The future of fashion is never mentioned without talks of sustainable methods of production, which is why Canada Goose tapped MA Fashion students of Central Saint Martins to create an exhibition titled “Keeping The Planet Cold”. In line with Canada Goose’s HUMANATURE platform, a commitment to seek out sustainable materials and design process, students were invited to create capsule collections inspired by the research scientists from the non-profit Polar Bear International (PBI), which are now being shown at the Lethaby Gallery. We had the chance to catch up with three students who each created unique pieces for the exhibition: Arianna, who has a feminist approach to design and creates functional garments for women, Chie, whose ethos is to create timeless pieces that last from one generation to the next, and finally, Yaku, whose design interests lies in Afro-futurism and creating a circular economy of his own. Keep reading to find out all about each students’ project and their views and approach on sustainable fashion.
Hi Arianna ! Tell me a little bit about the work you have done in this partnership.
I started from the brief itself, which was a very broad and specific brief at the same time. It was about functionality for scientists in extreme weather conditions. At that time, I was listening to this podcast about women in science, so I got really interested in bringing up this issue for my project. Then [my project] went into women’s functionality, because it’s a subject in design that is always put aside a little bit. Obviously, menswear design, it’s all about functionality, whereas women’s design it’s mostly about aesthetics. It’s always hard to make big pockets for women, because you don’t want to ruin the silhouette. I spoke to the women around me and asked what is the main thing that you need? Big pockets? Being able to go to the bathroom without getting completely naked? So this was my starting point and my development as well.
Do you think tomorrow’s designers have a responsibility to create clothing in the most sustainable way possible?
Yeah, definitely. I think design is about representing future worlds. So we, more than anyone else, have the responsibility to build that. With my designs, I always try to think of the durability, the slowness of [them] in the process. I think sustainability like it’s such an overused word right now. It’s about a lot of things and everyone needs to make it their own, according to their values.
How important of a role does art and/or fashion play in the fight against global warming?
To be honest, for me, I have a lot of activist friends and that’s actually their job. That’s what they invested time in, it’s really what their life is. So it is like someone else’s job and it’s a political job. People do that for a living. So I’m not saying that fashion should be about that. But we definitely have an impact on the public. So we need to try to translate that. It’s about the message. Actually it’s also more than the message. It’s about how we actually do things, because often it’s too much about the message and not about what actually happens behind the scenes.
Lastly, how do you think feminism and sustainability intersect?
What I tried to do with this project was also about that, in the sense that there are many things that intersect. I think feminism, sustainability, and environmental issues go hand in hand. I don’t think that we can live in a sustainable [way] and circular economy if we don’t reach women’s liberation in the whole world, because really it’s the same thing. For me, it comes naturally to think about it like that. Women labour, that’s another big issue of sustainability that is less talked about, but it’s also going to help us reach a world where we actually are sustainable in all senses, socially, economically and environmentally.
Hey Chie ! What did you decide to make for the exhibition and why? Tell me a little bit about the creative process.
It was a really good opportunity to work with Canada Goose. It was a really simple answer when I first got the brief, because I really wanted to design something for the researchers from the PBI, something they can really enjoy. [I made] nice looking, warm looks that they can work in and at the same time they can enjoy after for any occasion.
How important do you think it is for emerging designers to find more sustainable alternatives to dress making?
First of all, material is a very basic [aspect of] sustainability that everybody has to really consider. But the most important thing, we really have to have concepts or stories that really narrate what we want to say, so that there is a sentimental value to whatever you create. In my case, I always wanted to make something that you can pass down to the next generation. So that does add a lot of value to it. That’s more luxury for me when I want to make something really high quality that lasts. I think that’s more sustainable. Being timeless is definitely the point that I wanted to pursue in this project.
The exhibition is showing at the Lethaby Gallery is titled “Keeping The Planet Cold”. What does that mean to you and how do you integrate that motto into your work?
The jackets and the dress does make people warm, that makes the female researchers warm. But at the same time, the material keeps the planet cold, because everything I use, let’s say, the coated Nylon is from a recycled regenerated nylon. I really try to source as much deadstock fabric as possible. There are a lot of factories that do provide a really nice fabric that’s been used by brands, I’ve mostly used that.
How do you manage to carve out your own identity through clothing in a world which is telling us to reduce our consumption of clothes?
My work is not a mass production. First of all, it’s really hard to make, because it’s really tailored, it’s measured within the size exactly how I want it to look like on a body. Second of all, it’s always made for occasional events. I do want to say that it’s for both daily and also occasional, but I really hope that women can purchase it because they really adore it and it’s like a treasure – more like an archive piece that you will always keep in the closet. It’s not a fast fashion trend. It doesn’t go with the trend at all, because it’s really timeless. That’s how I would define my identity in a way. Even for the collection I’m making right now, it’s more like a wardrobe that women can always have in their wardrobe.
What’s up Yaku? What work of yours did you decide to showcase at the Lethaby Gallery?
I’ve showcased a polar bear semi trench coat, a companion bag, which is like a little friend or polar bear that you can carry and it’s a bag, and also a snow quilted pant. I think from all the drafting and ideas that I’ve come up with, these are the strongest and the ones that resonated closest with what I set out to make at the start of the project.
What were your initial thoughts when Canada Goose and CSM approached you to be part of the exhibition?
It kind of felt quite surreal, it didn’t feel that real. Like “oh, wow, this is actually happening”. It felt very professional, it felt like a next step in how I want to show myself as a designer. Having been able to show my work that I’d done with Canada Goose in this exhibition that the public can see was a really nice moment where you kind of just sit back and take a breath. And also, it’s really exciting because I get to show people what I’ve done, because it’s kind of been a secret. So it’s nice to be able to tell people like “look, come down, see what I actually do with my life”.
You are both a fashion and object designer. Tell me a little bit about your involvement with circular economies and how it affects your work.
It starts before anything’s been made. It’s in the approach of actually deciding how the garment is going to come about through patterns. I’ll try and limit waste through pattern cutting. Beyond that, it starts becoming a decision as to what materials you use, thinking about where you get those materials from, whether that be if they’re secondhand? Does it need to be something that you order online? Or can you find it local to you? Then I think beyond that, within my practice, without thinking about who exactly it is you work with when making things, so it feels quite rewarding, and it’s quite nice to be able to keep things close to my own environment, to work within a community. I guess even further from that I like the idea of shared information and access to processes, actually sharing a process in its complete form so that people can learn from it, critique it, take things, edit it, and give feedback. I think that’s a way I can actually build my own circular economy.
You are not afraid of using unconventional materials to create your designs, including once an old tent. What was the craziest material you have experimented with?
I tried to mould part of my body with almost a clay [material], which I then tried to heat-gun what I made from that with waste plastic, but it just all melted down together and made this ball of clay. It was pretty bad, so I had to leave that. I think the craziest [materials] are when you’re just working. I once was working really hard and I ran out of bedding to fill a jacket. I looked at my duvet and just started pulling that apart. By the time I went to sleep, I think I had half a debut left. It was summer so I thought “this is not a problem for now”.
How would you say Afro-futurism has affected the way you create clothes – whether through inspirations or production process?
Definitely inspiration and the desire for what I want to say within design. Afro-futurism, for me, creates this opportunity or sparks something in my mind. You can create a reality that’s different to the one that’s given to you. You can create a point of interest for other people, so I try to use it in that way. I also look back into my past and think of ways that I’ve maybe done it before, and then see if I can re-put myself in that process of escaping and creating a new world for myself in the present.
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