Wilson School of Design student upcycles old clothes into winning design

Tue, May 14, 2024

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) student Clara Devina is concerned about landfills being polluted with textile waste.

"I've always believed that sustainability in fashion is important. When I joined the Wilson School of Design at KPU, my goal was to learn more about how to make them work in today’s circular economy," says Devina.

A third-year student in the Fashion Design and Technology program, Devina won the Wilson School of Design’s 2024 Upcycled Design Competition with a handmade dress-like crocheted garment that symbolizes the web of life.

Devina supports sustainability practices in fashion and finds it saddening that she might also contribute to the environmental impact caused by fast fashion.

"We can go thrifting instead of shopping or donate clothes instead of letting them pile up. Participating in this competition is one of my ways to support sustainability."

For the competition, the Wilson School of Design partnered with Our Social Fabric, a non-profit textile recycling organization seeking to address fabric waste. Participants were encouraged to incorporate environmental and social responsibility into their work, creating a three-dimensional design with recycled textiles and found objects.

Each year the competition has a unique theme, which is picked by the design instructors at KPU who lead the project. This year’s theme was Gaia, a term from Greek mythology meaning mother of all life. It was inspired by scientist James Lovelock's theory that suggests all living organisms are connected and form synergetic, self-regulated systems.

Devina used weaving and crocheting techniques to reflect the ideas of connectedness. The use of yarn is also very symbolic, as it represents the idea that everything in nature begins small.

Clara Devina wearing the handmade crocheted dress designed for the competition. Photo by Mikaela Roque. 

"It is one strand, but I can make something of it. It does represent the whole world — plants are grown from a simple seed," she says. "I wanted to make it like a rag material, where the colours and materials did not look very pleasing, but when you combine them, they are beautiful."

Michael Pope, a Wilson School of Design instructor and lead mentor for the project, believes that the competition, devoid of specific criteria and rules, allows students to showcase their creativity and skills.

"The depth that the students go into the process and the dedication they bring to it is truly impressive and inspirational," says Pope. "We couldn’t be happier with the outcomes of this competition."

The Wilson School of Design students
The Wilson School of Design students who won prizes. First row from left to right: Clara Devina, Denanae Tingala, Heidi Wilson, Sophie MacFarlane. Second row from left to right: Destiny Lang, Olivia Wong.

Devina will receive a $2,000 prize from Our Social Fabric for winning the competition. Destiny Lang, Denanae Tingala and Olivia Wong’s death-inspired dress design earned second place and a $1,500 prize, while Heidi Wilson won the third-place prize worth $1,000 for a lacing jacket that represents the beauty of Gaia. Sophie MacFarlane won the People’s Choice Award and a $500 prize for a dress designed to bring awareness of microplastic fibre waste.