Vivienne Westwood is the activist, punk and designer that has been revolting against the norm since the eighties. As one of our Lifetime Patrons, the iconic British creative was the perfect match to lend her name to an award we created in 2013, to recognise the growing need for sustainable design. In 2016 the award transformed from the Ethical Award to the Dame Vivienne Westwood Sustainable and Ethical Award.
"I think all activists are motivated by the same thing. It’s just who you are. The human race, they really do care about other people suffering, don’t they?” This is phrased as a question but feels, as with most of what the designer utters, like an imperative. “We help each other. Different people obviously feel responsible to different degrees. But I have always felt that, if nobody else is doing it, I’ve got to do it.”
This year, the global denim and apparel brand Levi’s® partnered with us for 2018, sponsoring the long-established Vivienne Westwood Ethical and Sustainable Award alongside introducing a new Graduate Talent Programme. Graduate Fashion Week is an event and platform to make connections, bringing together the talent of tomorrow with the wider fashion industry. The ethos of collaboration is continued through our partnership with the iconic brand, as Levi's are committed to forward thinking methods of responsible production and design.
As the original denim brand, Levi’s® created the world’s first blue jean 1873 – Levi’s® 501® jeans. Ever since Levi’s® have been a canvas for authentic self-expression for everyone from musicians to activists and innovators to fashion icons. In line with the award's ideology, the criteria of which is to 'design and create a sustainable, ethically aware and socially responsible product with a lower environmental impact that embodies and communicates sustainable and ethical practices',
The winners of this year's award, Aurelie Fontan, is a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art. Aurelie recently spoke to Elle UK, about her designs and process.
"I am a very hands-on designer and the whole collection started from the materials I was using. Being able to create and manufacture my textiles from scratch was an exciting process. Specifically, I have worked in a science lab (Ascus Art & Science) that is the only public-access lab in the UK, and they have kindly allowed me to develop my bio-textile, so that I was able to grow my own dress.
My collection, TENSEGRITY, is based on bio-mimicry, inspired by DNA structural patterns. Underpinning a strong sustainable angle.
One part of the collection originates from the work of Suzanne Lee, who was the first designer to grow her own fabric from Kombucha.
The design inspirations can be found in contemporary art installations and practitioners such as Jesus R Soto, Joseph Beuys, and Matthew Barney. The architect Ricardo Bofill who has built some very monumental, minimalist and intricate buildings surrounding where I live in Paris. Finally, I took inspiration from Mongolian daywear, as they have a very sustainable way of life, particularly making their apparel from natural resources found in their environment. Iris van Herpen is a designer who also influenced my work."
Aurelie Fontan, graduate of Edinburgh College of Art
It's inspiring to see the inventive ways that graduate designers are perceiving the industry, and how their reactive creativity strengthens the future of sustainable designs. We're looking forward to participating in the movement toward a more responsible fashion industry, with our sponsors, partners and graduates working together to pioneer a future that benefits the environment as much as it broadens the creative industries.
Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins