2024 Upcycled Design Competition

The Wilson School of Design

osf logo


What do you get when you mix design students, recycled textiles and a passion for the planet? The Upcycled Design Competition!

The Wilson School of Design is excited to announce this year’s Design Competition in partnership with Our Social Fabric, a local textile recycling initiative. In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Gaia”, eligible participants will create a 3-dimensional design using recycled textiles and found objects.

2024 Theme: Gaia

Originally from Greek mythology, meaning Mother of all Life or Earth Mother.

Scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock's Gaia Theory suggests that the Earth is a self-regulating, interconnected system made of living organisms that work together to make Earth inhabitable for life. The importance of Gaia Theory is understanding how human actions impact the balance of this self-regulating ecosystem, and the environment we live in. 

Using Gaia Theory as a guide, participants can design with personal interpretation or understanding of the concept.

Keywords or phrases: interconnection, web of life, self-regulating, sensing, feeling, intuition, thinking, consciousness, entirely of an ecosystem, feedback loops.

Competition Criteria

The criteria are simple. Transform fabric/material waste into an upcycled design that is an expression of the theme, Gaia. Concepts include but are not limited to: garments, soft products, art pieces, interior design products, creative packaging, zero or minimal waste designs, to name just a few ideas.

Partner Profile - Our Social Fabric

Our Social Fabric (OSF) is a non-profit textile recycling initiative, in operation since 2009. OSF receives donations of textiles, fabric and sewing-related supplies from the film industry, theatre, manufacturing, estate closures together with home sewers and artists. Their team of volunteers sort through donations and offer them back to the community at drastically reduced prices. OSF has two main purposes: the first is to reclaim, recycle and extend the life-cycle of surplus textiles and textile-related materials destined for destruction or landfill. The second goal is to build community awareness of best practices for textile waste reduction towards zero waste and a circular economy. Since 2017, OSF has diverted over 93 tons of fabric and sewing-related materials from landfill.  

Design Competition Goals

This year marks the 5th consecutive design competition developed in partnership with Our Social Fabric and the Wilson School of Design at KPU. The competition seeks to combine reclaimed materials with the skill and expertise of KPU’s design students to demonstrate the viability of transforming fabric/material waste into upcycled design concepts. Our goal with the competition is to create awareness of Our Social Fabric’s efforts and inspire the many talented, emerging designers at the Wilson School of Design.

Submission Eligibility & Guidelines

Applicants must:

  • Participants must be enrolled in one of the Wilson School of Design’s (WSD) seven design programs as a full-time student.
  • Must be interested in exploring upcycled design concepts to potentially solve or respond to modern day problems.  
  • Participants must create an upcycled design concept with the annual theme in mind. 
  • Students may submit a previously developed project for their Round 1 submission, however, the project must fit the Upcycled Design criteria as well as the theme. If selected for Round 2, students must produce the project following the same guidelines for the Competition.
  • 2024 Theme: Gaia. Are you passionate about a particular issue? Then use your design to create awareness for that topic. Make your audience think, maybe spark some debate or discussion. 
  • Design and build an upcycled creation. Concepts include but are not limited to: garments, soft products, art pieces, interior design products, zero or minimal waste designs, etc. Handwork such as quilting, weaving, knitting, crocheting of fabrics and/or materials could be options to create new materials from existing ones.
  • Materials used in designs must include a minimum of 80% of OSF-provided materials. The majority of remaining materials must be upcycled.
  • Participants must visit the OSF retail store with KPU identification to purchase fabric/materials. Selected participants will receive a $40 gift card to choose from available materials.
  • Submissions may be made by individuals or groups of up to 6. Students do not need to be enrolled in the same program if entering the competition as a group. For group submissions the financial award will be split equally among all members of the winning group(s) (no exceptions).

Initial Concept Submission (Round 1)

  • Two to four visual boards/outlines including but not limited to: research photos, sense of theme, potential concept drawings, projected colourways, etc. Please ensure all images are of high resolution and quality.
  • One-page written description of the design concept in relation to theme (Gaia), potential materials to be used, design concept and rough idea of execution. 
  • Submissions must include name, WSD program and year of study. 
  • Submissions must be submitted in both digital and printed format:
    • Digital: Please submit a single PDF file labelled in the following format: OSFcompetition_firstnamelastname to osfcompetition@kpu.ca 
    • Printed: Drop off a printed copy of your PDF file to the WSD Dean's Office (Room 1900) front desk.

Finalists (Round 2)

Judges will select from the submissions received, and select those that are approved to proceed to the final round.

Final Submission Requirements

Provide a single video for final submission. Video to include:

  • Design process
  • Outline of the representation of the theme “Gaia”
  • Description of how the piece was designed and created, material usage, explanation of all other materials used and how they were sourced/reclaimed, why those choices were made. 
  • Must include very clear visuals of final design. 
  • Video submission can be a combination of time lapse, power point, vlog, TikTok, photos etc. 
  • Video submission must be no longer than 15 minutes in length. 
  • Video should include clear lighting, visuals and audio. 
  • Videos must be supplied in a common file format such as .mov or .mp4
  • Further submission details will be provided to the selected finalists.

Judging Criteria

  • Innovative use of reclaimed materials sourced from OSF up to a maximum budget of $40.
  • Representation of the 2024 theme “Gaia”.
  • Creativity, quality, finishing and workmanship of completed design.
  • Ability to articulate (through video submission) the design process, inspiration, rationale for selected materials and overall messaging of theme.
  • Note: We will share the top submissions online for audience voting. The winner of the People's Choice prize will be based on number of votes received.

Competition Details & Dates

Initial Concept Submissions Due -  Friday February 9, 2024 

Finalists Announced - Friday February 16, 2024 

Final Design Submissions Due - Thursday April 18, 2024

Winners Announcement Event - Tuesday April 30, 2024 (on WSD campus)


1st Place:                         $2,000
2nd Place:                        $1,500
3rd Place:                         $1,000
People's Choice Award:      $500*

*Voting for the People's Choice Award will be held online between April 22-April 26


Finalists will receive a $40 gift card to purchase materials from the OSF retail store.

Store hours are limited, so please check the OSF website for details.


Participants may contact our Lead Mentors for design guidance. 

Michael Pope, Faculty, Wilson School of Design
Lead Mentor

Lesley Pollard, Faculty, Wilson School of Design
Lead Mentor

General Enquiries: osfcompetition@kpu.ca 

Looking for inspiration? Visit last year's event page to view all our finalists and winners' submissions.