If it were not there before, 2020 has made sure that sustainability is now at the forefront when we’re talking about the future of fashion.
“Covid-19’s retail and supply-chain disruptions have stranded materials in warehouses, factories and stores globally. Now’s the time to catalyse the circular economy – and this is the focus of Redress,” says Dr Christina Dean, who in 2007 founded the Hong Kong-based charity dedicated to eliminating waste in fashion. The Redress Design Award, now in its 10th year, is the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition, attracting competitors from around the world. This year, hundreds applied from 48 countries.
Just announced, the Redress Design Award 2020 winners – who were chosen by a diverse judging panel including designer and co-founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro, and fashion expert and writer Susie Lau (Susie Bubble) – presented a truly international line-up. Le Ngoc Ha Thu from Vietnam won the Grand Prize for Menswear, and Juliana Garcia Bello of Argentina walked away with the Grand Prize for Womenswear.
Almost as impressive was Sri Lanka’s Ruth Weerasinghe, who was inspired by the fights against climate change and pollution to create eye-catching, protective, detachable and ultra-durable pieces made from textile and industrial offcuts.
Meanwhile, Redress Design Awards Menswear winner Thu hit home with a colourful, cool and complex capsule that won him a place in the Timberland Global Apparel design team, helping to design and commercialise a capsule that will be launched in 2022. Titled Slow Boy Archive, the designer’s entry employed elements of Japanese-style Americana, using zero-waste patterns and recycled fabrics in subverted menswear classics. Thu will be working with Kevin Bailey of the sports- and street-fashion conglomerate VF, and Christopher Raeburn (founder of his own sustainable label, and global creative director of Timberland), both also Redress judges.
Netherlands-based Bello, meanwhile, will be collaborating with upcycled label The R Collective on a 10-piece capsule collection to be sold commercially. The Argentine designer’s winning womenswear outfits wove a compelling story about community and heritage, using garments donated by neighbours and friends, and upcycling them to fashion-forward minimalist yet adaptable pieces with a clearly elevated aesthetic. Judges in the London session (where we sat in) commented that Bello’s work was impressive in look and ready to retail at any top boutique in the British capital.
As sustainable design becomes more sophisticated, the emerging designers attracted to it are likewise more globally and aesthetically aware each year. As this sector of fashion moves steadily towards the mainstream, for designers and the industry it’s also been a sharp learning curve about which theories and techniques work and which do not. The dream of a circular fashion system is edging closer to a reality. But to create real change, we’ll need big corporate game-changers to come together with a new, more conscious generation.