Sustainable threads

Weekend Glitz | Lisa Kao 3 Jul 2020

New fashions don't require new raw materials.

It's an idea that has driven the Redress Design Award, the world's largest sustainable fashion design competition, for nine years.

The awards, now in their 10th year, gather creative minds from around the world to create innovative fashion projects. And now, all the winning designs are under one roof.

The Hong Kong-based environmental charity is holding a retrospective exhibition until July 31, showcasing nine award-winning fashion designs from past years at its new headquarters on Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po. The pieces will be displayed on rotation.

"The competition started in Hong Kong, then expanded to China before going global," said Redress executive director Nissa Cornish.

The awards started with just Hong Kong institutions before growing to 120 academies around the world this year.

As a result, the competition's creativity knows no bounds.

"All the pieces that made it to the final round are really innovative in terms of their approaches toward sustainability," she said. "It is not merely about using organic cotton, but sourcing sustainably and having innovative design techniques."

Exhibition highlights include an eye-catching rainbow knitted dress by 2017 winner Kate Morris, who completed the zero-waste dress by using a hula-hoop to give it a sculptural form.

Karen Jessen's 2013 winning design uses a variety of materials to give it a three-dimensional effect. Recycled jeans were used for the bodice panels and production surplus T-shirts for the fringed sleeves.

Cornish's personal favorite is by 2018 winner Tess Whitfort.

The Australian designed a zero-waste biker jacket with second-hand metal embellishments, and made zero-waste hand-painted linen trousers with end-of-roll textiles and eco-inks.

"It brings a very punk aesthetic," Cornish said. "It is technically very advanced and also has incredible zero-waste patterns and designs."

The stories of the designers' careers after winning the competition are just as inspiring as their designs.

"The very first winner of the competition, Janko Lam, built her own sustainable brand," said Cornish. Lam's brand, Classic Anew, was launched two years after her win, featuring organic fabrics with innovative Chinese traditional designs.

Kevin Germanier, 2014's winner, also continued to create sustainable designs after winning the Redress award.

Germanier's designs, which use only upcycled materials, have caught the eye of American celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, as well as Korean stars like Sunmi.

"He has become a celebrity darling and has been in the media constantly," said Cornish.

Cornish hopes that the retrospective exhibition will serve as a source of inspiration for upcoming designers, design students and educators, as well as the general public.

"We already have people popping in, and a lot of curious faces looking through the window," she said.

"We welcome anyone to come inside and have a look."

The new headquarters in Sham Shui Po is continuing the mission of Redress, as it is decorated with sustainable furniture and decor made from reclaimed and recycled wood donated by new partner Tree, an eco-wood furniture brand.

Originally located in a Central office building, the new venue allows the NGO to offer more exciting activities.

"We originally shared an office with others. Now, our own space allows us the flexibility to hold workshops, exhibitions and events," said the executive director.

With the retrospective exhibition marking the new space's first event, Redress is planning more activities, but the schedule is yet to be confirmed.

Redress is excited to engage in the dynamic of the traditional garment district in Hong Kong.

"Sham Shui Po is a source of inspiration for local and international designers, so our new home here resonates with our purpose: to drive positive change within the heart of fashion," said Redress Founder Christina Dean.

"As fashion faces unprecedented changes and challenges, our new roots in this dynamic, historical Hong Kong neighborhood give us a solid and vibrant base from which to positively influence the world."

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