BFW Exclusive Interview: Rhiannon Hunt
“Fashion is such a creative industry with innovation and new ideas at its core, so I would like to see this energy used to better tackle issues such as pollution, resource consumption and ethical production.”
Rhiannon Hunt; now a sustainable Fashion Designer, was introduced to fashion and dress making from an early age. From this she went on to train as an Environmental Scientist. She explored her creative journey which led her ongoing passion for sustainability.
BFW: What interested you in the art of fashion?
RH: I grew up in a creative family and my mother and grandmother have forever been designing and sewing their own clothes so I was introduced to fashion and making from an early age. What I’ve always loved about fashion and the industry is the sense of possibility and the way in which ingenuity, innovation and originality are celebrated.
BFW: When did you first discover your passion for sustainability?
RH: I originally trained as an environmental scientist, going on to work in sustainability and environmental management. Whilst working in the cement industry, I became really interested in materials, their manufacture, recyclability and potential for improving product sustainability. Further research into this area introduced me to some fascinating fibres derived from agricultural waste, which I went on to explore at MA level, developing a fashion collection made entirely of these natural and biodegradable materials. So I guess you could say that sustainability is a key source of inspiration for me, often influencing my choice of fabrics, design processes and final outcomes. I always try to design garments with purpose, whether that's recyclability, longevity, and renewability...
BFW: You won the WRAP extended life of clothing award this year, has this inspired you to carry on designing sustainable fashion?
RH: Winning the award from WRAP has definitely been a fantastic experience. It’s given me the opportunity to bring my ideas and designs into reality with the development of a collection for this year’s BFW. With mentoring from industry experts, Carol Rose and Greg Tufnell, I’ve also been able to progress my professional career as a designer and I’m very much looking forward to beginning a PhD in sustainable design innovation next month.
BFW: What do you think makes you different from other sustainable fashion designers?
RH: I believe I’m quite unique as a designer in that my background is in environmental management, giving me a good understanding of the aspects and impacts associated with the lifecycle of garments and other products. Rather than adopting a limiting and restrictive approach to sustainability I embrace it as my motivation and inspiration.
BFW: Tell us about the visual inspiration behind your design?
RH: My collection for the WRAP award was developed with the aim of extending the life of clothing by inviting the wearer to change the size, shape and style of each garment using detachable 3D-printed fastenings. The fastenings themselves exist as a design feature and also allow for the look of each garment to be drastically altered in a matter of minutes. Incorporating this concept has certainly influenced the visual aspects of my final collection. I also took inspiration from the built environment, with each garment designed so that the method of construction is apparent. The colour pallet and prints resemble weathered surfaces, celebrating beauty in the worn and imperfect.
BFW: I noticed you used a lot of techniques throughout the collection, has print design always been a strong feature of your work?
RH: Having studied sustainable textiles at Chelsea College of Art and Design, print and surface pattern design have always formed an integral part of my work. I really enjoy discovering new techniques, materials and design processes and I have experimented a lot with fabric manipulation, embroidery, printing and dyeing. All of the prints in my latest collection have been hand painted and dyed, which I feel adds a unique quality to each garment.
BFW: What are some of the obstacles that occur when producing more sustainable clothing?
RH: Awareness is still an issue somewhat, although I feel campaigns such as Fashion Revolution Day are really helping to change this. It can also be difficult as a designer to evaluate the sustainability credentials of different fabrics, processes and suppliers. I'm lucky in that I have a background in environmental management, but sustainability is a complex ideal requiring consideration of emissions, resource consumption, waste generation and energy and water use. As production is outsourced and supply chains grow, it therefore becomes more and more difficult to manage environmental and social performance. I feel transparency and consistency are paramount if the fashion industry is to work towards a sustainable future.
BFW: Do you think that the perceptions of sustainable fashion are changing?
RH: Definitely, with high-profile events such as the Ethical Fashion Forum's Source Summit, Fashion SVP and, of course, BFW, the sustainable fashion movement is really gaining momentum. I've noticed that people are more interested in knowing where their clothes come from and the 'make do and mend' mantra has also seen a revival with organisations, such as TRAID, hosting creative skills sharing events.
BFW: What are the changes would you like to see within the fashion industry?
RH: Fashion is such a creative industry with innovation and new ideas at its core, so I would like to see this energy used to better tackle issues such as pollution, resource consumption and ethical production. I think there’s still a pervading perception that sustainability is restrictive, expensive and at the end of the day, optional, but I've actually found the opposite. There are a lot of opportunities afforded by a sustainable way of thinking and designing.
BFW: Describe your collection in one word.
Rhiannon Hunt will be showcasing her SS16 collection at our Sustain catwalk show on Friday 16th October- don't miss it!
www.rhiannonhunt.com Twitter: @_rhiannonhunt Instagram: rhiannon_hunt
Interview by Megan Wyatt