Innovating means improving what is already existing. However when it comes to social responsibility in fashion and the impact it has on the planet, it seems that there is no other way than trying to avoid the matter after all the scandals the industry has been facing. Sustainability seems no longer to be some sort of cherry on the cake but has become a real target.
This year at the London graduate fashion week, the recycling of materials were very popular among the students of University of Arts of Edinburgh. The event was at first created in order to give the opportunity to all universities across the UK to showcase their graduated students’ work.
In the past few years special emphasis has been made on innovation in sustainable fashion and iconic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, fervent defender of sustainability in fashion, has become one of the patrons of the event. At the Gala Awards ceremony, many collections implementing recycling and reclaimed materials such as plastic or reclaimed denim conquered the jury.
Among those collections, the extra large plastic pants and coats of Maddie Williams, graduated student of the Edinburgh College of Art, were presented among the finalists.
We seized the opportunity to ask her about the starting point of her collection, consisting of reclaimed materials (yarns, plastic bags). She shows how recycling can be a way to open up to other possibilities no less innovative.
When asked about the idea to use reclaimed materials for her collection, she confesses that it is something that she was naturally drawn to, claiming her love for the process of making new stuffs from old ones.
“I enjoy that challenge, and the way it guides and informs your work, you are almost controlled by the material.”
She explains that her collection was done with the aim of creating something with a low impact on the environment and achieving it with a very low budget.
The first idea that came to Maddie’s mind was to use reclaimed material, some of which were very unexpected and given for free. The second way she thought she could do that was to implement renewable materials like sheep fleece in her collection.
“Some of the strange reclaimed materials that were involved in my collection are: an old army surplace parachute, Yurt window offcuts, damaged Royal Mail sacks, old tarpaulin and unwanted duvets.”
She spent a lot of time deconstructing the material she found and then carry on with the weaving of the plastic threads using a machine and finally incorporate the embellishments. In brief, it consisted of a very meticulous work added to that the handling and transformation of very complex material. In order to build this collection, Maddie had to go through a lot of research and preparatory tests.
“I discovered most of my textiles through trial and error. Would they work as a woven textile, applied, stuffed, or printed on? It involved lots of development and testing, and lots of mistakes until I chose my final selection of textiles.”
The 5 prototypes and the full collection were made in less than 3 months.
“I was really interested in proving that making an ‘eco’ collection doesn’t necessarily have to limit your creativity or vision, in fact, it can even push it forwards and make it more interesting and avant guard.”
She developed a narrative concept that underlines the commitment behind that collection:
“A group of six Goddess-type figures who strike fear into the hearts of harmful Corporations ”, ”They create their clothing from the waste left behind by earlier societies and from renewable materials they cultivate themselves.”
“I definitely think that originality can help the fashion industry become more sustainable. Increasingly consumers want to shop in a way that wont contribute to the suffering of workers or the exploitation of the planet.”
“I love the colours you can achieve using plant dyes, I think people would be surprised at the variety that can be made and the intensity of colour.”
Maddie is a young designer who totally committed to making fashion more sustainable and less harmful. She dreams of a career that will help her develop her own vision of fashion, share her values through her creations, journalism or militant act.