Throughout London Fashion Week we have been taking a look at some of the student collections which are being showcased at H&M stores around central London as part of the H&M x LCF collaboration project. Today we visit The Playful Activists, by Dayun Lee and Dawn Kelso, currently on display in the Covent Garden H&M windows. Through their capsule collection Dayun and Dawn explored ways of re-using the abundance of baby and children’s clothing found in recycling, focusing on developing bright and colourful textile manipulations that utilised small fabric pieces. Wanting to raise awareness for the environmental and social sustainability issues connected to fashion, their garments use this playful aesthetic to communicate a deeper message. I interviewed Dayun to find out more about their design process and experience working on this collection.
Can you describe what it felt like as a designer to experience first-hand the clothes that are being discarded at the end of the fashion cycle?
Each garment I make is very special to me so if one of my designs were to be discarded like this I would feel really sad. The process of making one garment requires a lot of fabrication and labour and if this is being disposed of so easily it makes me useless and meaningless as a designer – I believe clothing is only given meaning by the people who wear them. Working with discarded denim I thought about the effort made by workers in different countries and the environments they are living in. I realised I have to think about how to prevent and recycle this energy in better ways, rather than design in a way that harms people and our environment.
Did you find yourself designing in any way differently to past projects? How so?
I was shocked when I saw the collected garments H&M provided to us, my first thought was how do I use these old clothes to create new designs? Making clothes from clothes is something I have never tried but I became excited when I selected garments and started to develop design ideas. Each garment part became an idea for shape, decoration, or function. We were interested in how Aiweiwei uses his art works to explore human right issues and we wanted to create clothes that also made a statement to our society. It was an interesting process, thinking about how to share issues through fashion. I included secret statements on the inside of one of my dresses and I realised this is something I should keep testing in my work. I have always wanted to be a designer who shares ideas with people through clothes and this has been the first project where I have actually tried to do this.
What were the biggest design challenges you faced during this project?
This project required me to analyse and think differently, I thought about my ethics and it was a great experience to do this. It has been a challenge to use old garments but I was able to test many different textile techniques. Designing the textile and shape required a lot of energy and exploration, and I spent a lot of time on fabric development and decoration. I thought about how I could fulfill my ethical and aesthetic goals and started by draping all the parts of the used garments to see what could be placed in a unique way. Making the collection look stylish was another challenge, although we were using recycled garments I didn’t want my designs to look like they were from an old wardrobe – I wanted them to look fresh, radical and wearable. It was difficult working with so many used garments and I suffered from the clothes dust, but it was a memorable experience and I utilised many different garments in my collection, including childrenswear, lingerie, sportswear and casualwear.
Having completed the project, do you feel you know more about fashion and sustainability? How do you think this might influence your design work in the future?
From this project I gained so much knowledge about social issues related to the fashion industry. I was interested in sustainability but I was not sure how to start combining this with design. This project expanded my aesthetic and made me realise there are no limitations in fashion. I learnt how clothes can impact the environment and I was shocked that the industry impacts lives so badly. We have a culture of consumption that seems spoiled and this has influenced my sense of design. I have to be aware of societal issues as a designer – I don’t want to make clothes that damage people or the environment. I want to change how people see the fashion industry.
Read more about this project in the previous blog post and go and see all of the collections up until the 21st September at the following locations: