Sustainability As A Consumer: BA Fashion Design and Development graduate Eva Habanikova
2019 has been a big year for the fashion industry, and we're only half way through. The overarching topic of sustainability is hard to escape and more retailers are pledging to adopt sustainable practices in years to come. Sustainability was prominent in the LCF BA19 show at Here East, where graduates used sustainable methods and materials to create their collections. At LCF, we encourage students to research and implement sustainability within their work, but how do these principals differ as a consumer?
Hi, my name is Eva Habanikova, I am originally from a small central European country - Slovakia, and I’ve recently graduated from Fashion Design and Development after four intensive years including one year working in the industry. The course was a perfect fit for me, providing me with both technical, creative, and practical knowledge, freedom to explore both women’s and men’s design, different garment construction techniques, and also incorporated three live industry projects. This taught me crucial consideration of the industry’s varied markets and consumers and include this thorough research within creative design with purpose.
Could you give us a little introduction into the title and idea behind your sustainable collection?
The name of my collection, ‘Becoming’, is inspired by philosopher G. Deleuze and his theory about ‘becoming-other’, a constant repetition with a difference resulting in change. It is a story about an unknown creature’s metamorphosis in a futuristic utopia, exploring the connection between the human senses, body movement, and its environment. I imagined the rebirth of a human into an earthly being, a hybrid, who’s coming back to nature, reconnecting with themselves and others and combining natural instincts with the today’s knowledge of technological progress. The collection is only a small part of my whole proposal, complementing an idea about a multi functional space that stimulates all human senses called ‘Hybrid’, where people are encouraged to put down their phones and connect with their surroundings and pay attention to their senses. The space is meant to re-educate the current consumer behaviour and slowly help people implement sustainable and conscious living into their life without them even realising it.
What sustainable materials/methods did you use?
The whole collection is constructed from earth-friendly materials, fabric leftovers, and one dead stock fabric while incorporating the principles of circular design including the after-life of a garment.
I began by avoiding lining with different fabric, using various material compositions as design features in panelling etc. The garments solely require the owner to separate the trims (zip, button) in order for the remaining material to be reused/recycled. The ignition to my material exploration was pineapple leather ‘Pinatex’, which is a byproduct of the food industry, an animal-friendly/vegan option for real leather and is aimed to be biodegradable in the future as well. I used this almost paper-like material for creating a corset, harness, structured top, and am aiming to explore working with this material in the future. For dresses, pants, and tops I used hemp and tencel for their hypoallergenic and durable qualities to provide comfort and freedom of movement. I got very inspired by a GOTS cotton canvas covered in beeswax, which I used for its water repellent quality instead of plastic.
Aside from a design perspective, how do you maintain your principles as a sustainable consumer?
I’ve grown up in a post-soviet country, which actually means I was in many ways lucky because I haven’t lived under the Russian oppression anymore when Slovakia was closed to the world. The negativity of the past, however, brought positivity to the simple way people lived that at the time wasn’t appreciated because we didn’t face environmental issues the way we do today. Growing own vegetables and herbs, raising animals in good conditions, and taking good care of and repairing not only clothes but also tools and everything else came to people and also to me very naturally.
Thanks to my upbringing I am used to knowing how to fix things including clothes and prefer to own my mum’s or grandmothers’ vintage clothes, buy locally and mainly second hand. Apart from being considerate about the planet I also save a lot of time and money buying things I don’t actually need and instead wear clothes that carry a story.
What inspired you to take an interest in sustainable fashion?
My serious interest in sustainable fashion grew mainly during my year out in the industry when I came face to face with the reality of unethical, damaging, and wasteful production of clothing. Everyone seemingly knows what happens in the manufacturing chain, but I guarantee it helps when one deals with it first-hand, because it can easily feel like we are not part of it if we aren’t facing it every day, myself included. Knowledge and information is key. Apart from professional experience I noticed a big shift in the way young people started actively seeking or at least questioning companies’ transparency about manufacturing and stopped consuming as much as they used to. This gave me hope and a big push to try my best to become one of the many voices out there to spread word about how big brands work and why is it so damaging for our planet. I am certain I have only dug one level down and want to continue my education in sustainability and keep on questioning it.
Do you think that entirely sustainable fashion will eventually take priority within the fashion industry, or do you believe that the concept of fast fashion will always win?
I believe there is hope for the fashion industry to try to be as sustainable as it can, however, it’s a massive and complex system that is very difficult to change. The costs of shifting such a money-making business are vast and not many are up for taking on the challenge. I hope brands will address all aspects of sustainability including ethics and transparency and believe we won’t get lost in the numerous descriptions of what sustainability means. The change towards better is already happening, but in order to have an effect in the near future it needs to speed up.
I wish for all young designers and students to sneak their ways into powerful positions where they can actually make a bigger change with their knowledge and hope for everyone else to question more and buy less.