Dian-Jen wanted to pursue a traditional fashion design pathway, but developed a love for sustainability, choosing to study MA Fashion Futures at London College of Fashion.
Did you always know you wanted to work in sustainability?
No, I started with the traditional fashion design pathway but I always know something is missing until sustainability dawned on me.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
LCF has the longest-running education programme when it comes to sustainability in fashion. Starting with the Fashion & Environment Course to the current Fashion Futures, LCF has professors and industry professionals that have been at the forefront of this area since 20 years ago. But of course, I didn't know this until I started the course.
I chose the course because I was referred to it unconditionally during my interview.
What key skills did you learn during the course that you still use as a designer and researcher?
For my role as a researcher, I find critical and holistic thinking, which I practice a lot in the course, very crucial to building the theoretical foundation of my practice. As a designer, cross-disciplinary communication and speculative design are still very relevant throughout the project pipeline.
Since graduating, which of the projects you've worked on are you most proud of?
It is difficult to say which project I am the proudest of, it is like picking your favourite children among all your babies.
Between design and research, where do you enjoy working the most?
I enjoy research-based design and design-based research. If it is only one of them, it is a lot less enticing for me.
You've only been working in the industry around a year, since graduating, what is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
In 2019, I co-founded Post Carbon Lab, a transdisciplinary design research studio that focuses on sustainability and dignity. As a resident at OpenCell, the only biotech startup community in London, we are piloting two pioneering microbiological processes with fashion designers and brands: bacterial pigment dyeing and photosynthesis coating.
What do you love most about your profession?
I love how it aligns with my beliefs and values without compromising the welfare of other species.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
At London Design Festival this year (2019), we will showcase our photo- bioreactors and incubators that are scavenged and free-cycled from London household waste while demonstrating our preliminary results of bacterial pigment dyeing and photosynthesis coating for textiles and garments. Fashion designers and brands that are interested in participating in our service pilots are welcome to get in touch with us for collaborations.
What plans do you have for your career?
I want to become an entrepreneur that rewards and promotes sustainable behaviour without prompting more consumption or production that was never needed from the start. The truth is that with the abundance of stuff we have now in London, apart from perishable goods, most production and consumption are unnecessary for subsistence. Post Carbon Lab is designed with this ethos in mind which is why we hardly ever buy raw materials, and when we do, it is only when we have considered all the options such as renting, upcycling, borrowing etc. To me, many businesses set up with a sustainable slogan have conveniently ignored the fact that the most sustainable thing to buy is what we already have.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sustainability?
There are many uncreated roles for young professionals that want to work in sustainability. It is important to acknowledge your definition of sustainability before you choose which areas you would like to devote to and sort out the priorities for you. Try your best to understand yourself and then decide who your beneficiary is and why it is significant for you to work towards it.
Ask yourself a lot of questions before making a decision, when you cannot answer, acknowledge it and work on it rather than avoid it. Dare to be different. Keep your skills honed. Be confident with your bold ideas while staying humble with immaturities and being honest with where you are. Don’t give up if you don’t get validation, it is not because your idea is not good enough but most likely because you are not friends with them. Sadly, sometimes being social is more important than the actual portfolio or skill, but if you can understand the human condition well enough, you can then reverse engineer it and allow it to work in your ways. Never stop learning once you recognised your shortcomings. Work hard and rest hard, play hard as a reward for good work.