In this interview, Erin Hooper, Cape Peninsula University of Technology fashion student, talks about her graduate work. The collection she showed at the 2017 CPUT graduate show was one of many collections, which indicated a major shift from last year. Many students showed in their work an attention to sustainability and expressed the need for the fashion industry to change. I spoke to three students. This is the second of the three interviews (see links to the other interviews at the bottom of this story).

Tell me about your collection?

From the start, I wanted to use natural fabrics and knew that my range needed to be original. After playing around with several ideas I decided that a literal interpretation of what it means to wear natural fabrics would be interesting.  I took inspiration from the vertical gardens that we see more and more of in our urban environments. People are planting everywhere but no one is growing plants in their clothes… yet. I created a range that consisted of five looks, two of these looks were tailored suits with deep inseam pockets into which I potted plants.

From where do you source fabrics?

Natural fabrics are unfortunately more expensive than anything synthetic.  I bought my fabrics from local fabric shops in Cape Town such as Fabric City and Studio 47.  I used 100% cotton, linen and muslin in my range. To create the off-white colour, I dyed my fabrics using copious amounts of tea, which doesn’t require large amounts of water. Because the fabrics were natural, the colour held well.

Why do you think sustainability is important? 

The future of our planet depends on us becoming sustainable. Sustainability and ethical production and consumption form part of a movement known as slow fashion. The slow approach is revolutionary in the contemporary world and is specifically new to fashion.  (The slow food movement has been around for longer.) As a designer, I need to consider the production, the value of my product and the connection it has to the environment and society. My Consciously Threaded collection was sustainably produced. Although I cannot guarantee the ethics behind the production of the fabrics, I can guarantee that the garments were ethically produced.

Do you think the fashion industry is prepared to made the changes it needs to? 

The mainstream fashion industry is still selling the latest trends at ridiculously low prices making it difficult for consumers not to purchase more than they need. The fashion industry needs to be redesigned. This is slowly happening through the craftsmanship that goes into designs created by independent designers who make the production and manufacturing of their garments transparent for the consumer. Bad buying habits will hopefully change as more people choose quality over quantity.

From where do you shop for clothes?

I thrift shop and have taken part in several clothing swops. ‘Clothes Sale’ is a private sale at someone’s house; it takes place two to three times a year. A group of women of different ages come together each bringing a bottle of wine, something to share and something to eat. Clothing that is no longer wanted or no longer fits is swopped. It is always exciting to bump into someone down the line, rocking a dress that you once owned and hardly wore. I must admit that I do still shop at stores such as Zara and on the odd occasion H&M. I am, however, well aware of what they are doing to the environment and I do try to shop carefully.

What are you doing next year?

 Erin Hooper, Cape Peninsula University of Technology fashion student, talks about her graduate work.

In 2018 I will be completing my Bachelors of Technology Degree in Fashion design and again focusing on the issue of sustainability with an added focus on the concept of ‘age as a social construct’.

Do you think consumers are aware enough of the issue of sustainability?

Like all environmental issues, only a few people are aware of the issues and are taking action to change their lifestyle and buying behaviour. The issue of sustainability needs to be addressed on a larger scale and at a faster rate. For now it is young designers who need to make the consumer aware of what they are buying and create a means for the consumer to buy good quality, sustainably and ethically produced clothing.

Part One: 5 minutes with eco-fashion graduate Roxanne Kimber-Leigh Louw 

Part Three: 5 minutes with upcycle-fashion graduate Shaun Robertson

Photo credits: Supplied