We had a chance to speak with Kate Morris, winner of the Redress Design Award, and designer of The R collective’s POP collection. Renowned for her work in the sustainable fashion industry, Kate has dedicated her life to changing attitudes towards fast fashion by designing clothes with surplus yarn from the luxury fashion world.
We ask Kate about her inspiration behind The R Collective collection and what she thinks about the future of sustainable fashion.
22F: So Kate, It is postulated that in 2018 alone, Lyst ( a globally renowned fashion search engine) had a 47% increase ‘in shoppers looking for ethical and style credentials..”. What are your thoughts on the public’s increasing awareness of sustainable and ethical fashion? How do you see this collection gaining traction in the near future?
Kate: "It doesn’t surprise me that the public is increasingly conscious of ethical fashion credentials. The fashion industry is such a saturated market, we are given so much choice, we want to know the story behind our products to feel satisfied and connected to them.
It is really positive to see brands opening up about their supply chains but I believe the amount of waste fashion is an area that is not as well documented or utilised.
I hope this collection of knitwear made from surplus yarn stock will show that upcycling can be stylish and commercially viable.”
22F: With your experience working with Asian manufacturers, have you gained any further insight on whether or not the sustainable fashion trend will gain traction in the Eastern parts of the world, where there isn’t as much awareness about the harmful effects of textile waste?
Kate: "I think in many respects manufacturers in Eastern parts of the world are at the forefront of change through access to some of the best technology/resources available. I have seen a lot of advanced measures at each stage of the supply chain to cut down on waste including virtual sampling and very clever pattern cutting software.
The larger manufacturers are in a position where they can invest in expensive measures to make a change.
Competitions like ‘The Redress Design Award’ are spreading awareness in Eastern universities resulting in new designers emerging with a focus on cutting down waste in fashion. This knitwear collection has shown me how open Chinese manufacturers are to linking designers up with their surplus waste materials.”
22F: It’s not always easy to be a sustainable designer. Zero-waste design requires experience as designers need to take different materials and rearrange them, like a jigsaw puzzle. Was there a time in your career where you faced an extremely tough challenge? What about when you were designing this collection?
Kate: "The most challenging thing about designing this collection was the colour palette that was available in the surplus yarn stock.
This actually ended up being a very successful starting point and led a more timeless collection of colours I wouldn’t have normally thought of using. I try to see these ‘limitations’ as opportunities to guide unexpected design.”
22F: For your interview with Green Stitched in regards to the POP collection, you stated that you were inspired by pop art visuals of food and was ‘interested in how people’s attitudes to food have changed in relation to attitudes to fashion.’ What triggered this connection? Why fashion and food?
Kate: "Just as is happening in fashion, consumers now want to know where their food has come from and exactly what’s in it. I was drawn to retro food adverts from when processed tinned foods were seen as the height of sophistication and started comparing this to how sustainable fashion has come a long way from what used to be represented as very dull, unstylish clothes."
22F: You are an award-winning and highly respected designer in the sustainable fashion industry. What lifestyle changes did you make to live more consciously? What advice would you give to someone who wants to reduce their ecological footprint?
Kate: “One of the biggest environmentally motivated lifestyle changes I made was choosing to eat vegan three years ago.
Plant-based food production is a more efficient use of our resources in terms of energy, land and water use. Veganism is not for everyone but if everyone cut down their meat and dairy intake it would have a hugely positive effect. I would encourage you to start by eating vegan one day a week.
In terms of buying clothes, I try to mix second hand with smaller sustainable brand’s long lasting buys. I am still drawn to the convenience and price of high street fashion but I tend to buy more classic pieces that I get loads of wear out of and then mend and reuse and recycle."
22F: In recent years, we’ve seen a drastic shift in the level of transparency between companies and their consumers. It’s starting to become an industry standard to share where materials are being sourced from and factory conditions. What role do you think technology has played in this?
Are you familiar with using blockchain technology as a means to track each stage of a product’s lifecycle? If so, do you think it has the potential to change business models and disrupt the fashion industry as a whole?
Kate Morris in the Reversible Coatigan in Navy
Kate: “Technology has played a huge role in inducing transparency in the fashion industry. Smartphones allow the whole world to constantly connect- from a garment worker subtly documenting and sharing their working conditions to a consumer publicly questioning a brand’s ethos.
I’m really excited about the possibilities of blockchain technology, it will allow consumers to learn much more about the journey behind their product and will certainly force brands to input better practices in traceability.
I’m also really interested in the constantly evolving technology behind recycling clothes as well as the science of creating fibres out of waste products such as orange peel!”
22F: Orange Peel?! We are excited to see what comes of that.
Once again, thank you for your time Kate. Your work has inspired us all and we cannot wait to see what’s next.