Kering Award Finalist: Alyson Tobin

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Over the next few months, we will be introducing you to each of the ten finalists for the Kering Award for Sustainability 2016, ahead of the winner announcements in November. Since January 2016, these students have been developing and refining their sustainability projects, and presented them to an esteemed panel of judges from Kering, the London College of Fashion and each of our partner brands, luxury suit company Brioni and vegetarian, fur and leather free company Stella McCartney.

BA Cordwainers Footwear student Alyson Tobin presented a ‘design for disassembly’ concept to judges from Stella McCartney for her Kering Award project. Aly grew up in Bermuda and Switzerland, and so spent her childhood surrounded by nature, during which time she was encouraged to love the world around her. However, sustainability was not something that featured in her design practice until she interned at fashion houses in New York City. She was shocked by the amount of waste produced on a daily basis, and the disregard for products once they were no longer new or ‘of value.’ This experience encouraged her to research into sustainable fashion, and she began to explore product life cycle development in footwear. ‘Having studied at Cordwainers College for the past 3 years, I have gained an in-depth knowledge of footwear from the beginning design stages through to material sourcing and then making prototypes. I have spent the last year exploring footwear as holistic pieces and considering every separate component within each shoe, and experimenting with unconventional ways to put footwear together.’

For the Kering Award, Aly decided to use shoes as the medium through which to demonstrate one way to create a more sustainable future for Stella McCartney, and present a model that could later be expanded to other departments within the company. ‘I proposed to re-imagine footwear with the intention of disassembly at the end of the product’s ‘useful’ life cycle. There are different waste management options for footwear and the best option for moving towards more of a closed loop system is disassembly. This would enable components to be separated and then potentially recycled, reused or decomposed. Stella McCartney is already partnered with Fashion Positive and working towards a Cradle-to-Cradle accreditation, and by designing with a new framework this goal can be achieved starting with footwear.’

Aly chose to focus on a Stella McCartney bestseller, the Elyse shoe, to demonstrate her idea, and came to the final presentation armed with the component parts of the shoe disassembled. She then explained which parts could already be reused, recycled or decomposed, and which would need to go to landfill. She also explored the simple changes that could be made to the construction of the shoe, or the materials used to make it, that would allow it to disassemble more easily, or more parts to be reused or recycled. ‘A new circular business model will encourage internal growth, decrease resource dependence and improve resource productivity. Overall, creating products with more long-term considerations is the next step for not only fashion but for all industries, and I believe Stella McCartney and Kering can be pioneers in applying circular economic principles through designing for disassembly.’

The Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion is part of a five-year partnership launched in 2014 between Kering and Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion, UAL, to support sustainable practices and innovation in the fashion industry. The partnership is three-fold and also includes an annual lecture – The Kering Talk – and a co-developed Masters’ level curriculum on sustainable design.

Keep your eye on the blog to hear about each of the other finalists, and for the all important winner announcements in November. And you can find out more about the LCF x Kering partnership here.