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LCF join 'Circular Fashion' at the Dutch Centre

people on a panel talk
  • Written bySubuola Makinde
  • Published date10 March 2022
people on a panel talk
Circular Fashion: Where are we at in the UK and the Netherlands? 2022. Image from Dutch Centre UK.

With the wellbeing of planet Earth a key issue and the rise of sustainability in fashion as an important theme for contemporary design; it’s no surprise that the sustainability themed event held at the Dutch Centre in the heart of London was such a success. The particular focus of the evening was ‘Circular Fashion’, which refers to garments and footwear made with the intention of being used and circulated within the fashion chain for as long as possible, and safely returned to the biosphere at the end of their life cycles. With the tagline ‘Where are we at in the UK and the Netherlands?’ The event aimed to highlight the most recent global advancements within Circular Fashion, taking into account the potential symbiosis between the two countries through the opportunity for networking between businesses, individuals, and institutions.

Among the speakers were recent LCF graduates Vishal Tolambia and Samantha Mills, who have undertaken inspiring projects relating to Circular Fashion; Aniela Fidler Wieruszewska – LCF alumna, designer and winner of The Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion and Professor José Teunissen, UAL, London College of Fashion Dean for the School of Design & Technology. The evening consisted of a number of exciting presentations relating to work being done, with the audience then being given an opportunity to ask questions.

Samantha Mills’ compelling MA Fashion Futures project on a potential 3D printed cobbler repair service for trainers intends to significantly reduce the current skyrocketing of demand for new trainers. She highlights some of the negatives of her system, which aims to see 3D printing allow for self-repairs in the future.

People at a panel discussion
Circular Fashion: Where are we at in the UK and the Netherlands? 2022. Image from Subuola Makinde
How much did you pay for your 3D printer?

So I actually bought one for £300, but usually if you want good quality and depending on what size you want to print at, then you would need to get a more expensive one.

How standard is the design of a trainer when you dissect it? Is it just the outside of the sole that you’re redesigning, or would you be designing to fit the shoe?

So it would need to fit exactly to the trainer style, there are many different trainer styles so you would customise it according to the actual trainer. For this one it’s mostly about the outside of it, because the material of the bottom of it is not compatible for this. It’s potentially just the outside aesthetic.

Vishal Tolambia’s goal of ‘Humanity Centred Design’ saw him actually put together a local circular waste system in Pushkar, Rajasthan India… The idea is to somehow manage to transform old offcuts and fibres from garment factories into ready-to-use yarn. Vishal’s system wowed audience member’s through its ability to demonstrate the Circular Fashion model in such a simple way.

On what scale do you think this could be used?

In the Pushkar region around 150 registered manufacturers are there. In [this region], I believe there are more than 200 [including unregistered manufacturers]. The system currently works [with all these manufacturers] in Pushkar, but it can be developed all around India. There are more than 7000 of these that work in the fashion industry all around India.

Aniela Fidler Wieruszewska’s Community Culture project aims to bring people together through their love of clothes, whilst integrating principles based around Circular Fashion.

Woman speaking on microphone
Circular Fashion: Where are we at in the UK and the Netherlands? 2022. Image from Dutch Centre UK
Can you tell us a bit more about your project?

So I'm interested in relationships that we have with products, and specifically I'm interested in design for sharing. When I say sharing, it means conversational designs, so things that start you talking with one another. But also designing an object that has this idea of sharing them, and ingraining them. You can build communities that way, you can keep products longer in use, when we share things often we feel more responsible for them collectively.

Not everyone is aware of what Circular Fashion is exactly, would you be able to elaborate? You have a beautiful example there.

For me, circular fashion is making the ‘circle’ really big, and keeping things in use as long as possible, so a garment does not complete a full circle quickly. When we talk about Circular Fashion we often talk about recycling, for me the true vision behind Circular Fashion is just making the circle bigger and bigger. So it’s about reusing, renting, then recycling as a last resort.

Professor José Teunissen highlights the glaring issues facing the fashion industry, and takes the audience through the promising steps being taken by London College of Fashion.

When I think of sustainable fashion, I think of overproduction and landfills, can you tell me about the extent of the problem?

I think to start with, fashion is a push market, which means you have a large quantity of products that sell, maybe one third sells for normal price, 30% sells in the sale, and there’s a lot of things that actually are never being sold and are just kept in stock rooms or are just waste[d], that’s one problem. I think the other problem is that we started to outsource in the 1960s and 70s due to new trade agreements, but that got really bad when fast fashion started to kick in in the 1990s, when we started to get the bottom to make things as cheap as possible without actually knowing how things are made. I think also, the fashion industry has become very fast, it used to be seasonal products, and now we can buy a new product every day, and of course we need to eat every day but do we really need all the new stuff? In the Middle Ages it was very high standards, quality was respected as gold, but now we don’t know what kind of effort goes into the making of a t-shirt, we don’t respect it anymore.

The event undoubtedly achieved its goal of highlighting Circular Fashion, and regardless of the size or current stage of the project, each presenter continues to make their own contribution to the Sustainable Fashion industry. Whilst we still have a long way to go in fashion on the sustainable front, it seems the push towards ecological equilibrium is not in vain.

Captured and written by Subuola Makinde - MA Fashion Journalism.

People speaking at a panel talk
Circular Fashion: Where are we at in the UK and the Netherlands? 2022. Image from Subuola Makinde