EcoChic Design Award goes global
The fashion industry is one of the world's worst polluters, and if a passing glance at Hong Kong's landfills is anything to go by, the problem is on our doorstep. Meanwhile, across the border, annual consumer textile waste is estimated to be more than 20 million tonnes.
That's why it has been encouraging to see Christina Dean's EcoChic Design Award go from strength to strength since its inception in 2011. This year, the competition was opened up to an international pool of young designers.
"We wanted to push the competition to include Asia and Europe to create a greater impact and a higher quality of work," says Dean.
"The standard just gets better year after year," adds judge and founder of Esthetica, Orsola de Castro. This year, the organisation partnered with Hong Kong Fashion Week, the Trade Development Council, high street label Esprit and German home appliances brand Miele.
Despite some stiff competition, Karen Jessen from Germany took the grand prize with her innovative and sophisticated reconstruction of denims to make figure-hugging upcycled outfits. Jessen was also picked by local pop star Sandy Lam Yik-lin to design a special outfit for her, reconstructed from items already in Lam's wardrobe.
Jessen, who described the experience as "eye-opening", will now design the 2014 "Recycled Collection by Esprit" that will sell in its stores globally by mid-2014.
Charles Dickinson, the brand's head of Global Quality Management and sustainability, says that Jessen's innovation paired with "our market force" can "drive sustainable fashion imprint" within the company.
Esprit is one of a handful of high street retailers (like H&M) who are testing out how sustainability can work in a fast-fashion context.
Of the other contestants, Louise de Testa from France (who won the John Hardy sponsored second prize) impressed with her polished, wearable and commercial outfits featuring geometric patterns made from recycled jersey. Catherine Hudson from London was a personal favourite because of her advanced design sensibility using zero-waste pattern cuts and a striking high-fashion aesthetic.
When it comes to matters of the environment, it's easy to push around the responsibility - particularly if the processes involved are so complex, multi-layered and global. Clothing retailers play a massive part, but fashion designers who make crucial design decisions can also have incredible influence, as EcoChic argues.