Redress, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting the sustainable development of the fashion industry, gathered a number of talented young designers together for their Redress Design Award contest. The Redress Design Award is rooted in concern and care for nature and the environment with the goal of educating designers about sustainable design techniques to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment. This year, the competition finalists were tasked with incorporating fabric remnants of Eastman Naia™ cellulosic yarn in their designs.
Although the 2019 season has come to an end, the work of these young designers has just begun. Recently, we interviewed one of the finalists, Maddie Williams, to learn more about the inspiration behind her work, her understanding of sustainable fashion design, and her views on the future of the industry. Hopefully, the work of these young designers from around the world can provide inspiration for others looking to move the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction.
First Prize Winner of Redress Design Award 2019
Maddie Williams hails from London, U.K, and is 24 years old. She graduated with a degree in fashion design from Edinburgh College of Art. She is now a junior designer at Pentland Brands.
When discussing her designs for the competition, Williams explained her inspiration. “We are all experiencing a level of conscious or subconscious ‘eco-grief’ at the destruction of the natural systems that support us. I wanted to make some work that was an expression of those feelings. The clothing represents a group of future mourners who have survived the collapse of contemporary civilization and are grieving the loss of a healthy planet and humanity.”
Williams incorporated Naia™ fabric remnants into her design and was very pleased with the results. “In this collection, I was using post-consumer waste [second-hand clothing that cannot be resold], slow-selling fabric, and slow-selling products from a discontinued carpet factory in Devon [U.K.]. I did a lot of screen-printing for my Redress collection, and the Naia™ fabrics took the pigment really well. The colors that came out were very vibrant, which was great!"
Williams, who claims to be a technophobe, found that the most interesting part of participating in the Redress contest is seeing the positive impact of innovative technology on the healthy development of the fashion industry. For example, she thinks that using body scanning technology provides a futuristic alternative to traditional tailoring and could enable custom clothing that is more affordable. Williams feels that could greatly reduce cloth waste, make people value their clothes more, and provide a stronger emotional connection.
Williams believes that, for designers working on sustainable fashion, it is very important to consider all aspects of fashion production—the source of materials, processing methods, sewers, target markets, and the final destination in the clothing’s life cycle. Each will have an impact on the environment, so every link should be made as transparent as possible to minimize the impact on the environment.
"I think the most important thing we can do is slow down and produce less. We shouldn’t produce more than two seasons [of fashion] a year. Not only is it generating excessive amounts of product, it also lowers the quality. When designers and manufacturers are forced to work on such tight deadlines, there is no room for creativity, thoughtfulness, or the development of sustainable solutions. It results in homogeneous, noninnovative product, with brands copying from each other and only considering what will sell . . . there is no room for risk-taking,” says Williams.
Regarding the future development of the fashion industry, Williams expressed her unique insights. "We have grown up relatively aware that the climate is changing and that human activity is responsible, in large part, for those changes. However, the climate crisis will impact different countries in different ways and in varying intensities and speeds. Countries in the southern hemisphere are going to feel the effects much sooner. So for designers based in those areas, climate change is very real and happening right now. I think the expansive global supply chains that make up the fashion industry are becoming less appealing to environmentally minded designers. Their sprawling, untraceable nature leads to a lack of accountability and transparency. Simplifying and localizing supply chains will allow designers to keep track of how their products are made and get to the consumer as well as allow them to better tackle the problems surrounding the end of life of garments."