Guest blogger Emma Ewart reviews the recent V&A Dundee virtual conference Rethinking Fashion: Upskilling for a more sustainable future, which was attended by ReMode staff and volunteers.
Rethinking Fashion brought together designers, innovators and experts to consider how best to create a sustainable future for fashion. This collaborative online event allowed the viewers to see like minded sustainable thinkers and designers coming together to talk about the awareness of sustainable contemporary fashion and the truth about fast fashion as we see start to see more and more designers using textiles that are already in existence.
There were three parts to this three-day online event.
- A discussion with Rebecca Earley and Priya Aluwalia on making something from something, circular design.
- A conversation with Phoebe English and Charles Jeffrey, topic, from the ground up: Disruption in Action,
- A conversation with Orsola de Castro and Arianne Orillac, chaired by Jen Ballie. These informative discussions thoroughly inspired young aspiring artists and designers to work and think in a more sustainable way.
Priya Ahluwalia is a sustainable fashion designer who recently graduated from the University of Westminster and is the winner of the H&M design award 2019. Ahluwalia convinced the judges with her innovative sustainable menswear, as not only is she directly inspired by an eco-friendly fashion industry but she works explicitly with vintage fabrics and second hand clothing. Ahluwalia was in discussion with Rebecca Earley on the first night of this event. Rebecca Earley is a design researcher, educator and facilitator based at Chelsea College of Arts where she is the co-director of centre for circular design. The difference with both of these designers is that they are from different decades, they have different experiences however what they have in common that is critical is a drive for circular design where they rethink and recycle garments within the fashion and textile industry.
Priya’s work displays a blast from the past, she is deeply inspired by her family as well as old photos, each item is individual and unique in its own way, it eliminates fast fashion completely and predominantly focuses on the importance of upcycling second hand. This is further emphasised by the designer herself,
“I also completely deconstruct and re-manufacture them—I cut them open, change the cuts completely, turn them around to make entirely new pieces”Schneider,2019
Her work is very imaginative as she adds character as she edits and as she upcycles her clothing line into something contemporary.
Several of the ReMode volunteers were inspired by her talk.
“It was interesting to learn about different designers’ approaches to sustainable design, and how they approach the balance between genuine sustainability and producing desirable unique clothing. I think that requires another level of creativity and skill to be able to create something just as good if not better than a virgin item from recycled materials. I was really impressed with Priya Ahluwalia! I also agreed with them that the pressure should not be on the individual consumer to do better but instead large corporations and governments, these big institutions with power need to make it easier for consumers to shop sustainably. Personally, I think legislation and regulation are the most important things we need to move the fashion industry forward! This talk encouraged me to think about different solutions to the problems of the fashion industry and I really enjoyed that”Louise Agius, attendee and ReMode Volunteer
“I learnt about the work of Priya Ahluwalia and her brand Ahluwalia, when she shared what she found on her research trips to Panipat, India and Lagos, Nigeria it was so informative in terms of what happens globally to western textile waste. It was also brilliant to find out more about her process from a design perspective, inspiring and comforting to know that it is possible to work in a circular way! I enjoyed the conversational aspect – between Priya and Rebecca Earley and I’ll definitely be researching Rebecca’s work in circular design education and research”Megan Allan, attendee and ReMode Volunteer
The second night was an “in conversation” with Phoebe English and Charles Jeffrey on disruption in action. Phoebe English is a British fashion designer, she graduated from the central Saint Martins masters programme in 2011 in fashion. English has been nominated for both emerging menswear and womenswear categories multiple times and as a fashion designer she enjoys working as a multidisciplinary artist. For example, “The clothing comprises an ever-evolving search for communicative design and construction, exploring a personal narrative through surface structure, and textile engineering. As well as employing a straightforward, natural and utilitarian nature”( www.phoebeenglish.com)
The central focus of her upcycled garments is to completely reject fast fashion chain as she creates fresh and futurist design wear. Her work in contrast with fast fashion seeks to adopt style, individuality and above all sustainability, this is further elaborated by her online outlet, “From initial design concept, collections are built and based around the raw materials that go into them – everything grows from there.
Keeping producer responsibility at the forefront of all our design decisions and thinking about our impact from the beginning, middle and end of our products life”(www.phoebeenglish.com). English was in conversation with Charles Jeffrey on the second night of the rethink fashion event.
Jeffrey is a Glaswegian artist, illustrator, and inventive creator. Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY’s visual identity is steeped in his autobiographical primary research, interpreted through an illustrative, DIY approach to design. As a label born on the dancefloor, a sense of event will forever be at the heart of LOVERBOY’s output (Rethinking Fashion, 2020)
His work is very punk-like and bold as he disrupts the construction of the garment into something fresh. “Charles is in residence to focus on making his practice sustainable. He will also be exploring how the visual language of his Loverboy brand can become an entity people understand, recognise and lust after” (Somersethouse, no date)
Here is more constructive volunteer feedback from this insightful and collaborative event-
“What did I learn? The difference in systems for dealing with textile waste worldwide and the countries/areas that it has the greatest impact on. Different ways designers are tackling problems within the fashion industry. How designers are adopting new and exciting ways to display collections during lockdown. Knowledge and insight into specific brands and the designers behind them. How bigger brands and companies are brainstorming and finding solutions with the help of experts in the field. What did I get out of these discussions? Working out where my own design process fits into the chain and how to improve my own methods. Sources of reference to research when looking into the impact and solutions that the fashion industry is having. Design hacks! What did I enjoy? The speakers were so interesting, entertaining, and inspiring. It made me hopeful for the future of design! New designers to follow. Fun thing to do with your evening during the winter” ()Sara-Louise Fulton, attendee and ReMode Volunteer
The last event held on Friday 30th of October was a conversation with Orsola DeCastro and Arianne Orillac, chaired by Jen Ballie. De Castro is an internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion and in 2013, with Carry Somers, she founded Fashion Revolution that is evidently growing with participation in over 100 countries around the globe, ( diievents.dii.eu).
What is fashion revolution? It is a global movement that involves who and what?
“We are Fashion Revolution. We are people from all around the world who make the fashion industry work. We are the people who wear clothes. And we are the people who make them. We are designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers, and fashion lovers. We are the industry, and we are the public. We are world citizens. We are you”()www.fashionrevolution.org
DeCastro was in discussion with Arianne Orillac.
Arianne Orillac is the Circular Business Design Lead at IDEO and co-creator of IDEO’s Circular Economy CoLab collaborating with the textiles industry to explore opportunities to design out waste and create value through design. As imagined this talk was very informative in the ideology behind sustainable fashion as well as a collaborative conversation in how to think like a contemporary designer.
In conclusion this event on the importance of rethinking and upcycling fashion was informative and inspirational to those who attended to watch and voice how they feel about the chain of fast fashion and how to break it. From the feedback I received it can be seen that the core focus from these designers and researchers collectively is campaigning against large businesses who allow fast fashion to continue as well as displaying the importance of how to take care of clothes and recycle/upcycle them. Furthermore, this event brought together designers from various backgrounds and experiences which helped to make this event super refreshing and liberating.
Student and ReMode volunteer Emma is currently on an Industry Related Work Placement with us, as part of her BA in Contemporary Art Practice at City of Glasgow College.
Volunteering with ReMode
“Our volunteers are the backbone of our organisation and being able to provide them with exciting training and learning opportunities such as this is a big part of how we give back for all the hard work they do”Carolyn Edmondson – Creative Volunteer Coordinator, ReMode
If you’d like to find out more about ReMode’s volunteer programme and how you can get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
V&A Dundee, 2020, Rethinking Fashion: Upskilling for a more Sustainable Future
Hella Schneider, 2018, Meet Priya Ahluwalia, the winner of the H&M Design Award 2019
Becky Earley – Circular Designer, Researcher, Educator and Facilitator
Nick Remsen, 2014, Meet Designer Phoebe English: A British Fashion Star in the Making
ORSOLA DE CASTRO, FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, FASHION REVOLUTION