Slow Factory Foundation has assertively made an effort to reimagine the fashion industry from the history of its cotton fields to the future, where it consumes our planet. The idea behind this non-profit organization founded by Céline Semaan and Colin Vernon is to give fashion and the consumers the tools to create circular fashion items that help and won’t harm the earth.
Waste Management and the Slow Factory Foundation have joined forces to foster the next generation of fashion designers. Focused on building regenerative fashion that is recycled and remade into new, six designers will engage in a seven-month incubator to create design solutions for fashion products and materials. The competition culminates in February 2022, where the designs created by these six innovators will be on full display on Slow Factory’s webpage for the challenge, as well as on the website of each respective innovation.
The Waste-Management Design Challenge got itself going back in February of 2021, and now with half the year behind us, designers who have participated in the program will be starting to bring their upcycled, recycled, circular, ethical, and conscious creations to fruition.
From waste-based fashion to ‘waste-led’ fashion, a term coined by founder Vernon, each designer will develop a climate-positive concept, circular garments, and system innovations. Additionally, they will find viable solutions for disassembly, reuse, de-manufacturing, upcycling, and other regenerative processes. “Waste is a colonial construct. In nature, there isn’t such a thing as waste, everything emitted is reused as a resource,” Mrs. Semaan points out.
In providing resources necessary for each designer to get started, grants will be distributed for $1000 to explore and develop processes that lead to circularity. The designers can feel confident that they will have access to the Slow Factory board members. They include Jamaican-American geographer and researcher Teju Adisa-Farrar; multidisciplinary engineer Lauren Bright; founder and Chief Executive Officer of EON, Natasha Franck; sustainability leader and host of All of The Above, Sophia Li; multidisciplinary designer Nicole McLaughlin; founder and CEO of FABSCRAP Jessica Schreiber; innovative designer, patternmaker, and activist, Makayla Wray; global textile sales and technical leader Chad Bolick; and CEO of Circ, Innovative leader creating lasting circular fashion, Peter Majeranowski, to name a few.
The designers will be making their mark on the future of fashion in their unique disciplinary ways. Delfina Farías, the BFA Fashion Design student at The Fashion Institute of Technology, is from Argentina. Trans-disciplinary collaboration and sustainable design are the focus of her creativity. In April of 2021, she took part in the 6876km exhibit as a designer for the zero-waste collection.
Based in Charlotte, NC, Gordon Holliday is an upcycle designer, utilizing donated fabric/materials, remnant scraps, previously owned items, or thrifted clothing into new garments. RENEW REWORK ROOLĒ is a brand created by Holliday that documents how reconstructed garments reach their final form through upcycling.
Charlotte Böhning, and Mary Lempres, have found themselves merging regenerative agriculture and waste management as they pursue their Master’s of Industrial Design at Pratt Institute. They have an interdisciplinary approach informed by their respective backgrounds in Chemistry and Economics. To these two innovators, waste is not waste. Waste is a primary source for design innovation in the future.
With her research for her MA in Fashion Futures at London College of Fashion exploring the idea of sustainability as a privilege, Natasha Mays has discovered the back end of the conversations around sustainability. Constructs like race, education, and affluence have impeded the social and economic freedom to make sustainable choices.
Another tech-infused team will be joining the competition as well. Bob Carswell serves as the CEO for Material Return, which creates a sustainable, socially responsible economy, intent on custom circularity for textile brands and manufacturers using new and updated technology. Robert Seevers works as the Production Manager for the Carolina Textile District. They connect designers and entrepreneurs to a reliable domestic supply chain.
Finally, Sayo Watanabe is making fashion from recycled packaging and reclaimed waste. Growing up in frugality made her keen on the many opportunities and possibilities to reuse items we see as waste to create. She is continuing to create fashion from waste to remove it from landfills.
It will be interesting to see what each designer and design team creates in the next several months. Fashion has leaned more and more to solutions that inhibit organic circularity. Slow Factory is a catalyst, fostering those behaviors and thought processes in a 360-degree manner, taking on social media, streaming, educational institutions, and innovative design.