Last night we officially launched the H&M x LCF project with a London Fashion Week event hosted by H&M at their flagship Oxford Circus store. The response from the room was overwhelmingly positive, with real appreciation for the creative works on display. Showcasing the student works during London Fashion Week is not only a testament to the quality and thought that is evident in each of the collections but a statement that sustainability is and must be a growing part of London’s fashion culture – especially now we sadly no longer have Esthetica to support this agenda.
Today we highlight the collection Something New, by Jaehwa Rhee (Soorhee), Xuan Nga Le Pham, Dylan Groundland and HaLim Kim. Working with the recycled garments pushed this group to develop a zero-waste textile technique where collected scraps of unwanted garments were used to create a completely new fabric to work from. With a new and distinctive aesthetic, this reformed fabric became the starting point designing and making their collection. Interviewed Jaehwa Rhee (soorhee) to find out more about their sustainability concept and experience working on the project.
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?
It was exactly as named, disastrous. And I want to use the word “Irresponsibility” to describe what I felt. It is no wonder that the old and tattered garments that went out-of-style are thrown out. However, it seems to be true that people are least concerned about where the thrown-out clothes go or how they are handled after use. When I saw the condition of the garments it was impossible to find the original – colourful and splendid – shapes that they once were, and it made me felt a bit sad and bitter.
Did you find yourself designing in any way differently to past projects? How so?
Yes, I did. I thought it was refreshing and a totally new experience for me. In previous projects I have tried various approaches to designing such as modification of the patterns and details of the given concepts based on personal market research, and technical study. However, for this project, I was assigned to work on the concept of sustainability and fashion – which is both familiar and strange at the same time – and it made me think about the matter of designing from different directions. With this concept, I focused on “Rebirth” and “Reprocess” of the used garments, not creating an entirely new one. I worked in an attempt to transform not only the pattern or function of the given garments but also the characteristics of the fabric.
What were the biggest design challenges you faced during this project?
The biggest design challenge for me was how to approach the concept of sustainable fashion differently. There are somewhat uniformed or often used methods, like patchwork or reusing pieces of fabric and subsidiary materials of the waste garments. My final goal with this project using these basic techniques, but trying something new or unfamiliar. When I was investigating ways of upcycling, I came up with an idea of using the Alginate Foil. Alginate foil is a water soluble material (commonly called water soluble film). I have personally been using the foil in my works when I studied Fiber Art in Korea, so I was sure that I could create a new fabric that had different texture/look/characteristic from the original one. I believe that it was an important part for this project which differentiated our group’s work from the others.
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?
The answer is, undoubtedly, YES! First, this project helped me to understand the overall cycle of fashion design and consumption more and better: from the creation of raw materials/fabrics to production, distribution, and disposal of clothes. It also helped me to think about the potential environmental hazards caused by the waste of discarded clothing. With this project, I felt that fashion design also needs an approach to protecting our environment. It is not easy to understand and care for all of the processes involved in the fashion industry, but I thought that this environmental issue is an aspect that I should consider as a fashion design student.
Secondly, unlike this project made me delve into what I can get from the waste garments and what I can do to reuse the given materials. With the decomposition and recombination processes, I was able to understand cloth-making once again. Moreover, modifying the waste garments into something new was definitely a new and valuable experience for me. This project helped me broaden my horizons, and it made me think about my future career as a fashion designer: who can show the world that fashion is not just something fancy or luxurious but a functional and pragmatic (whilst still attractive) product.
Read more about this project in the previous blog post and go and see all of the collections up until 20 September at the following locations: