Upcycled suit jacket materialises in first place

An upcycled suit jacket has materialised into a first-place win for Kangan Institute fashion graduate Olivia Barca at the 2022 Fashion Awards Australia’s Stitch Don’t Ditch competition.

Ms Barca came out top in the Resident Casual Wear category with a design made entirely from upcycled and repurposed textile waste.

“I feel extremely happy and honoured. I put a lot of hours into designing, pattern-making and constructing my suit in order to achieve the best outcome,” Ms Barca said.

The annual Stitch Don’t Ditch competition challenges participants to recreate an outfit using two or three preloved garments from their wardrobe or second-hand garments from friends.

Designed as part of her studies at Kangan Institute, Ms Barca’s suit design features a mix of functional and style elements, including welt buttonholes and pockets, detailed top stitching and versatile button wraps to enable the suit to serve as a complete outfit or be matched with other wardrobe pieces.

“I wanted to create a suit that was timeless, on trend, functional and eye-catching, whilst providing value of money to the consumer through the versatility of the design,” Ms Barca said.

“The design and pattern-making processes were always at the forefront of my mind as I could only create a design around the quantity, size and colour of materials I had. Forward-thinking and problem-solving was something I had to do throughout the entire process from design through to construction.”

Having recently completed the Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kangan Institute, Ms Barca hopes to launch her own ethical and sustainable fashion brand.

“Kangan Institute educated me on why it is so important to upcycle and repurpose textile waste to reduce landfill, which fast fashion contributes to,” she said.

“It helped me understand and learn ways to use this ‘waste’ to create a whole new garment which doesn’t necessarily look ‘upcycled’.

“Sustainability is the way of the future. Fast fashion needs to be ditched and slow fashion needs to be adopted. It is up to emerging designers like me to design garments that are environmentally friendly whilst stylish.”

This is Ms Barca’s second Stitch Don’t Ditch win – she won third place in the Resident/TAFE category last year.

Kangan Institute CEO Sally Curtain congratulated Ms Barca on the win.

“We are very proud of Olivia’s success. Achieving two wins in a row at Fashion Awards Australia is an incredible accomplishment – it reflects Olivia’s high level of skill, as well as her commitment to excellence in sustainable fashion design,” Ms Curtain said.

“Olivia’s success is a fantastic inspiration for many others who come to TAFE to gain practical skills so they can build a bright future.”   

Kangan Institute creative industries lead educator Vicki Nicola said sustainability was a key part of the TAFE’s fashion courses.

“Fast fashion is a major polluter in Australia and studies show around 85 per cent of textiles purchased by Australians end up in landfill each year. We need to work towards a more sustainable future and that starts with educating the next generation of fashion designers,” said Ms Nicola.

“Kangan Institute fashion students are taught and encouraged to incorporate sustainable techniques like reclaiming textile waste, applying zero-waste, upcycling and reconstruction techniques.

“The end results are often spectacular. As we’ve seen through Olivia’s success, our students can get really creative with materials and produce one-of-a-kind designs that range from streetwear to runway chic.”    

Kangan Institute collaborates with Red Cross Shops and local fashion businesses to provide fashion students with access to unsaleable textile and materials for upcycling.

The TAFE’s sustainable ethos has gained interest overseas, with Kangan Institute awarded a bronze medal in ‘Sustainable Development’ at the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) 2020 Awards of Excellence.

Learn more about Kangan Institute’s creative industries courses here.

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