katrin Ley, Redress Founder Christina Dean, and Dutch fashion designer and competition finalist Joëlle van de Pavert. The importance of innovation and design education were common threads throughout the conversation.
A focus on waste reduction and education
Christina moved to China as a journalist over a decade ago. After witnessing the environmental devastation of the pollution there first hand, and knowing that the textile and fashion industry was responsible for so much of it, she was inspired to start Redress.
Redress recognises that sustainable fashion is an enormous topic, so it has pulled out waste reduction in the industry as its core mission and educating designers as a key tactic.
Thus, the EcoChic Design Award was born in 2011.
“We created an educational program and made it very fun, with celebrities and media and runways and TV documentaries and all of the exciting aspects of fashion,” Christina explained. “But underlying our competition is pure educational programming — working with universities around the world, with designers around the world, to start their journey.”
Throughout the EcoChic Design Award competition, designers are trained in upcycling, zero waste, and reconstruction techniques to create their haute couture pieces. This year’s winner Kate Morris combined a high-tech zero-waste knitting technique with artisanal craft knitting skills to create pieces that married the old with the new. Finalist Lia Kassif was inspired by her Israeli culture to create military reconstructive pieces, upcycled with bridal waste, to bring the themes of love and war to life. Japanese finalist Ayako Yoshida incorporated abandoned materials such as old tatami mats and discarded umbrellas to create new designs.
For Joëlle, the education component was invaluable. When she was a student, sustainability was not taught in the regular curriculum but treated as a special interest topic. The EcoChic competition allowed her to get hands-on experience.
“We did a lot of challenges, and I became aware of what we do as designers,” Joëlle said. “I learned more about sustainability on the EcoChic journey than I will ever find on the Internet or books.”
The future of fashion
Both Fashion for Good and Redress believe that the future of the fashion industry is dependent on innovation. At Fashion for Good, our focus is on accelerating and scaling daring innovations that have the power to transform the industry. And for Redress, the focus is on educating designers — especially emerging designers — to design out waste.
“We all know that the fashion and textile industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world,” said Christina. “But maybe some people don’t know that designers are thought to be responsible for around 80% of the environmental impact of a product. And that 80% is what we’re passionate about. Because if we can make the 80% of their impact good, then we can transform fashion.”
The EcoChic Design Award exhibition runs from 2 November at the Fashion for Good Experience in Amsterdam and is open to the public.