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Students showcase a week-long upcycling fashion project

by | May 3, 2022

For Fashion Revolution Week (18-24 April 2022), students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology paused their curriculum to create an upcycled fashion collection. They were grouped together in teams of 10 to 13 students and each team created two looks using materials and clothes donated by Twyg, Truworths and Clothing Bank. The week ended with a fashion show on Earth Day, Friday 22 April 2022. In this article, student explains the project. 

Challenge

The mainstream fashion industry is built on the exploitation of labour and natural resources. And, fashion’s waste crisis is a starkly visible side effect of this extractive system. From the mountains of clothing in Chile’s Atacama Desert to the over-saturated Kantamanto Market in Ghana, it is clear that big fashion overproduces artificially cheap clothing. Finding solutions to this waste crisis is one of the focuses of Fashion Revolution Week, an annual campaign creating awareness about the fashion industry and encouraging a reimagining of fashion as a force for good.

Intervention

This year fashion students and lecturers at Cape Peninsula University of Technology undertook a five-day activation, refashioning clothing waste into runway ready wearables that were showcased at an upcycled fashion show. Lecturers Jas Myburgh, Walter Buchholz, and Annadine Vlok, challenged their students to work in teams and create two upcycled looks using deadstock fabric and old garments donated by Twyg, Truworths and The Clothing Bank.

Process

Before designing, cutting and stitching, the students watched The True Cost – a documentary that exposes the reality behind the fast fashion industry and the toll it takes on people and the planet. With this knowledge, the students were divided into teams and the deadstock fabric, offcuts, and old clothes distributed. The teams strategised different concepts and discussed how to distribute the work amongst each other. Each person had a different skillset, which meant that each person’s participation was valuable to the process.

The fashion department was a hub of activity. Fabric was sprawled everywhere, on the tables across all studios and even some of it on the floor, as students were passionately absorbed in their refashioning work. The mid-week progress check had an air of excitement as the designs started taking shape.

As Friday finally approached students began to add final details. Some teams worked late to complete their garments. Students did their final fittings and made necessary adjustments to their garments. In the meantime, the lecturers prepared for the fashion show in the sunny passageway that connects the design building to the engineering building. The student designers continued to work until the very last second before the show.

Show

At Friday 2pm, the seats began to fill up and the excitement in the air was tangible. After all introductions were done, the students flaunted their upcycled looks down the runway to loud cheers of support from their teams and the audience.

Winning team

It was only at the end of the show that designers were informed that there would be prizes for the top three looks – two runner-up prizes and a first-place prize. The judging panel consisted of local fashion revolutionaries, including Liandra Van Staden and Safiyya Karim from Fashion Revolution, Jackie May of Twyg, and Kirstie Joemat and Nicole Plaaitjies from Truworths. A former lecturer of the institution, Talita Weidman, also joined the panel. The winners were announced by the head of Department, Annadine Vlok.

The winning team constructed a pair of trousers with beautiful pin-tucked details using different fabrics to play around with colours and textures. These trousers were paired with a beautiful reversible jacket. “Regarding the pants, we wanted to make as much use of the fabric we had as possible to stand out as much as possible,” says Monique Holtzhauzen the leader of the winning team. She sang her team’s praises as she described the construction of the eye-catching dress with various circles in different prints and colours. “We wanted to play around with shapes and textures. The first years spent about two days cutting those circles,” says Monique.

The week-long project was less about competition and more about creating a space for new ideas to flourish while using creativity to give fashion’s waste new life. Here’s to hoping that the CPUT fashion students will continue to use their creative skills to continue the fashion revolution.

  • Images ©CPUT and ©Twyg
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