Clothes Fashion

Meet Kate Morris, Winner Of the EcoChic Design Award 2017

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Young designers from 46 entered. Sustainable design challenges were set and met. We saw the creations of ten extremely talented shortlisted candidates. And now, after a very tough competition, we can finally announce the winner of this year’s EcoChic Design Award 2017   – meet Kate Morris!

Kate won all 3 of the design challenges, including those set by EcoChic Design Award founders Redress, including the Cathay Pacific  Uniform Reconstruction Challenge, the Miele  Consumer Care Challenge, and the TAL Design to Manufacturing Challenge.

But what sealed the winning spot for Kate was her innovative technique of using discarded cones of yarn and cutting old T-shirts into strips to knit with, recycling them into new, colourfully patterned designs. We were lucky enough to catch up with Kate for an exclusive interview about her victory.

What initially motivated you to enter the ECDA?

I attended a day of workshops on upcycling run by Redress and was so inspired by all the different ways of using waste; I had a set idea of what upcycling was before and this completely opened up my mind set. I met so many like-minded inspiring people at the event and knew I wanted to be involved in the competition.

I wanted to challenge myself to use waste as a starting point as this was something I’d not explored before. When applying sustainable design approaches I had struggled with the high cost of materials and loved the idea of using waste to create a more affordable collection that could become more accessible to others.

I really admire everything Redress has achieved in spreading awareness about sustainable fashion. I wanted to get involved and carry on their mission to prove that beautiful fashion can come from using waste. I thought this competition would be a really good way of inspiring others to rethink waste.

Which designers most inspire you?

Issey Miyake for his APOC work and constant innovation in pattern cutting since, his use of materials and use of technology.

I will always love Missoni for their history of innovative use of stitch and colour.

I admire what Stella McCartney has done for advocating animal welfare into the forefront of luxury fashion.

I am very inspired by everything the organisation Fashion Revolution are doing to educating everyone to get involved in changing attitudes within the fashion industry.

What’s the biggest problem facing the fashion industry today?

Probably the sheer scale and speed clothing is being produced. Consumers have lost connection with the story behind their clothing and have come to expect to spend less on a t-shirt than their lunch out. Different areas of the supply chain are not always communicating well or working together.

Do you consider wool to be vegan-friendly? Why or why not?

Wool is not vegan. Any material that comes from an animal is not vegan. Wool is farmed and therefore exploits animals for profit.

What’s your ultimate goal, as a designer?

Mainly to contribute to changing attitudes within the industry.

My aim now is to fully launch my vegan knitwear brand CROP that is sustainably sourced and ethically made, long lasting, happiness inducing womenswear and accessories. It intends to break expectations with  plant based knitwear  that can be worn across multiple seasons, relevant to the global needs and beliefs of today’s generation.

What was the best part about being in the ECDA?

I totally fell in love with Hong Kong, spending a week there taking part in design challenges surrounded by like-minded people was so incredible for me. Learning from the other finalists was so valuable, they each had a different approach to using waste in their designs and I now have worldwide friends for life!

Being recognized by such an influential group of judges and winning first prize has bought me confidence, exposure and the valuable opportunity to return to Hong Kong for three months to work and learn with influential platform brand ‘BYT’ that will enable me to make a change within the industry.

What did you learn from the experience?

Creating my collection transformed my view of what upcycling can achieve as well as what’s possible  in six weeks! I learnt how easy it is to source luxury materials the industry considers waste, companies were really keen to get involved and I was doing them a favor by taking the materials off their hands. Within the first week I knew what I would be working with. Quality control is so high in industry, especially with yarn mills, the cones of yarn I received were a very slightly imperfect dye lot, they were in perfect condition and the consumer would never be able to notice.

The week of the grand finals hugely broadened my mind-set and horizons alongside meeting so many fantastic people. I learnt a lot about the impact of customer care and waste management on a huge industrial scale especially from our visit to TAL one of the biggest shirt manufacturers in the world.

What was the most challenging bit about being in the competition?

I think one of the hardest parts of the EcoChic Design Award was the tight time frame of six weeks to develop, make and finish our collection. This was really good practice to resolve problems quickly and to prepare us to work under strict deadlines in industry though. The deadline clashed with my MA course had in so it was a really busy time, my university were very supportive of me doing the competition though luckily!

So, what will Kate do next?   She will now join a team of fashion designers to create a collection for BYT, a new Hong Kong affordable luxury brand born from Redress. This inaugural up-cycled collection will retail in Lane Crawford and Barney’s in New York to attest how Asia is a leading trend setter for sustainable fashion, influencing the ethical tastes of luxury consumers worldwide. Furthermore, she will see her winning collection – a bright and playful knitwear line that welds handcraft with technology – in an installation at Lane Crawford, Asia’s leading iconic luxury department store.

For more info, please see:

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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