What Does Circular Design Look Like In 2023? 10 Mindful Fashion Award Finalists Announced

By Madeleine Crutchley
Josh Bognar (Josh Jozsef), whose graduate collection showed on the Massey University runway at Kahuria: New Zealand Fashion Week 2023 earlier this year, is among the designers shortlisted for the Mindful Fashion Circular Design Awards. Photo / Getty Images

Local designers and creatives have approached regenerative design with innovative solutions for the Mindful Fashion Circular Design Awards. Today, the 10 finalists selected for their stylish repurposing have been announced.

After careful examination of garments made from innovative materials — think shredded and handwoven denim, fabrics dyed with onion skins and functional parachute ripcords — a panel of industry experts has narrowed down a shortlist for the first Mindful Fashion Circular Design Awards.

Over 86 entries were considered by the judges, who were tasked with selecting 10 submissions to make up the list of finalists.

The finalists for the first year of the Awards are Nethasha Abeysinghe, Josh Bognar, Katherine Chow, William Keane Jung-Ying Fitzgerald, Whitney Henton, Philippa Hoogsteden, Izzy Levian, Karlie Morrow, Olivia Schaw and Donna Stoble.

The panel of judges closely examined each entry by environmentally conscious criteria.

A sneak peek of the circular ensembles from the designers who’ve made the shortlist.
A sneak peek of the circular ensembles from the designers who’ve made the shortlist.

The hopeful entrants were tasked with designing and creating an ensemble using textile waste that was also ‘circular’. This means each entry had to be submitted with a plan that outlined the full life-cycle of the garments, considering what the designers’ responsibilities might be in successfully creating beneficial and non-wasteful pieces. Designers could either work solo or submit as a collective.

According to the awards criteria, the final outfit had to be wearable, result from a process of sourcing through local textile waste streams and be made of at least 80 per cent textile waste. For this initiative, textile waste was categorised as pre- or post-consumer waste, like swatches, damaged or faulty products and end-of-life clothing. All of the waste had to be sourced from within Aotearoa.

Emily Miller Sharma applauds the work of all entrants, highlighting the many, many approaches that embraced circularity.

“I was struck by the variety of solutions offered by all entrants, and in particular our finalists. From considerations of where they source their materials, where they would end up, and how each submission connected to the land and to us, the people taking care of it.”

Innovative material combinations have created distinct looks for each of the submissions.
Innovative material combinations have created distinct looks for each of the submissions.

Viva’s own creative and fashion director Dan Ahwa agreed.

“The entries have been very strong for the first year of the Awards.”

Other judges on the panel include business leader and philanthropist Theresa Gattung, founder and CEO of Untouched World Peri Drysdale, stylist and Viva contributor Chloe Hill, and textile artist Maungarongo Ron Te Kawa.

These 10 finalists will now advance to the next round of the Awards, where they will contend for the top prizes (worth over $40,000): the Award for Creative Excellence, Award for Innovation (with most exciting commercial potential), Award for Excellence from an Emerging Talent, and the Editorial Feature Award — with that final talent set to be showcased in Viva at a later date. The winning designers will be announced at a celebratory gala on November 30.

Jacinta FitzGerald, the chief executive of Mindful Fashion, which has partnered with the Gattung Foundation to create the Award, expresses excitement with the calibre of submissions.

“We’re delighted with the standard of entries in our first year of the awards, designers really rose to the challenge. Designing for the circular economy is imperative if the fashion industry wants to meet a 1.5 degree pathway.”

FitzGerald also highlighted how the Awards are aligned with the aims of Mindful Fashion, a non-profit organisation established in 2019 to support New Zealand’s fashion and textile industry (especially in terms of lessening our environmental impacts).

Jacinta, pictured here at an Auckland Textile collection facility.
Jacinta, pictured here at an Auckland Textile collection facility.

“We are excited to be providing a platform for innovation away from current wasteful and polluting systems, and empowering designers to channel their creativity to be at the leading edge of change.”

The build of textile waste and press of changing climate is a pertinent problem that continues to concern our local fashion industry — the solutions posed by these upcoming designers will be ones to watch.

To go into win a double pass to the Awards Gala, which takes place from 5.30pm to 8pm on November 30 at The Sapphire Room in Ponsonby Central, email viva@nzherald.co.nz. Tickets for the gala are $50 (and $35 for students).

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