During Graduate Fashion Week 2019 we spoke to one of the many inspirational fashion design graduates featured, Navneet Virk from De Montfort University about her journey into sustainable fashion…
What inspired you to work with textile waste?
My curiosity into the ethical and environmental effects of the industry is something that has grown throughout my studies. This includes questioning the practice I was taught as I found it very frustrating continually using new materials for my projects which would aid my creativity and skill but ultimately never be worn. There are hundreds of fashion courses in the UK alone which amount to thousands of new garments which will most likely end up unworn or thrown away. The realisation of this and our general nature for viewing fashion as disposable is what lead me to create my final collection. I wanted to explore how the skills I had been taught could be used in different way- to transform textile waste.
I decided to use materials that were regularly seen as disposable because of their low cost and accessibility. Denim has such a rich history as a popular material due to its adaptability and durable nature, however, it is extremely resource heavy and easily discarded with the trends.
My aim was to reduce the amount going into the landfill through the technique of multiple garments compacting into one. The denim jean turned skirt, is made from 18 pairs of jeans sourced from charity shops. These were cut into strips, ironed, then over 500 strips were individually twin needled onto a base fabric of donated dead stock material of 100% silk. Working with denim in this way created a fabric with structure but also movement that would have great impact. It was really important to me that people would first be drawn to the beauty of the design in order to sell the potential for sustainability.
As a young fashion designer in 2019 do you feel a responsibility to work sustainably?
100% yes, I believe all young designers should feel a sense of responsibility because the choices we make will impact our future. It’s a really exciting time to be a young designer because current problems with the industry are really pushing you to think in a different way.
However, I think it’s important to realise that there are a lot of different elements to sustainability, it’s a very complex subject and every day I am learning more. I think as the word is becoming more of a trend we have to be careful not to lose its meaning and simply use it as a marketing technique.
I would advise young designers to find a specific area within sustainability that really resonates with them and be an innovator within that. There so many ways we can make a positive impact in the industry, you don’t need to cover everything! If we create a whole generation of creatives who are attacking the same problem from different angles, it has the potential to reshape the entire industry!
Do you feel education has prepared you to work as a sustainable fashion designer?
I think fashion education provides the skills and understanding of the design process but it’s up to you to look at what is happening around you and find an area of the industry you want to impact. Nevertheless, as the popularity of sustainability is growing within universities it’s exciting to see changes happening to the curriculum but I think we still have a long way to go!
It would be great to see every fashion course have specialists available to guide students in the area of sustainability. I believe it’s now just as important as having a pattern cutting, design and illustration specialist.