Posted Wednesday 16 October 2019
With the climate crisis at the forefront of young people's minds, a Kingston School of Art MA Fashion student has swung into action, creating a sustainability-themed collection made from waste plastic she collected from a forest. Aura Olarean has created eight dresses, each adorned with clear, green or brown plastic, which she hopes will highlight plastic use and how the fashion industry can create a more environment-friendly approach to its practices.
A love of nature has inspired Aura's collection and informed the shapes that make up the multi-coloured unaltered plastic, some still emblazoned with expiry dates for its original contents. "I use a lot of flower shapes in my collection to reflect my connection to nature which I feel very deeply," she explained. "I want people to think about what they can do to use less plastic in their lives. If my work can inspire five people to use less plastic, I'll feel that it has all been worthwhile."
While researching her collection, the 23 year old's journey of discovery has opened her eyes to the impact of using plastic, particularly as there are few easy options for recycling in her home country of Romania. She decided to take it upon herself to make a difference, collecting waste plastic from Kingston University's halls of residence during the first phase of her design. "I used the opportunity to initiate conversations with my fellow students about the process of recycling," she said. "One million plastic bottles are made every minute and we need to cut down. I wanted to make a real difference and show my passion for sustainability, so I spoke to the community around me."
The plastic for her final collection was gathered from a forest in Sucevita, Romania. As Aura collected, cleaned and sorted the plastic, her concepts evolved in her mind. "Plastic takes up to 1000 years to disappear from the planet. I asked myself if I could possibly pull it together from somewhere and use it in my looks," she said. "There is a certain irony in using plastic to demonstrate beauty. I use naturally occurring shapes in my work because trees and flowers take carbon and change it into oxygen, whereas plastic suffocates the planet minute by minute."
One of the most impactful looks in her collection features thousands of pieces of waste plastic cut to resemble sequins, creating a shimmering kaleidoscope of colour that glides across the catwalk. Aura estimates she has spent more than 100 hours creating each look. Every dress has been cut and sewn by hand, with the specially crafted plastic embellishment painstakingly positioned in intricate patterns.
"I don't feel that when you look at the garments you can tell they are made from plastic," she said. "The collection is a combination that falls between haute couture and literal trash.
"The sustainable element of my collection is a very important part of the collection and of my newly launched brand. I haven't treated the plastic in any way so the garments can be recycled once they have finished their life."
Aura has mirrored her designs on installations found in art galleries, with the built up plastic on the garments symbolising the idea that the planet is being suffocated by plastic.
Completing a Fashion MA at Kingston School of Art, which is based at Kingston University's Knights Park campus, has given Aura added perspective about her future career in the industry. "I have matured more and developed a love of research which has informed my ideas," she said.
Head of MA Fashion Richard Sorger said the latest graduates, who will unveil their work to an audience of industry experts and some of the biggest names in the business at a catwalk show at the London's St Pancras Renaissance Hotel this week, shared common ground with their exploration of craft to its highest execution through clothing and fashion. "There are too many clothes in the world and therefore they need to not only be functional and desirable, but also to be ethical," he said. "Aura's collection is thoroughly researched and beautifully conceived to produce an empathetic response from truly outstanding garments. The amount of effort she has put in to the looks parallels the strength of her mission to raise awareness of single-use plastics."