Exploring
the future
of Circular
Fashion
Exploring the future of circular fashion with Kit Willow

BETA By STH BNK

Transforming the inside and outside of the city’s Hanover House and bringing it to life, BETA By STH BNK is an experiential event programme, bringing together international brands, revered artists and makers, immersive dining experiences and much more. BETA (Beulah Experimental Testing Area) invites the public to participate in a series of live and ongoing experiments exploring the future of spaces outside traditional brick and mortar limits. Experiential and immersive, these unique and innovative events transcend expectations to reimagine a radically sustainable future, redefining luxury for a new generation.

Providing the foundation for design thinking for the retail podium at STH BNK By Beulah, BETA explores the future of circular fashion with world-leading thinkers and makers. As explained by Founder and Creative Director of both KITX and the Future From Waste Lab, Kit Willow, “how we should be looking forward is by looking at waste as a resource”, and that’s exactly what The Future From Waste Lab is doing with its pioneering design concept currently in residence at BETA By STH BNK.

We invite you to open your mind to the endless possibilities of waste as a resource and exciting future of circular fashion by watching the video below, and reading Beulah’s interview with Kit Willow below:

What inspired you to create Future from Waste Lab with Beulah?

The fashion model needs changing because the fashion industry has had a huge impact on the planet’s resources and accelerating climate change. Statistics show that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter on earth, behind oil, so its impact is profound. This is predominantly from a material point of view, as about 70% of fashion’s impact comes from material; from dirt, from chemicals, petrochemicals from any nylon, or synthetic fibers which release nitrous oxide when created (which is 300 times more toxic than carbon dioxide) and largely from people.

Additionally, we are consuming a lot more of this fashion; we’re buying about 30 percent more than what we were 20 years ago, per head, and we’re discarding at a greater rate. And most of the fashion that ends up in landfill, or at Upparel in Melbourne, or at the Salvos, (if it’s not children growing out of their clothing or destroying it) is fast fashion. This is a practice we need to shift because we are drawing more from earth and our planet’s resources. We are increasing as a population. And we are then consuming more per head and discarding it, and there’s an enormous waste issue in fashion.

Sourcing material at Upparel's warehouse

Sourcing material at Upparel's warehouse

It wasn’t until I saw the movie, The True Cost a few years ago that I realised, on a global scale, how much we are throwing away. There are mounds of textiles in the earth that are growing and growing, and they are fermenting because the synthetic fibers in the fabrics are releasing toxic methane gases. I’d started KITX prior to the movie, looking at fashion and the huge impact it has on the planet’s resources. And 70% is material sourcing. So I knew I needed to create a brand that is consciously sourcing materials to minimise its impact on the planet’s resources, without realising there was this huge issue as well.

So I knew I needed to create a brand that is consciously sourcing materials to minimise its impact on the planet’s resources, without realising there was this huge issue as well.

Upparel started in Melbourne with socks; they were selling the socks and people were sending the socks back to them with holes in them, which got me thinking what we could do with all of them. The team went to India and found a place that would upcycle the socks into a Jersey thread to then be re knitted into future material and garments. And so Upparel said, ok, buy our socks. And when you are done with them, send them back to us and we will dress people in need with them. This was the initial premise and it grew from there, becoming quite big, before expanding to clothing as well. We experimented with numerous options for repurposing, but most required a lot of energy and consumption to transform the material. So we are instead now looking at how we use the material as it is, and that’s what the Future From Waste Lab is.

Creations from the Future from Waste Lab

Can you tell us about what you are making for the Future from Waste Lab?

We are moving the denim in from KITX; we are taking in people’s discarded denim and we are washing it and cutting it open. From there we are using it to create new garments and then selling those. We find this to be, probably, the most regenerative, sustainable option; creating new from that waste that there is.

 

Can you tell us why the fashion model needs to change for the better and how important a project like Future from Waste LAB is for the planet?

I think it’s almost like, if you don’t know, you don’t care, and if you don’t care, you don’t do anything. I’m sitting at the pointy end of understanding the impact the fashion’s having. I was blown away to walk into Upparel’s latest warehouse, to see the clothing boxes filling every square inch of that warehouse on a daily basis. And I think everyone needs to see it because when you do see the accumulation on a daily basis of what’s coming in, you truly realise that this is not sustainable, and that we need change.  And that change is the Future From Waste Lab.

We are extracting the waste in its raw form and washing it and turning it into future want. Every single panel is cut differently; every single garment that is created is different to the one next to it. It carries with it a soul and a story of where it’s been, where it’s been worn, where it’s been frayed and, working with its character. So it’s a really interesting concept.

The Future From Waste Lab is there to show creative designers, who have a conscience, that it is possible to extract this waste and use it as a material, and not to look at it as rubbish. All of our denim that we’ve been making in the lab and prior to the lab, has been regenerated denim from waste. We’d go to the Salvos and get denim and wash it and cut it and make it. We’ve received great feedback from our customers, which is what gave me so much confidence in this being a future model that could work really well. It is something I really want to share with the other designers, including the other designers who are taking out residency in the Lab, to show them that they can do it, and that it actually works; it’s a great business model.

The Future From Waste Lab is there to show creative designers, who have a conscience, that it is possible to extract this waste and use it as a material, and not to look at it as rubbish.

As you know Future from Waste LAB is an experiment in future fashion space for the STH BNK By Beulah mixed-use development. How important is Beulah’s role as a property developer in changing the physical space for future fashion to operate within?

It is such a combination of forces to make this happen, but to see the Lab working as it is, to see the team working as they are, creatively, passionately, and to see Beulah supporting, as they have, to realise this vision and then see the product that’s coming out from each designer, it’s incredible.

I feel so proud that an idea like this has actually been fully realised. Beulah has really helped in fleshing it out, asking what do we need to do? What do we need to do to make that happen? How do you want it to look? And we did it.

It was the combination of vision, creativity, sustainability, future, and commerce coming together. I think that’s another really powerful lesson for us going forward; in the spaces in government, in business, in all areas in education, where you can, bring the creative and the commerce together to provide solutions that can change the course that we’re on in the moment, which is not sustainable.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming STH BNK By Beulah project?

I think Beulah’s played a really important role in pulling together, not just fashion for the future, but food and art and more, with everyone employing a similar value system of looking to the future. This approach is about working in harmony with our host, Mother Earth. Beulah’s creative ideas are an amazing, powerful way to provide solutions. And these ideas are being executed very well.

 

What are your thoughts on Beulah’s vision and what they are trying to achieve with BETA By STH BNK? How can this contribute positively to our community and city.

My experience with Beulah and the impact that BETA By STH BNK has had, from attending Higher Order featuring Scott Pickett, was the experience of immersion and of bringing a lot of people together in a way that was totally unexpected on food, sound, flavour; and playing with all the senses that we have. Additionally, I enjoyed the storytelling behind the food, like the insect-food, which was delicious, in terms of the future of food as insects. It was interesting to explore the concept around the future of food and how we can survive on the planet with an increasing population, as food and other resources become more scarce.

STH BNK Retail Precinct. Artist's Impression.

STH BNK Podium. Artist's Impression.

STH BNK Square. Artist's Impression.

We need to think about how we are going to feed 10 billion people, on a planet that is heating, with weather systems that are far more extreme, which we are seeing in Australia now. This was so creatively expressed by a master chef, and it was great to see people have that experience and really open their eyes to what solutions there could be.

Additionally, looking at The Future From Waste Lab and all the students coming through the door to see the open studio and learn about future fashion from waste and how to do it, and to see so many people so interested in it, is fantastic. I think it’s a real eye-opener; our greatest asset we have as a species is our ability to tell stories, and that’s how we’ve been able to evolve. Right now, storytelling and sharing of stories and experience is critical in being able to extend our survival on earth.

The experience at BETA By STH BNK with the Future From Waste Lab has really highlighted that creative solutions to global issues is one way forward. And it’s given me a huge amount of confidence in exploring different concepts and ideas and finding one that works, that could then become a huge global solution to a big global problem and have a really positive impact on the way we source materials. To me, that is so important and it’s something I’m very passionate about.

The experience at BETA By STH BNK with the Future From Waste Lab has really highlighted that creative solutions to global issues is one way forward.

Future From Waste Lab Workshops with KITX

It’s been brilliant exploring how we need to be going forward, and I’ve seen it from Higher Order as well. It’s creative solutions to global issues, but also specifically looking at waste as a resource. We would love to take our learnings from the Lab and be able to spread it everywhere because if we could call in all the waste that people were throwing away and turn it into new new fashion, we would be extracting huge amounts of carbon emissions from the atmosphere, we would be saving land, water usage and chemical usage.

The Future From Waste Lab is really a micro example of what needs to happen on a much bigger scale, to make change, globally.

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