The world’s largest sustainable fashion competition, Redress Awards 2023, unleashed a force. Held at the Hong Kong Trade Center last September 7, nine judges had set criteria for the nine finalists who made it to the centre stage. Their sustainable collections will be critiqued according to its sustainability, affordability, and circularity.
A LITTLE BIT OF AWAKENING
Three facts that we may need to ponder on:
1. In 2022, Bloomberg wrote that fashion accounts for 10% of the global carbon dioxide output. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, this is more than what international flights and shipping combined release.
2. Earth.org in 2022 mentioned that the fashion industry is the third largest polluting industry. It releases 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. First is food, and second is construction.
3. In just 8 years, at this rate, it’s expected to increase up to 50% on top of generating 20% of wastewater says Fibre Fashion.
REALIZATIONS IN THE MAKING
While it did not require urgency then, sustainable fashion happened as early as the 1960s to 70s. When the hippies and punks preferred unique styles and vintage pieces, it was clear that they were using second-hand pieces early back then. Mainly, for expression of identity.
It’s sad that thirty years later, brands and businesses do it to counteract irresponsible consumerism.
As a reflection, fast fashion may have contributed a lot to its cause when it skyrocketed in 2000. And there’s the internet that even sped up “fast fashion” losing preference for ethical and sustainable fashion. Talking about pushing its potential because who would not want to see a new piece of clothing in their closets anyway?
But then again, that trend will pass, new designs will emerge, and consumers will just have to throw garments to make room for the new purchase. What happens? It will be part of the 92 million tons of textile waste that is generated every year. That’s one truckload every second.
REDRESS DESIGN AWARDS 2023 EFFORTS
Now, at its 13th cycle, the Redress Design Award is one of the most renowned efforts Hong Kong has to create awareness. While it continues to wake up consumers about the negative effects of the textile industry on the environment, they believe that a circular fashion industry is the key to turning things around. Literally and figuratively.
AT THE COMPETITION
Repeatedly, awakening information about how much waste the fashion industry produces flashed on the crescent-shaped digital backdrop of the Redress Design Award 2023 stage. By the time guests got settled, they may have had their own reflection on one or the other. One that sent shivers down the spine read “Textile Waste is estimated to increase by about 60% between 2015 and 2030“.
To carefully think about it, this is just textiles, getting added to the landfill. There are still others like plastic waste, industrial waste, e-waste and many more. Textiles, being the second largest waste-producing industry, next to plastic, can be accounted for as our responsibility. It’s something that each of us can participate in by knowing what we are buying.
As Redress Awards 2023 cultivates a fashion sense hailing sustainability and circularity, it empowers consumers to take charge in choosing change. Through education, sustainable practices can become accessible. Programs at Redress Academy are working hard to put out a platform for many budding stylists to go on board its aim. As they believe that the future of fashion relies on it going circular, what other best way could be done except to teach them how to do it?
REDRESS DESIGN AWARD 2023
Dr. Christina Dean, founder and board chair of Redress, emphasized that no matter how much effort Redress Crew would make, ‘circularity is a team sport’.
With a goal of a zero-waste fashion industry, she admitted that this cannot be done by producers alone. Consumers have a huge part in initiating the reduction of harmful impacts on the environment through sustainable brands that take accountability for the production of their clothes.
Now that the very referee, the Earth, is holding up the ‘Time!’ sign, Dr. Christina challenges us to think about how we can join in and help. Let me know what you can do through the comments below but for now, let’s look at how these 9 finalists of the Redress Awards 2023 did.
1. WEN HANZHANG (Canada)
My focus is on how we can speak for sustainability in fashion through durable materials and experimenting with techniques such as low waste and modular design. – WEN HANZHANG
A mathematician turned fashion designer, presented his collection called, “The Living Island” with a fondness for shapes and patterns. Its inspiration came from his imagination of a future island while the environment copes with deterioration. His statement pieces reflected climactic conditions, marine life, and the recycling practice altogether.
He used the tesselation technique to minimize waste in the process. This is cutting the textile into an organic or rectangular-shaped pattern for it to fit perfectly into the fabric.
As every stylist’s planning accounts, most of Wen’s materials are second-hand materials from thrift shops where he’s from, Montreal. He also recycled garments from the previous Redress Design Award competitions to finish his signature element, patchwork. He combined organic and geometric shapes to make it happen.
2. JASMINE LEUNG (Hong Kong)
My aim is to change the stereotype of sustainabile fashion being unattractive
by creating a new image of eco-fashion and redefining the meaning of beauty. – JASMINE LEUNG
The former semi-finalist in 2021 made it into this year’s lineup because of her aim to redefine the beauty aesthetic showcasing longevity and versatility. It is designed to create a new image of eco-fashion being unattractive. Many people think that any fashion made out of rubbish cannot be worn and that’s what drove Jasmine to create her collection.
After collecting raw materials from 7-8 places all over Hong Kong, and contacting a lot of garment trading companies and the Loops, Jasmine was able to put together “Over the Midnight of Doomsday Clock’. It reformed plastic and electronic waste into a unique design of beads and sequins representing a visuality of modern fossils.
The models glistened down the runway as they strut on different layers, and tassels put together in various volumes and shapes. Remarkably, these stylish creation is made from PET X-ray film, plastic spoons and round metal tins. She also sourced out recyclable textiles such as end-of-roll nylon, wool and cotton, even bio-based sorona made up of corn. With like-minded suppliers who shared the same vision as her of making sustainable fashion circulars, she collected a wide range of waste like second-hand garments, factory headstock and other samples.
3. RUWANTHI GAJADEERA (Sri Lanka)
Fashion can be a powerful platform for advocating for a sustainable and equitable world for all.
– RUWANTHI GAJADEERA
Ruwanthi’s collection follows Redress’ cry to reflect on how the crisis of textile waste had come upon us. Her collection called “kaeli – resurgence” highlights the urgent need to preserve the ocean. She used ocean colours to allow a consumer to enjoy the beauty of the ocean but its rebellious vibe reflects what it’s going through at the moment. An obvious cry for a stop to ocean pollution is seamlessly crafted into the knit jumper made with a continuous string of yarn to create a coat.
Its textures are created from scraps of Dumbara, a Sri Lankan traditional weaving technique. Each piece reflects culture and craftsmanship as Ruwanthi gives back to her origins by keeping their traditional methods during the manufacturing process.
As she encourages them to embrace new technologies, Its integration could upscale the products highly talented artisans could create. This just opens a whole new world to those who are behind the scenes of every textile manufacturing business where most workers are underpaid while working long hours.
Inspired by the X-Press Pearl maritime tragedy, the emerging designer, who holds a MSc in Sustainable Management from the University of Bedforshire and is continuing as MA in Design Innovation from De Montfort University, used recyclability. Only cotton and yarn were used as a mono-material, incorporating removable shanks and QR codes with care and recycling instructions.
Overall, the models carry a message with every checkered shawl, denim clutch bag and red shoe-laced high-cut boots that were showcased on the runway. All of these reflected Ruwanthi’s experience altogether from being a semi-finalist in 2021 and being a finalist in 2022.
4. MOLLY RYAN (Australia)
I see myself as part of a groundswell of up-and-coming designers who see the exciting possibilities that arise from working with the anonymous detritus of material culture.
– MOLLY RYAN
Molly’s calling to act on the abundance of unwearable cotton, linen, silk and wool garments and textiles inspired her to create her collection, “Cloth: Narratives”. She repurposed these unwearable materials and challenged her to work with raw materials’ vulnerabilities in pursuing the exact outcome she wanted to make. After many trials, she slowly built technical proficiency around unpredictable materials and techniques.
Pre-loved clothing and textiles, cotton bed sheets and screen-printed textiles made Molly’s dream of zero-waste production for the collection to happen. Also, all leftovers from the pattern-cutting process get incorporated into the surface embellishment. Finally, she created her own dyes and screen-printing inks from garden and kitchen waste after learning about windfallen flora and organic kitchen scraps in giving cloth some colour.
As a co-founding director of the social enterprise Fibre Economy, an organisation that works with redistributing high-visibility or mining workwear to people in need, she maximizes a garment’s potential.
6. NILS HAUSER (Germany)
Sustainability to me means finding ways to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Creating beautiful clothes should not have to come with the downside of polluting the planet.
– NILS HAUSER
With a wild imagination of a city lost and rebuilt, Nils collection called “Ex Voto” brought home the Redress Design Award 2023. As a lover of history and anything old, new fabrics didn’t really make much of an appeal to the young German designer. That in itself satisfied the judges’ criteria.
Nils used the upcycling technique using unique found materials like sofa upholstery rescued from a vintage furniture store and nylon from an old family tent. He made sure that he used low-impact materials to highlight the competition’s aim to promote sustainability. He used water-based printing paint on his garments. His efforts were full-on in reducing textile-cutting waste and he simply burned fabrics to minimise the microplastic release while washing. With those that were unavoidable to have, he used it for lining and he saved some for future use.
His design made the models walk with a shoutout that every woven or knitted product is reusable. This caught Timberland’s eye for its Tokyo Design Collection in collaboration with VF Corporation for its 2025 Spring Collection. As a winner, he also won HK$50,000 worth of development funds for his works and designs on top of being part of the Redress Design Award Alumni Network.
6. KIM YANGHUN (France)
I would like to contribute to sustainability by using recyclable materials with new technologies or methods. The design that has originality and sustainability can live long.
– KIM YANGHUN
Inspired by his girlfriend’s meticulous wardrobe, Kim Yanghun’s “Her Wardrobe” collection reflected Korea’s clean and organisational fashionable culture. Kim used upcycling and zero techniques in designing this collection. It showcased a unique fabric he had made out of 100% rPET recycled polyester.
Coats, jackets and classic silhouette skirts were seen down the runway exuding the vibe for timeless wear. Women would favour this being subtly sexy in combination with something corporate like blazers and tailored suits. He also has a touch of feathers, tassels and fringes in his designs.
7. PAVNEET KAUR (India)
It’s always been exciting to work with waste, exploring different innovative design solutions that challenge traditional practices and inspire a more conscious approach to fashion consumption.
– PAVNEET KAUR
Coming from a Sikh family, five-metre-long turbans were lying around in Pavneet’s house. So, she thought of taking these traditional and plentiful turbans as her main waste for her collection “EUTOPIA”. Cut then sewn into patches, creating silhouettes, Pavneet created wardrobe staples with longevity repurposing.
Models of Pavneet’s collection came out in bright colours. She specifically chose these shades with the purpose of making the wearer happy. That way, they will get closer to the garment. The comfy layers, flowy cut and dollish visuality denote softness overall enabling the consumer to be able to breathe.
8. FRANCES BRUNNER (USA)
Our drive should not be to create fashion that happens to be sustainable.
Rather, create sustainable systems that happen to be fashionable.
– FRANCES BRUNNER
“It’s All Fluff” was an exciting collection that explored a person’s most expressive side – the ego. For creating the collection, she pulverised, cut, distressed, then stitched and felted denim scraps to create a new fabric. The outcome gave way to acoustic insulation protecting a consumer from noise pollution.
Denim, for its production, consumes a lot of water. The dye used to colour it too has a toxic effect on the environment. So Frances chose this to work with for its wide accessibility and universal presence. It also reflects ego as it is built to last, almost on the verge of being unbreakable. The ear muffs were undeniably cute.
9. MANDY FONG SZE MAN (Hong Kong)
I want to use my platform and brand to embrace the slow fashion movement
and create planet-forward pieces using meaningful materials to extend the life of our clothing.
– MANDY FONG SZE MAN
Probably, the most humbling of all these efforts comes from Mandy as she included unsold clothes from Sham Shui Po as her waste material. Sham Shui Po is a district well known for its concentration of clothing retailers. This not only satisfies Mother Nature’s call for help, but it also encourages collaboration in the effort. Redress founder emphasized being a team in such a plea to make the fashion industry circular. Mandy was putting it into action with her collection, “Start from Zero”.
A personal statement
As a fan of Redress Design Awards ever since, I encourage you to reflect on the way we consume. My personal favourite is Mandy’s collection which served as the very mirror of what we consume in excess. Old blankets, curtains, woollen sweaters, plastic, and polyester are all in her collection. Realize that she had been picking up the pieces to create something new. Seeing different materials and textures combine to create unique garments and statement pieces was worth paying attention to.