How eco-friendly approach, sustainability and technology made it big for the Woolmark Prize winners
Earlier this month, on January 9, Matthew Miller and Ruchika Sachdeva (Bodice) - from the British Isles and India - bagged the big win of International Woolmark Prize for Menswear and Womenswear in Florence. In addition, the USA’s DYNE has been announced as the winner of the inaugural Innovation Award. We catch up with Ruchika Sachdeva, Matthew Miller and Christopher Bevans on their collection and future projects.
Reinvention meets recycling
With upcycled sari as a base, coconut shells for buttons and an ayurvedic colour palette, Ruchika Sachdeva, BODICE, believes in ancient age old-techniques and bringing them to life in contemporary ethnic and modern manner. "The craft is definitely not limited to the place it comes from and people like me have to continue exploring these options to keep them alive globally," says the Delhi-based designer. Drawing inspiration from Kantha embroidery, Ruchika's collection is about recycled saris made of recycled yarn by giving a running stitch to complete them. "What was so surprising to me was that our grandmothers and mothers used to practise this without even realising that they were re-inventing something. So this was a concept that I wanted to weave into my collection. She has used merino wool as a base and mixed it with fabrics like cotton, linen and zari. " Merino wool is a natural fabric, easy to work and very transitional in terms of weather conditions- warm in winter and cold in summer," she shares. Keeping plant-based dyes in mind, the designer has worked with Bio-Dye unit in Sawantwadi, central India, which makes colours from natural sources. The palette comprises of navy and forest green mixed with pink and green pastels. Among the highlights of the design elements are the buttons made of coconut shell. "They are hard but light. I've also used seashell and wood and will use more of them. This is the only way to avoid plastic," she says. Talking about her silhouettes," I made few jackets and pants for all seasons." She will be working on an extension of this line.
From marble fasteners to natural rubber prints, Mathew Miller keeps his collection relevant to the society and environment-friendly. "I love how not one piece of marble you cut is the same and that it provides a luxurious alternative to the more commonly used materials, just like Merino wool does. Both wool and marble are a perfect match for natural luxury," shares the British designer. He has blended merino wool with wool fleece to give the outwear a new aesthetic feel, wool and silk for knitwear and vulcanised wool for water resistance. "We put Merino wool through a process that was first pioneered in the United Kingdom by an inventor called Thomas Hancock. It's a process that prints natural rubber on the surface of the fabric (originally trialled with cotton) and this makes the Merino wool fabric completely water resistant. All the garment seams are then welded together instead of being stitched (as a stitch would create a hole allowing water to get through the garment)." Inspired by designer and philosopher Dieter Rams, British designer Matthew Miller took the idea 'form follows function' to add multifunctional elements like detachable belts, caps and bags which makes the collection modular and enables them to all attach to each other when they are not being worn, creating the functionality of each piece that is part of a look. Rather than a monochrome palette, this season he has introduced olive and camel among the other blues and greys. "My biggest challenge was transporting the Merino hide to Napoli along with the finished lengths of wool and having the bonding process fail several times before getting the exact temperature right," he shares. The designer concludes with, "I believe that every year the fashion industry gets greener and greener! I truly believe that green is the new black."
Innovation on a snowboard
While the other two winners focused on slow fashion and sustainability, Christopher Bevans went one step ahead by bringing a twist with technology. Inspired by learning to snowboard in the 1980s - in a wool bomber jacket - the collection of DYNE’s Christopher Bevans comprised a technical snowboarding wardrobe, complete with an NFC chip in the water-resistant wool jacket to track users in avalanches. "The snowboard outfit was inspired by my love of the sport and growing up riding from the mid 80’s to present. So we sourced wools that lend itself to the outdoors, made sure that they had all of the specs you would expect a SnowBoard outfit to have," shares the US-based designer. He has been working with the NFC chip for five years. But while implementing it in design, they had to make sure about the washing standards and not to keep the whole look cumbersome. "I wanted to find a way to interact with your mobile device, creating a bridge between our brand and the end consumer," says the 23-year-old. Apart from this, his athleisure includes tailored luxury sportswear for both genders. Although he believes sustainability to be 'the word' in the fashion industry for 2018, expect his next innovation with mobile phone soon in his upcoming project.