By Chere Di Boscio
The EcoChic competition, held each year since 2007 by the NGO Redress, is becoming a showcase for design talent that rivals anything that television’s global Project Runways could deliver; not because the designers are necessarily more talented, but because everything they create is also socially responsible.
Initially covering Hong Kong, Singapore and China, the fashion contest is now open to European residents this year, but the focus is still very much on Asia, where the EcoChic competition is one of the biggest opportunities for designers in the region to make their names known.
Christina Dean, the founder of Redress, says: ‘it was a real honour and fantastic to have been recognised for the work we are doing at Redress in Asia and to have a light shined on the importance of waste reduction in the fashion industry. I hope the projects we create have inspired more people to tackle environmental issues in the industry and personal lives’.
There have been dozens of competitors from Asia over the past years, and all of them have done outstanding work. After much debate here at Eluxe, we’ve selected these these three alumni as representing what we believe is Asian eco chic at its best, but surely witht eh EcoChic Design Awards coming up later this year, there will be more names to add to this list soon.
The Mandarin Tailor
Name: Janko, Lam Chun Kuk
Competition Cycle: Winner, Hong Kong 2011
Brand: Mutt Museum
Location: Hong Kong
We love Janko’s minimalist, sleek lines and simplicity of hue and fabric. The designer admits he knew very little about sustainability before signing up for the competition, but was thrilled to travel to London and Paris to learn more about eco-friendly fashion.
After his trip, he said: “I realised that sustainable fashion design needs to be a long-term strategy in the mainstream fashion industry. Altogether this has made a huge impact on how I view society and the environment, as well as enlarging my sense of responsibility.”
That sense of responsibility can be seen in his first collection after the competition cycle: “I designed the ‘Recycled Collection by Esprit’ for retail in Hong Kong in May 2012. I also developed a denim collection, for my own brand Mutt Museum, using leftover textiles from a factory. I combined traditional and contemporary Chinese designs and techniques to create a new range of sustainable Qipao. This collection is designed to signify the practicality and the durability of this Chinese traditional costume” he says.
Name: Herlina Wiyaya
Competition Cycle: Finalist, China 2012
Location: Mainland China
“Prior to joining the competition, I had never thought about being a sustainable fashion designer,” says Herlina. But that quickly changed: “The EcoChic Design Award made me fall in love with sustainability – the creativity, the impact and possibilities is sustainable fashion are remarkable,” she enthused.
Her feminine collection incorporates a wide variety of techniques, from weaving and shedding to ruffles, and features a strong contrast of teal blue to black. Although the public and the judges praised her work, she decided there’s still much to learn, and stayed in school. There, she says she’s incorporated sustainability into most of her projects, and has experimented with a number of sustainable design techniques, such as creating new fabrics from cut-and-sew textile waste. As she wasn’t the winner for her cycle, this persistent woman may even enter another cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards until she walks away with first prize. Watch this space.
All Tied Up
Name: Eric, Wong Wai Chun
Competition Cycle: Finalist, 2011 Hong Kong
Location: Hong Kong
Give him enough rope, and Eric Wong will make an entire wardrobe. The designer used mainly waste nylon rope to create these sexy outfits with a touch of Boho Chic.
Entering the competition made Eric realise the potential impact each individual can make on the planet: “I realised that trend-led design could soon end up in landfill. I learned that considering elements, such as materials and the durability of garments, are equally important to style. I now know I have the power to influence the environmental impact of clothes through the design process,” he stated.
He continues to make a positive impact by using end-of-roll textiles for his brand, Absurd-Laboratory. To avoid making his own waste, he donates any of his own textile scraps to jewellery workshops.