A new generation of sustainable designers is changing the fashion game. We speak to two innovators about their eco-conscious designs.
Everything is interconnected. Believe us, it’s proven science. Human beings are part of a larger ecosystem that includes everything around us from plants and animals, water and soil alike. And it seems the fashion world is finally waking up to this reality. The voices of activism are getting louder even within the fashion industry, known for its destructive environmental impact on water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals in the textile dyeing and the exorbitant high level of textile waste.
The eco-warriors of the fashion world are steering the sails towards a circular model of textile production, which is based on extending the life cycle of garments and recycling materials into new items, thereby forming a generation of fashion designers reinventing design within a sustainable framework. Some of the designers of that new generation of change-makers presented their work at this years 34th edition of Hyères festival. The Forumist pulled Christoph Rumpf and Sara Emilie Terp Hansen over for a chat on their ongoing work.
Christoph Rumpf aka @theglasspunk snatched the Grand Prix of the fashion jury and the Exception Donation Prize for his collection mostly created from dead stock, upcycled materials and revamped flea market pieces. Among his collection, a Persian carpet found a second life as a reworked suit and a chandelier dangles elegantly as a repurposed necklace. His collection is full of voluminous shapes and lush fabrics, no doubt inspired by his flea market jaunts in Vienna, where Christoph is studying at the University of Applied Arts.
When we asked about how important sustainability is in his design approach, Christoph retorted: “It is something every designer should be conscious of. I am trying to keep my environmental footprint as low as possible and as a student, upcycling seemed to be the most logical thing to do. I want to expand the idea of being sustainable in the future by using organic fabrics and producing locally.” As our conversation touches on the hot topic of sustainability within the fashion industry, Christoph answers sound realistic yet positive. “Brands definitely take more care than they did 10 years ago. Some use sustainability as a marketing tool and some prefer not to talk about it. I think both ways are ok as long as there is progress in working sustainably. Conscious design and consumption might even become the norm in high fashion. I doubt that big retailers will jump on the idea of producing sustainably, but we can always hope.”
What could designers do in order to make the fashion industry more sustainable? Christoph says: “The most important thing is not to overproduce. Therefore, the consumers also have to buy less. People have to see their garments as something precious. Ask if there is a sustainable option to certain fabrics/techniques etc., try to produce fair and clean, think about packaging, think about reusing rather than producing – less is more.” Christoph will present the extended version of his collection in Berlin this July, and we can’t wait to see it. We met Sara Emilie Terp Hansen @casc8, the founder of the bag brand Casc8, at the festival’s “Formers Showroom”, a display for previous showrunners. The Central St. Martins graduate is the creative genius of the brand that crafts handbags out of plastic waste. By working together with artisans in India, who were fed up with plastic waste destroying their surroundings, Sara explores the design possibilities of plastic and engages with the local community of weavers in Gujarat. The artisans wash, strip and finally weave the plastic by hand, creating modern and sleek designs, a functional mindset that she attributes to her Danish roots.
In using her brand she wants to tell an urgent story to consumers about the current excess of consumption. And what better way than to juxtapose traditional craft methods of artisans with the excess production waste of modern society. She hopes to expand the project in India and to establish connections to different parts of the world. When asked about the future of sustainability, Sara remains hopeful: “I think the ways of producing will improve. There will be more restrictions and laws on how you produce and there will be better alternatives to how the industry is functioning at the moment. It’s a collective effort of industry and consumers working together to eradicate waste and to come up with intelligent ways of manufacturing.”
Sara believes that fashion industry can function and deal creatively with certain restrictions. “…If you can’t just pick from whatever material you would want to work with, you must try new things and come out of the box. This is how we designers push things forward.” With the ingenious and environmentally conscious minds of designers like Rumpf and Hansen, we may finally find an equilibrium of oneness with fashion and the environment.
Words by Veronika Dorosheva
#1-4 Official catwalk images by © Etienne
#5-8 Photograph by © Casc8