Photographer Lizmarie Richardson for SA Fashion Week of Twyg Changemaker Winner 2020 Lara Klawikowski’s SS21 show
Photographer Lizmarie Richardson for SA Fashion Week of Twyg Changemaker Winner 2020 Lara Klawikowski’s SS21 show
InnovationIssue 3 2021

Will Sustainable Fashion Win?

The Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards is an annual event that acknowledges South African fashion designers working in conscious ways and inspiring change in the industry.

A dress from Lara Klawikowski's SS 2020 'Strange Flowers' upcycled plastic dresses collection featured in AFRICA IS NOW magazine. Photography by Michael Oliver Love, Stylist Gregory Russell.
A dress from Lara Klawikowski's SS 2020 'Strange Flowers' upcycled plastic dresses collection featured in AFRICA IS NOW magazine. Photography by Michael Oliver Love, Stylist Gregory Russell.

Much has been said about the fashion industry being one of the world’s biggest polluters. “Manufacturing anything is unsustainable,” says Jackie May, Founder of Twyg, a South African platform working to promote a way of being that is sustainable, circular, regenerative, caring and ethical. “If we wanted to be perfectly sustainable, we would be naked, and we would not be making anything,” she continues. “But that’s not realistic.” 

The aim then, is to do as little harm as possible. What started as a small pool of sustainable fashion designers in South Africa is becoming a growing number of creatives proving that making beautiful things can be done consciously. The Twyg Awards were established to honour and encourage these practices. For the first time, this year’s open nominations process introduced Jackie and team to sustainable designers they didn’t already know about. “With this urgency around the climate, more and more people are trying to work sustainably,” she says. “Even the big retailers are grappling with these issues.” 

If we wanted to be perfectly sustainable, we would be naked.  

–Jackie May

Twyg Founder Jackie May photographed by Kye Vogel
Twyg Founder Jackie May photographed by Kyle Vogel

With this urgency around the climate, more and more people are trying to work sustainably.

 – Jackie May

Though they might not identify with the sustainability label, as small businesses, many local designers are inherently working in environmentally-friendly ways out of necessity. Jackie has seen examples of independent designers cutting their patterns in efficient ways because they can’t afford to not use every bit of fabric. In doing so they drastically reduce the waste of off-cuts that go to landfills. Also to keep their costs down, designers will work on a made-to-order business model – another wise way of avoiding waste. They’re experimenting with natural, botanical dyes. Additionally, they’re working closely with their CMTs. Not far removed from the manufacturing process, they can ensure ethical labour. 

Lately Twyg has been broadening their focus on design to the innovative production of textiles. Many experimental, sustainable materials are still niche and expensive so are exclusively used for luxury goods. Access to sustainable fabric is probably the biggest challenge for conscious fashion designers and these materials need to be produced at scale and enter the mainstream in order to have the most impact. In South Africa, hemp has massive potential as a scalable, sustainable textile. 

However, sustainable fashion is not always about doing things in a new way. “The most sustainable thing is in your wardrobe,” Jackie says. But it could also be in somebody else’s wardrobe. Swap shops, where people meet up to swap clothes instead of buying new ones, are becoming popular. “We are seeing a complete explosion of secondhand trading amongst people,” Jackie says. “That part of sustainable fashion is doing incredibly well.”

Where our outfits eventually end up is one of the biggest challenges to overcome but it’s a problem that comes with big potential for green jobs. Recycling waste fabric is labour-intensive. A recent article published on Twyg shared what fashion might look like in 50 years and one of the innovations is compostable fabric. “Imagine what an interesting career you can have developing those things?” Jackie says.

Cover of the Twyg Awards 2020 Zine. Photography by Sven Kristian, Styling by Charlotte Gindreau, Make-up by Dominique de Lange, Model Liyanna Basini
Cover of the Twyg Awards 2020 Zine. Photography by Sven Kristian, Styling by Charlotte Gindreau, Make-up by Dominique de Lange, Model Liyanna Basini

However, sustainable fashion is not always about doing things in a new way. “The most sustainable thing is in your wardrobe,” Jackie says. But it could also be in somebody else’s wardrobe. Swap shops, where people meet up to swap clothes instead of buying new ones, are becoming popular. “We are seeing a complete explosion of secondhand trading amongst people,” Jackie says. “That part of sustainable fashion is doing incredibly well.” 

Where our outfits eventually end up is one of the biggest challenges to overcome but it’s a problem that comes with big potential for green jobs. Recycling waste fabric is labour-intensive. A recent article published on Twyg shared what fashion might look like in 50 years and one of the innovations is compostable fabric. “Imagine what an interesting career you can have developing those things?” Jackie says. 

Though they might not identify with the sustainability label, many local designers are inherently working in environmentally-friendly ways.

While the Twyg Awards highlight sustainability, the judges also look for concept, craft, quality and commerciability. This year for the first time, they partnered with EcoStandard South Africa to refine the nomination and judging process. EcoStandard is an independent certification body which sets environmental standards of excellence. 

For Jackie, the main motivation for launching the awards is firstly to showcase the designers who are working sustainably, but also to make sure South African consumers are aware of them, and support them. As consumers, supporting our local designers is one of the most sustainable choices we can make.                

BMW i was a category sponsor at the 2021 Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards. The Trans-seasonal award presented by BMW i was awarded to menswear brand FIELDS.

twyg.co.za/awards

Lara Klawikowski's SS 2020 'Strange Flowers' upcycled plastic dresses featured in AFRICA IS NOW magazine. Photography by Michael Oliver Love, Stylist Gregory Russell
Lara Klawikowski's SS 2020 'Strange Flowers' upcycled plastic dresses featured in AFRICA IS NOW magazine. Photography by Michael Oliver Love, Stylist Gregory Russell

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