Redress for the Runway – An Eco Fashion Show

Young designer Janko Lam wins the EcoChic Design Award competition for her collection, made completely from fabric scrap.

What happens when you combine high fashion with an environmental conscience? Something that’s eco-chic! As an advocate of eco-friendly living, I was thrilled to attend Redress for the Runway, a multi-designer fashion show that promotes sustainable fashion in Asia, held at the swanky W Hotel in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. The event was organised by Redress, a Hong Kong-based charity organization that drives environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. Going green hasn’t quite taken off yet in Asia, although we’re slowly warming up to the idea of reducing waste and recycling, so it was particularly exciting to be at a fashion event produced with this in mind.

Redress for the Runway presented two shows, the EcoChic Design Award and EcoChic Ready-to-Wear and Couture, and over 200 guests attended the event. Hong Kong celebrity Ella Koon, decked in a self-designed sustainable cocktail dress, joined the event as ambassador of Redress on the Runway.

Collections by EcoChic Design Award competition finalists came down the runway in the first show. Redress launched this design competition in January 2011 to educate young designers about sustainable design techniques – like zero wastage, up-cycling, recycling and reconstruction among others – that reduce textile waste. The casual wear garments were unique and creative, and braiding was a common element in all the contestants’ work, a simple technique that avoids the cutting and wastage of fabric. Winners Janko Lam and Fernando Chan received internships with British sustainable fashion designer Orsola de Castro and luxury jewelry designer John Hardy respectively. Later this year, Janko will also produce an eco-conscious capsule collection using recycled textiles for fashion brand Esprit.

Here’s what the winners had to say after the show:

What do you hope to get out of your internships?
Janko: I hope to learn a lot more! I feel like I’ve only just started learning about sustainable fashion and construction techniques.
Fernando: I’m hoping to learn new techniques and construction methods. These kinds of competitions are really important for young designers like us, because they give us the opportunity to expand our horizons.

What is the most difficult thing when it comes to putting sustainable design in practice?
Fernando: I think fabric choice is one challenge. For this competition, we were given scrap fabric from Esprit to work with and of course, the fabric quality was excellent. It certainly won’t always be the case. [Outside the competition], there will be loads of really gorgeous fabrics that we can’t use because they don’t fall under sustainable practice guidelines. It’s a challenge to constantly reinvent really old fabrics or to go out and source ones that are eco-friendly.

Ecochic Design Award Finalists’ collections on the runway.

International designers like Amit Ayalon, Reem Alasadi and Koyo Wiliam, renowned for their work in sustainable fashion, put on quite a show and I was blown away by the beautiful couture and ready-to-wear garments presented in this segment. Who knew that using fabric scrap and reconstructing and upcycling techniques could produce some seriously chic clothes! Now that was a show to get us hopping on the eco-fashion trend!

Couture gowns and ready-to-wear garments.

I managed to sit down with two of the designers after the show for a quick chat. Here’s what they had to say about their dresses, eco-conscious fashion and what they thought about the EcoChic Design Award finalists.

Hong Kong designer Dorian Ho is best known for his eveningwear designs. His ready-to-wear line is available globally. In 2005, he launched a bridal collection, now available exclusively in Asia.

Dorian, you were on the judging panel for the EcoChic Design Award. What did you think of the competition?
Janko’s collection was a clear winner among the judges. Her collection was creative and commercial, which are crucial because ultimately, garments need to sell. Consumers need to wear them. Some of the other collections had really complicated constructions that were a little bit overdone and it would take too long to produce these garments commercially. But at [the student level], I think all of them did a great job.

Eco-fabrics are a little difficult to source and sustainable design practices mean the construction process is longer. Would this have an effect on the price point of eco-friendly garments?
It does and that’s the challenge. [Designers] need to find a balance when designing commercially. For example, the dress I presented tonight was built from fabric wastage, which would have taken the dress a long time to construct, so I chose a simple silhouette to balance out that construction time [one way to ultimately lower the final price]. It’s all about finding a balance. A lot of the dresses you saw from the ready-to-wear and couture collections tonight also demonstrated this.

Dorian Ho’s couture gown made from the material found on fabric hangers. Oliver Tolentino’s gown made from macramé and recycled plastic.

US-based Filipino designer Oliver Tolentino has a boutique in Los Angeles and a clientele list that includes Hollywood actress Sofia Bush, singers Cee Lo Green, Kelly Price and Macy Gray.

Oliver, your dress really stood out with its bright aqua and green hues. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a macramé gown made of factory fabric scrap, drinking straws, plastic water bottles and plastic cans. The macramé [fabric that is knotted instead of woven] was produced by Rags2Riches, a for-profit social enterprise in the Philippines that helps women from the Payatas area create woven fabric from fabric scrap. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud of the gown, it’s really a combination of a lot of people’s efforts.

What kind of fabrics do you like to use in your clothes?
Lots of clothes from my collections are made from pineapple fiber, alpaca fiber (Manila hemp) and raw silk cocoon. [These eco fabrics] are really popular, a lot of my clients like Sofia Bush and Cee Lo like the pineapple fiber and raw silk cocoon.

How difficult is it to source these fabrics?
Actually the Philippines has been weaving these fabrics for about 500 years. We call [the pineapple fabric] Filipiniana fabric and it’s also used for the national costume. Right now I’m modernizing this fabric and hopefully the international market will embrace it.

Let’s hear it from you – what’s your take on eco-fashion and what are you doing to help the environment?

One comment on “Redress for the Runway – An Eco Fashion Show

  1. Amy Dang July 23, 2011 2:45 am

    ella koon looks amazing! 🙂