The Dame Vivienne Westwood sustainable and ethical award is given to a student for designing and creating a sustainable, ethically aware and socially responsible product. The award is sponsored by Lenzing Group, a world market leader in the global textile and non-wovens industry, with a history of sustainably producing high-quality botanic fibers.
Fashion executives with particular expertise in sustainable textile manufacturing reviewed the work of several design students as part of London’s Graduate Fashion Week June 4 -7. Judges included Jennifer Thiel, Studio Manager at Vivienne Westwood’s “Gold Label;” Oya Barlas Bingul, Lenzing Group Business Development Manager; Amanda Johnston, curator and consultant at The Sustainable Angle, (a nonprofit supporting projects minimize industry’s and society’s environmental impact); and Tamsin Lejeune, Managing Director and Founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum.
The awarded design—which garners the winner a cash prize and a visit to The Sustainable Angle studio and The Ethical Fashion Forum—must embody and communicate sustainable and ethical practices, using sustainable raw materials with lower-impact manufacturing and production techniques.
“Catherine has a deep knowledge in the ethical side of the business. She translated sustainability in an outstanding and creative way which parallels the sustainability initiatives of the Lenzing Group,“ says Oya Barlas Bingul from Lenzing.
On June 5, the judges chose the work of Catherine Watts, a Fashion Design student at University of Salford, Manchester, where she has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, in Fashion Design, specializing in childrenswear. Catherine believes that designing without sustainability in mind is “illogical,” telling Carved in Blue that fashion has a role not just in sustainability but also in humanity more broadly—and that design can help teach even very young people about confidence and love. “With my childrenswear, I want so much to encourage children to love themselves for who they are,” she says. “I believe that if I can encourage children to feel comfortable and proud of who they are, then they will grow into strong adults with the confidence and integrity to make good choices and contribute positively to our society.”
Carved in Blue had a few more questions for Catherine, who is now at work on her own collection and in search of a job designing childrenswear. Her winning garment will be shown again at the Graduate Fashion Week event in October 2017 at the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament.
Carved in Blue: What is your career aspiration?
Catherine: I am currently looking for a full time role as a junior childrenswear designer, and looking to build my own brand (Henry Who?) part time.
Carved in Blue: Why do you like fashion design?
Catherine: I believe I can change the world with fashion. If you consider the entire journey of a garment, then you see that the fashion industry really is one of the biggest in the world. Because people need to wear clothes, there really isn’t a person in our society who is untouched by fashion.
I feel passionately about equality and humanism. I believe that good mental and physical health is vital, and this is linked with being kind, tolerant, and accepting to all people. I reject that we (people of the world) are cogs in a machine put here solely to make industry function. I believe that we are each individuals who have been blessed with life. Freedom should be a right and not a privilege.
With my childrenswear, I want so much to encourage children to love themselves for who they are. To celebrate people’s individuality and their quirks, as this is what makes each of us beautiful and interesting. I believe that if I can encourage children to feel comfortable and proud of who they are, then they will grow into strong adults with the confidence and integrity to make good choices and contribute positively to our society. This is how I will change the world through fashion.
Carved in Blue: What did you learn the most out of making this collection?
Catherine: I learned that designing, producing, and marketing a collection is really, really hard for one person. This is an industry which requires great teamwork and I think that’s a wonderful thing about fashion, as teamwork unites people. I believe that a feeling of “togetherness” is really important to a meaningful and full life. Much, much more than money or fame.
Carved in Blue: How important are textiles in our designs?
Catherine: Materials choice is vital in any product development, including fashion. The performance and suitability of a product for its intended purpose is embedded within the designer’s material choice. Furthermore, material has a great impact on society and our environment.
Carved in Blue: Do you design with sustainability in mind?
Catherine: Yes. I’d quite like to still have a world to live in in 10 years’ time. Doing something which is unsustainable seems illogical and, well, unsustainable… something which will not last.
Carved in Blue: Do you think consumers care about sustainability?
Catherine: Yes. However, I think that in some large cultures, the life cycle of a product has become removed. Many consumers aren’t thinking of where a product has come from, what it’s made of, and how its production and disposal have or will impact society and our environment, or indeed why that matters. Ultimately I believe that most people wish to make good choices in their lives, they just are perhaps too busy to thoroughly investigate complex topics such as sustainability.
Carved in Blue: What role do you see denim in fashion?
Catherine: Denim has an interesting history. I like hardwearing fabrics, as they are obviously long-lasting and practical, and this is, of course, ideal for children. I think that wearing strong fabrics can make a person feel strong, and strength is so important in a person.
Denim has a blotted history as far as social and environmental responsibility is concerned, though. I’m very pleased to learn about Lenzig’s developments with denim and I am excited to experiment with a new, sustainable denim.
Carved in Blue: Who is your fashion idol?
Catherine: I disagree strongly with idolization and celebrity culture. I believe that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that all people are equal. I respect a person who has more experience or knowledge than me in certain areas, but do not see anyone as more or less important than myself. Currently the most key role models in my life are my university tutors, as they have taught me so much from professional practice and being a good person right through to the obvious technical fashion skills. I imagine as I move into the next stage of my career in joining the fashion industry that this will change to someone else whom I respect.
Carved in Blue: What is your favorite pair of jeans?
Catherine: A pair of organic cotton spray-on jeans from Cheap Monday – I do love Nordic style.
Carved in Blue: What does Carved in Blue mean to you?
Catherine: Lenzing’s focus to educate people about sustainability.