Enthusiasm, passion and commitment is ever present in CSM finalists Sara Kiani and Annie Mackinnon, who unfortunately (and unjustly) didn’t win the competition. This has by no means dampened their fervour for a sustainable design practice, one which acknowledges the problems the fashion industry faces, whilst not sacrificing creative, considered craft.
Can you tell us about collection inspiration and also your fabric choices?
Sara: I just thought, what is there a lot of? Bed sheets are like a blank piece of paper, a blank slate, you can do whatever you want with them, so I utilised second-hand sheets. I asked a local hotel about sponsorship and they were really supportive, but it turns out that they rent their sheets from a laundry service, as most hotels apparently do! So, I got in contact with a laundry service right outside of London. Every morning, vans deliver fresh sheets to the hotels and collect all of the dirty linens. If there’s a tiny hole or stain they have to dispose of them, so those were the ones I was given. The service was actually great about sustainability: a lot of the sheets are donated to a monkey house, and others are made into cleaning supplies. I wanted the work to be modern, peaceful and pure, and I looked at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Asian collection to see Chinese garments and their construction. I also looked at some traditional paintings, but I wanted to create more of a mood than a theme.
Annie: I really liked this painting by Henri Matisse of people lying around in a garden (Bonheur de Vivre, 1905), where it’s all bits stuck together, so I was trying to collage and print on textiles that were tacky or unwanted, to make them desirable again. I also took inspiration from Matisse’s cutouts and paintings by Karel Appel and Kandinsky: it was based on developing zero waste textile ideas that would use up all the scraps I created from cutting out the garment’s pattern pieces. I collaged, weaved and pleated these scraps; then printed and painted over them. This meant dragging around a bag full of tiny scraps of fabric for weeks. For the fabrics I used up-cycled synthetics from secondhand bedding and curtains, and wool that was purchased from a remnant fair on Berwick Street. In hindsight, it would have been better to use fabric that was actually ready to be landfill waste: I could have easily hidden tears or stains with my textile process, and just up-cycling old curtains and bedding isn’t really good enough, because they were still in good condition.
Why did you enter into the competition?
Sara: It was a bit of a coincidence. In the summer, I was doing my last internship in London during my placement year, and felt a bit disenchanted with the industry. So on my day off, I went to see Maria Nishio’s short course presentations: it was all about sustainable fashion ideas. There was this big group of girls of all ages, who were all so kind-spirited and forward-thinking that you couldn’t leave the room uninspired. After class everybody was exchanging ideas, thoughts, phone numbers etc. It was so cool to see people share creative solutions together and inspire each other. I got completely hooked by the vibe, and I heard about the competition. I looked it up with some doubt, ‘Eco’ projects never sound too appealing, do they? But I was amazed and totally impressed by the level of work and creativity, and I thought ‘I want to do that too!’
Annie: As for me, I wanted to learn more about sustainability and also wanted to visit Hong Kong!