When Swiss Kevin Germanier was asked: “What is your dream school? Do you want to make cheese in a factory?” he had quite a clear answer: Central Saint Martins. Now in his second year on CSM’s BA Womenswear, he’s taking a course slightly different from his peers, and veers into the sustainable side of fashion through the means of upcycling and creating garments from materials that otherwise would’ve been waste. When Kevin was told about Ecochic Design Award competition, he applied, got in and scooped the first prize.

“When I was in Hong Kong for the competition; there was so much at stake: the prize and money, three months in Hong Kong and the chance to design my own collection for Shanghai Tang… It was a big deal.”

Who was your competition? Were they students or graduates? 

There were ten finalists. Ten countries are involved, and each country selects three semi-finalists. Out of these three semi-finalists, they choose one finalist to fly to Hong Kong and present their collection. I was with Katie Jones, who was on the MA course at Central Saint Martins. Her knitwear stuff was amazing! I thought that she was going to go through and I didn’t need to work on my collection. Then they told me that I was in and I immediately had to begin making it…

When was it, and what were you doing at that time?

It was September, and I was working on a pattern-cutting project when they called. There were seven designers and three students in the competition, and for the past few years, the designer has won…

It’s interesting that you’re a student at CSM and you get connected with these massive companies who aren’t known for their ideas on sustainability, but rather the opposite. As you interweave this topic into your designs, do you have an opinion on the practises of conglomerates?

Sustainability is not a trend. It’s something that is here and you have to consider it. We need to find a way to re-use fabrics. These brands also want to have a good image, and show their customers that they are aware of the waste. It’s kind of tricky, because can fashion really be sustainable?

It’s also naive to say that there’s not going to be any waste. When it comes to sustainability, every change becomes really big if everybody just does it in a small way. The big brands want to change because they know that they cannot continue to be like that anymore.

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Do you see this awareness in people that you are surrounded by?

There are some seminars about it, but what’s the biggest problem about sustainability in fashion design is that people like to choose everything. They want this particular colour, fabric or shape: they don’t want limitations. The more limits I have, the more active I feel, and I want to surprise people with the results.

It seems sustainability in fashion has got some kind of negative connotations to it. 

In my country, Switzerland, sustainable fashion means that it’s eco-friendly or green, but that’s not it. It’s about smart design. There is a negative connotation to it, but it is also our responsibility to change that perception. I wasn’t really interested in [upcycling] before, but I started to ask my friends for any leftover fabric to make samples. I even asked my grandmother if I could use her old dresses so I wouldn’t need to buy 20 metres of calico. I really don’t mind using someone else’s clothes because it’s cheap! You find a way to make it work!

It gives it more personality and character… Have your clothes changed the way people respond to sustainability?

The fabric for the collection consisted of my father’s Swiss army blankets. I hope that the end results don’t suggest preconceived notions of sustainable fashion, but that it’s possible to create something modern and elegant.

What were the challenges that you faces?

The wool army blankets were terrible to work with because they were smelly, dusty and very itchy. Even though the blankets doesn’t fray when you cut them, I had to brush 23 blankets!

Did you make it in Switzerland?

No I made everything here. There’s always at least one student doing the foundation course that presents a plastic dress or a dress inspired by a plastic bag. My biggest challenge was to prove that I didn’t choose the plastic bags to create a reaction, but to show that it can actually be treated as a fabric. You can use it for bags, you can knit it…

You’ve nailed the challenge!

11 pieces in one month and a half! Now, I’m ready for my BA!

Catwalk images by Redress

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