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Upcycled fashion: Singaporean student-designers take on Temasek's Trash to Fash upcycling competition

Upcycled fashion: Singaporean student-designers take on Temasek's Trash to Fash upcycling competition

Teacher's rPET

Text: Ryan Sng


Fabrics woven from recycled materials are just one of the ways fashion is seeking to address its enormous carbon footprint. While many proponents of reclaimed textiles like rPET and Econyl — Prada, MCM, and Ralph Lauren included — are huge international names, there's a strong interest for them within Singapore as well.

Most hearteningly, local efforts to spearhead eco-friendly fabrics are being led by the next generation of designers. Temasek's inaugural Trash to Fash upcycling competition — part of its Ecosperity Week initiative — threw down the gauntlet to Singaporean students, three teams of whom we spoke to about their thoughts on thrifting, sustainability, and fast fashion below.

 

Team J.A.D.: Jane, Annabelle, and Dina

What are your earliest memories of fashion?
Dina:
When I was little, my grandmother owned a boutique where she sold her own baju kurung designs, and I would watch her make her samples at home.
Jane: I was around 10 years old, and DIY tutorials were getting very popular on YouTube. I was particularly inspired by videos where people revamped unwanted clothes, so I grabbed my paper scissors and started cutting up mine. My mom was obviously not happy, but that didn’t stop me!

What was the most difficult part, in technical terms, of realising your project?
Anabelle:
Applying Japanese boro techniques — mending through stitching or patching — because we had a wide range of unwanted clothes and textiles to work with, and needed to figure out how to make the colour palette work.

Temasek Trash to Fash upcycling competition Team JAD

What actions do you take in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint?
Dina:
I tend to buy secondhand clothes, or buy fewer pieces of good quality. I once tried owning a capsule wardrobe – where I only kept a few essential items that were easily styled together. It was interesting but challenging, as I like experimenting with different styles.
Jane: I shop thrift, not because it's affordable or because I can use my DIY skills to upcycle old clothes, but because I want to reduce my carbon footprint by not buying into fast fashion.

What are the biggest obstacles to widespread acceptance/increased market share of sustainable/upcycled fashion?
Anabelle:
Price. Consumers are driven by affordability, and prefer clothes that are trendy but cheap. They tend to think twice before purchasing slightly pricier, sustainable clothes as a result.

Temasek Trash to Fash upcycling competition Team JAD

What single item in your closet sparks the most joy?
Anabelle:
Definitely my thrifted Levi’s denim jacket, I got it for $10 and wear it all the time. 
Dina: A striped vest that used to belong to my mother. She bought it in Bangkok in the ‘90s, and although it’s been worn so many times throughout the years, it’s still in good condition, which tells me that it was well-made.
Jane: That’s a tough question because most of my clothes spark joy. If I were to choose just one item, it would be a brown, floral vintage dress that I bought from a thrift shop. It fits me really well, and I got it for only $7.90! I was so happy, and amazed at how good the workmanship was.

 

Team Ethicals: Teh Qian Yu and Kee Kai Xuan

What are your earliest memories of fashion?
Qian Yu (QY):
When I was younger, I’d sneak into my grandmother's closet to play hide and seek, covering myself beneath her oversized clothes or putting them on for camouflage. Eventually, the games of hide and seek evolved into games involving dressing up, where I’d descend the stairs of our home acting like a supermodel.
Kai Xuan (KX): My earliest memories of fashion would be of my mum wearing the same red dress every Chinese New Year, which we’d tease her for by telling her she looked like a red packet. Somehow, she made it look new each time. My mum still wears it, because it’s comfortable and she sees no reason to replace it.

What was the most difficult part, in technical terms, of realising your project?
KX:
Constructing a garment from rPET fabric, as its properties are unlike those of anything on the market.
QY: We had to do so many trials to figure out finishings.

Temasek Trash to Fash upcycling competition Team Ethicals

What can clothing producers do to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities?
KX:
Clothing producers should use more recycled materials, instead of virgin ones. They should also opt for natural dyes to reduce water pollution.

What can consumers do to reduce the carbon footprint of their fashion choices?
QY:
They can shop in-store more frequently to avoid purchasing something that does not fit them well, which they’ll end up neither returning nor wearing.

What are the biggest obstacles to widespread acceptance/increased market share of sustainable/upcycled fashion?
QY:
Consumers are attracted to sales, and tend to buy clothes only when they’re discounted. It results in them buying far more than they need.

What actions do you take in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint?
QY:
I only buy what I need.
KX: I only replace items when they’re no longer usable.

What single item in your closet sparks the most joy?
QY:
My green sweater, that reads "Bored of School". I wear it to class, obviously!
KX: My chocolate éclair-patterned shirt, which also has the onomatopoeia ‘ah-choo!’ printed on it. It gets a lot of laughs.

 

Team JIHK: Ivana Karin & Jessica Hartono

What are your earliest memories of fashion?
Jessica Hartono (JH):
I used to read a lot of fashion magazines, because my mum would buy them.

What was the most difficult part, in technical terms, of realising your project?
Ivana Karin (IK):
Juggling competition deadlines with our diploma program’s final year project/fashion show.

Temasek Trash to Fash upcycling competition Team JIHK

What can clothing producers do to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities?
IK:
They should use materials more efficiently, and try to be creative with waste materials.

What can consumers do to reduce the carbon footprint of their fashion choices?
JH:
Buy what you need, not what you want, and consider wearing secondhand clothes. Also, try getting something tailor-made or tailored to fit. Tailored clothes have far more meaning to the wearer than fast fashion.

What actions do you take in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint?
IK: I try not to overspend, use reusable bags, recycle empty cosmetics containers as storage, and never waste food.

Temasek Trash to Fash upcycling competition Team JIHK

What are the biggest obstacles to widespread acceptance/increased market share of sustainable/upcycled fashion?
JH: Limited options when it comes to style and silhouette.
IK: But through things like this competition, we’re trying to change that.

What single item in your closet sparks the most joy?
JH:
My jacket. I can pair it with any outfit I own.

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