Fashion student turns discarded material into award-winning suit

A fiery red suit made from discarded men’s garments has won first place in the 2023 Fashion Awards Australia’s Rags to Runway category.

Created by Kangan Institute student designer Bridie Vearing, the award-winning suit features a coat with standout shoulders paired with a patchwork tartan bodice and bloomer pants – all made from old men’s suits and deadstock fabric originally destined for landfill.

“I was very inspired by Vivienne Westwood and her use of print and shape,” Bridie said.

“I wanted a strong silhouette and colour and to utilise belts and buckles.”

Developed according to a project brief titled Suiting the Future, the award-winning ensemble was designed and constructed as part of Kangan Institute’s Red Cross Shops collaboration, which offers fashion students access to donated and unsaleable textile and materials for upcycling.

For Bridie, the most challenging part of the upcycling project was finding the right fabrics to suit her vision, with skill and technical expertise a must to successfully construct a new design using pre-existing garments.

“I used traditional flat patternmaking techniques, as well as zero-waste pattern-designing techniques, patchworking and textile waste as a resource to construct my pieces,” Bridie said.

“You have to go in and understand how the original garment was made and then you have to reconfigure it to suit what you are making.

“It’s really quite hard to take all that original shaping and the original intended purpose and completely rip that out and change it.”

The 2023 Fashion Awards Australia ceremony was held last Friday, with Bridie’s winning suit featured on the runway alongside creations from other emerging and established designers.

As first place winner in the Rags to Runway category, Bridie was also presented $1,500 in prize money.

“It feels surreal and amazing, and I’m so honoured to be featured alongside some amazing designers,” Bridie said.

Sustainable fashion design is a key part of Kangan Institute’s fashion training, with Chief Executive Officer Sally Curtain congratulating Bridie on her success in developing an award-winning upcycled design.

“Bridie has incorporated skill and ingenuity into her design, and we’re thrilled to see her talent recognised by Fashion Awards Australia,” Sally said. 

“Sustainable fashion is on the rise, with Sustainability Victoria reporting many local fashion businesses embracing new technologies and business models to drive circular economy outcomes.

“At Kangan Institute, our focus is on providing students with skills for the future, and we’re proud to support the fashion industry’s evolution by equipping the next generation of designers with vital skills in sustainable design.”

Bridie’s designs are part of the Melbourne Fashion Week line-up this month, with her garments to hit the runway at Kangan Institute’s Welcome to the Dollhouse fashion show on 24 October and M/FW Student Collections Runway on 27 October.

Learn more about Kangan Institute’s fashion courses here.

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