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Repurposed school uniforms and plant-dyed clothing among sustainable collections produced by Kingston School of Art fashion students

Posted Monday 8 November 2021

Repurposed school uniforms and plant-dyed clothing among sustainable collections produced by Kingston School of Art fashion students ReUniform is a collection made entirely out of unwanted school uniforms. Photo credit - Sherman Wong

Two postgraduate fashion students from Kingston School of Art have been recognised for their efforts to turn textile waste into sustainable fashion. Their upcycled collections made it to the final of the Redress Design Award 2021, a sustainable fashion design competition held annually in Hong Kong.

Model wearing a look from the REuniFORM collectionThe ReUniform collection features ties and ruffles that can be detached to make the item customisable. Photo credit - Sherman WongLili Sipek's collection called ReUniform aims to provide a solution to the large amount of waste that results from unwanted school uniforms. Using patchworking techniques and quilting, she reconstructed second-hand school uniforms donated from schools in the Kingston area, into high-end fashion garments.

The international student produced her collection in response to her research which highlighted 1.4 million wearable school uniforms are thrown away in the UK each year. "I have school-aged children in my family and knowing how many uniforms goes to waste each year inspired me to create this collection and try help solve this issue," Lili said.   

The clothing is designed to be multi-functional and customisable. "I made ties out of white school shirts to add detachable elements to the garments. By taking off these ties, the sleeves can be shortened, the long trousers can be made into shorts, and the pockets can also be detached," Lili, from Hungary, explained. "I also added old school shoelaces to the bottom half of the dress so that when the laces are pulled, it transforms into a short top," she added.

Her collection explores the zero-waste fashion practice, generating little to no textile waste in its production, while also encouraging the re-use of garments in support of a circular fashion economy. "I didn't want to use any added hardware like zips or buttons, so it's easier to recycle afterwards and instead reuses all the material from the unwanted uniforms," Lili explained.  

Model wearing Kristina's crochet collectionKristina re-used crochet placements to produce her collection inspired by her family traditions. Photo credit - Stefani StoyanovaFashion student Kristina Vyzaite also produced a zero-waste collection which made it to the final of the Redress Design Award. Her womenswear collection, Nerimas – which translates from Lithuanian to English as anxiety – was inspired by her time in Lithuania with her mother during the Covid-19 pandemic and her family's tradition of using crocheted placements.

"When I was back at home during the pandemic, my mum would put crocheted placements on the table. I found it really interesting to see that she was still using them, and I wanted to explore how I could re-use them and give them a new purpose," Kristina explained. "It felt quite symbolic for me as if the placements held a lot of my personal memories, used as the centrepiece for my family gatherings in Lithuania for years," she added.  

Every garment was made from crocheted textiles including tablecloths and placemats, alongside deadstock fabrics, which Kristina naturally hand-dyed from home grown vegetable plants. "I used beetroot, blueberries and blue cabbage, and boiled these with turmeric and vinegar to create the different shades you see," Kristina explained.

Associate Professor Richard Sorger, course leader of the Fashion MA at Kingston School of Art, commended the students on their sustainable practices. "Both Lili and Kristina have produced beautifully crafted collections that tackle and transform textile waste, which is something we emphasise at Kingston School of Art as part of a responsible design context," he said.

"Both collections take on their own personal narratives, with Lili taking inspiration from the children in her family and Kristina drawing on her own family memories. Their collections are bought to life even more through the storytelling," he added.

The two graduates recently unveiled the collections they produced for their final major projects, with both using upcycled materials. Lili created a womenswear collection drawing inspiration from her own Hungarian heritage featuring traditional embroidery and print.

Meanwhile, Kristina's womenswear collection, called Banga, was made entirely using deadstock fabrics and was inspired by the high fashion culture of Lithuania.

Categories: Staff, Students

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