Ecouterre is the official media sponsor of the 2012 EcoChic Design Award.
China ushered a new era of sustainability late last month when it hosted the nation’s first mainstream eco-fashion design competition. Organized by Redress, a Hong Kong-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of the Asian fashion industry, the 2012 EcoChic Design Award China presented the textile-waste-reducing designs of 10 finalists to an audience of over 500 industry representatives. While all the designers showed great promise, the top prize went to Gong Jia Qi, a student at the Raffles Design Institute in Shanghai. Gong, who was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, reconstructed five garments using unsold stock from Taobao, one of China’s leading online retailers. We checked in with Gong to talk about her experience, what sustainability means to her, and how she intends to parlay her win—with a little help from Esprit—into a full-fledged career.
FASHIONING THE FUTURE
What inspired you to enter China’s 2012 EcoChic Design Award?
My joining was really a matter of great timing. I had just started to get inspired by reconstruction and I was looking for ways to source and develop fashion-forward clothes using unwanted stock clothing. I learned that Redress was holding China’s first sustainable fashion design competition and I was inspired to join because I realized that the competition would help me to understand sustainable design much better.
I realized that the competition would help me to understand sustainable design much better.
What inspired your designs?
I bought a sweater with a bold star pattern on it—which would later turn out to be my iconic collection piece—from Taobao last winter. But after wearing it a few times, I cast it away because I found that too many people were wearing the same sweater on the street. But then I noticed a post on a popular online forum titled “Let’s talk about those styles which are going to or have already run rampant on Taobao.” This particular post covers styles that were once big fashion hits but soon suffered poor sales because people got tired of seeing them all over the place.
This alerted me to the phenomenon of such Internet transactions, where both sellers and buyers demonstrate a kind of bad decision-making of supply and demand, which ultimately results in a backlog of fashion garments and subsequent waste. So, I decided to use these types of mismatched online retail occurrences and reconstruct some of these overstocked but suddenly unwanted clothing.
[Sustainable fashion] allows design to become an effective solution to environmental social problems.
How important is sustainability to you?
I am very interested in sustainable fashion design because it combines fashion design with environmental and social development. It’s about more than the designer’s aesthetic expression or about meeting the needs of a typical group of customers and instead it allows design to become an effective solution to environmental social problems. Personally, it makes me feel that it’s not difficult or impossible to share environmental and social responsibilities as an individual.
What are your plans for the future?
Now, I’m designing a sustainable collection using innovatively recycled textiles for Esprit. I will then finish my studies. I sincerely hope to develop as a sustainable fashion designer.