By Hannah Lane
This January played host to the 5th anniversary of the EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. Young and emerging designers travelled from all countries in Asia and Europe to participate in the largest sustainable fashion design competition in the world. The competition was tough, but Poland’s Patrycja Guzik came out on top for her unique knits. Following closely in the contest was Cora Maria Bellotto, who came in second with her fresh and lovely geometrically tailored pieces.
Meet Patrycja Guzik
For her The EcoChic Design Award collection, Patrycja says she was inspired by the saying ‘Heaven is a place on Earth’, and wanted to make clothes that provided a ‘heavenly’ space for the wearer. She combined the upcycling and reconstruction design techniques by hand-weaving damaged textiles and unravelled second-hand garments, which she sourced from fabric wholesalers and second-hand shops in Cracow.
What motivated you to enter the ECDA?
A few years ago, I started thinking more about the lifecycle of products and what more could be done in terms of handling waste; it inspired me to want to create something new. The competition offered me the opportunity to explore my initial ideals in more depth, and gave me the chance to demonstrate how my newly learned techniques are able to give second-life to damaged products.
Which designers influenced you the most?
My ultimate fashion icon is Yohji Yamamoto. He always manages to stay true to his roots and speaks beautifully about fashion. I love his way of thinking about clothes and beauty, and about how we should playfully adhere to textiles. I remember one particular quote from him that made me start thinking a lot more philosophically about fashion; ‘A pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown’.
What did you learn by taking part?
Anything is possible if you believe in what you are doing, and also that even as a young designer without much money or resources – we are still able to make a big impression on the fashion industry. You can show consumers that you are able to produce beautiful clothes using recycled materials, influence other designers, inspire big companies and brands, appoint new trends and make a difference by creating our own niche in sustainable design. You can leave the workspace at the end of the day, feeling good about being conscious of the importance of sustainability, as the responsibility is in our hands – it always has been.
What was your best moment of the competition?
Seeing all of our amazing group’s collections appear on the catwalk, and of course the moment when I realised that my collection had won; not forgetting all the incredible bonuses that come with the first prize!
What was the worst moment?
Dealing with jetlag after the trip to Hong Kong which meant that I was very confused with everything going on around me, as opposed to being in the moment.
How did you deal with the stress?
I tried to focus on my main goal of producing an amazing collection, and told myself that I just had to get through it. I think that the more you allow yourself to become stressed, the more challenging things can wind-up. Once you are able to overcome the stress, you can begin to feel a lot more content and happy with the situation you’re in.
What’s eco-friendly about your designs?
In my EcoChic Design Award collection, I applied several sustainable elements; the first being a re-printing technique – I upcycled damaged polyester and industry leftovers by collaborating with Polish illustrator Mateusz Kolek, he designed the print for my collection based on my own inspiration and desired colour palette. We discussed the narrative behind this print a lot, there’s a labyrinth of symbols which take you through my collections’ storyline. This re-print technique brought new life to the otherwise, wasted textiles.
What was it like being and working in Hong Kong?
It was one of the most important experiences of my life. All of the designers that I met were so talented and passionate about sustainable fashion. Each of them have their own story, own experiences and own way of seeing things. It was such a pleasure to be able to spend time and work with my group of finalists and the Redress team; it was an incredibly big adventure for me.
What advice do you have for young designers?
Just don’t be afraid to take a risk and work hard! If you truly believe in what you are doing, it will come back to benefit you someday.
Where can we buy your collection?
The collection that I will be working on with Shanghai Tang will be sold in their stores in 2017.
Meet Cora Maria Bellotto
This Italian designer currently living in Spain found inspiration for her EcoChic Design Award 2015/16 collection in an unusual theme: heartache. Cora was inspired by the items that remain after heartbreak and their potential to be part of new love stories. She combined the upcycling and reconstruction design techniques to second-hand wedding dresses, production offcuts and old bedsheets sourced from her friends and family.
Why did you decide to enter the EDCA?
Fashion waste has always been one of my concerns as a designer. Since my very first project studying at a fashion academy, I was always interested in investigating what our society considers to be trash in terms of garments.
Then, I did my bachelor thesis under the supervision of designer Marina Spadafora (who recently won a prize at the United Nations for her commitment in sustainable fashion) and she really boosted my attitude even more. After graduating, I did my internship with her at Cangiari, a sustainable fashion brand from southern Italy, working against mafia and raising employment opportunities for women. So entering the competition was a natural fit for my work.
Which designers have influenced you most?
My idol is Roberto Capucci, who I was lucky enough to have the honour of working with. I also have to thank Cinzia Minghetti – the senior designer at Capucci, because she really pushed me to expand my skill set and fashion knowledge, and now I’m here!
What did you learn from participating?
The most stimulating and enriching aspect of the competition was that each participant had his/her own personal views and ideals about sustainable fashion, each had a very different approach on ways of dealing with sustainability in the fashion industry.
What was your favourite moment of the competition?
The after party! The stress was gone and we were all able to just enjoy our last evening together. We also had the chance to meet lots of new people who were interested in our work and were able to make good contacts for the future.
How did you deal with the stress?
How you dealt with the stress: I had some natural pills and vitamins with me to deal with jetleg and stress!
What influenced your design?
I have always been fascinated by vintage linen and all the materials from vintage trousseaus: the sophisticated touch of these fabrics were my first inspiration. I worked on a comfortable, smooth silhouette, where asymmetrical cuts meet a delicate palette of fresh and pale colors.
What about your design is eco friendly?
In my designs, I combined two different sustainable design techniques of up-cycling and reconstruction. I up-cycled and reconstructed secondhand wedding dresses and vintage trousseaus, which I sourced from my network of friends and family. I also up-cycled different textile left-overs by weaving them into brand new fabrics. Weaving took me a huge amount of time, but I did it as a provocation: it is my statement against the rush that fashion industry is compelling to all of us, designers and consumers at the same time.
What are your future plans?
I am 100% sure that I want to continue working on my career in sustainable fashion, I’m really confident that consumers will start to become more and more conscious about sustainability in the near future.
Meet all of the finalists and hear more about the competition in this video, below!