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Trash to Fash: Circular fashion design competition in Singapore

Trash to Fash: Circular fashion design competition in Singapore

It’s no secret that one of the fashion industry’s biggest issues is its creation of waste. Each year we throw away millions of tonnes of textiles which end up in landfills. In Singapore, according to figures from the National Environment Agency, 205,800 tonnes of textile waste were produced in 2018, of which only 6% was recycled!

However, the good news is that ‘sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. Finally, businesses including those in fashion, are now waking up to the idea of a circular economy and minimise waste.

It’s clear that any conversation about sustainability needs to include educating ourselves and the next generation about clothing waste. That’s why we were thrilled to hear about Trash To Fash, the first-ever upcycling competition by Temasek. The competition, held in conjunction with Ecosperity Week 2019, was co-organised by events curation agency Tabula Rasa and supported by MINIWIZ, DesignSingapore Council and MINDS. It challenged participants to design clothing using recycled PET fabric and other upcycled materials.

The goal? The competition is educating the next generation of designers about moving towards a circular economy. By understanding what ‘trash’ is, we can learn to upcycle into fashionable clothing.

Circular fashion design competition held at Temasek PolytechnicBrandon Do of Style Theory sharing about customer experience and needs at a mentoring session

Learn by design

Temasek’s annual Ecosperity conference has traditionally been a platform for business leaders to discuss opportunities for sustainable development. However, this new competition attempts to get Singapore’s youth more involved in sustainability. Participants designed apparel based on a challenge statement and produced 2-3 minute pitch videos featuring their final product.

“A problem with fast fashion is how it contributes to throwaway culture and hence, excessive waste,” said Robin Hu, Head, Sustainability & Stewardship Group at Temasek. “Trash to Fash hopes to inspire youths to demonstrate how Ecosperity can be achieved with sustainable designs that shape the future of the fashion industry.”

Workshops and coaching sessions were great ways to engage the participants. So it only made sense to get mentors from the industry. The list included Coco Mercy Chu, founder of KALAIA label, Raye Padit, founder of The Fashion Pulpit and Xin-Yi Wong, Sustainability Manager at H&M, to name but a few.

Mentoring the next generation of designers

“When we created the coaching sessions, we wanted the right brands and mentors onboard to give the participants a wide-angle view into the industry – and with brands and organisations like KALAIA, H&M, StyleTheory, The Fashion Pulpit, the Textile and Fashion Federation coming on to mentor and guide the participants, we believe that the participants managed to learn quite a bit,” says Carrie Liauw from Tabula Rasa.

Students learnt how to be more mindful of the waste they generate Teams getting hands-on experience through workshops with the Textile and Fashion Federation

Undoubtedly, the teams had a lot to learn in a short space of time. So they made use of the access to as much mentorship they could get. Competition judge and mentor Coco also led a workshop for the teams.

She said, “I would really want to see the youths going about their designs in a non-self-centered way, and to think more along the lines of ‘What can my designs do for society, or to empower people? What can my designs do to impact change?’” Her conscious fashion label KALAIA is produced through sourcing quality, leftover silk fabric from big orders and is cut and sewn locally and ethically in Singapore in small quantities.

“Being a conscious fashion label isn’t an option today, it’s a must.”

Coco Mercy Chu, Founder and Designer, KALAIA

“Everything is a cycle in this world and I don’t think anyone should disrupt it by being one thing or the other. As creators of clothing, designers need to find ways and means to improve the cycle by recycling, reusing or upcycling. It’s not just an option, it’s a necessity and a requirement moving forward. We now see big brands such as H&M and Adidas that are taking the lead, and using recycled plastics and upcycled materials. But every bit counts, even for smaller labels,” she says.

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Discussions for the upcycling competitionDesigner and competition judge/mentor Coco sharing feedback with participants at a mentorship session

Fashion and the planet

Alicia Tsi and Vincent Teo, founders of local sustainable fashion labels Esse and SOURCE Collections respectively, were present too. They were excited to judge the first round of the competition. As designers who have been promoting a greener way to create clothing in smaller quantities and with natural fabrics, it was an eye-opening experience.

“Fashion is a resource-heavy industry, and it takes a lot of resources to create the garments we wear. It generates so much pollution in the process of keeping up with our consumption habits. The health of our planet and natural systems are at stake, and we simply cannot continue to consume mindlessly. That’s where conscious fashion brands can step in to educate customers and make them aware of these issues,” says Alicia.

At ZERRIN, we’re big supporters of Trash to Fash and our founder, Susannah Jaffer, also played her part. Susannah was a judge for the semi-finals, concluding with the top 8 finalists. They will showcase their work at Ecosperity Week and during the finale runway event on 3 June 2019. Now, more than ever, we need more initiatives in Singapore like this. It helps to spark conversations about sustainability and circularity in one of the world’s most resource-heavy industries.

Trash to Fash

This story is written by ZERRIN as part of a collaboration with Trash to Fash.

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