Wilson School of Design Blog

2023 Upcycled Competition: The Outcome

The Wilson School of Design, in partnership with local textile recycling initiative Our Social Fabric, launched this year’s Upcycled Design Competition with the theme of “Protopia”. Participants created 3-dimensional designs using recycled textiles and found objects that addressed a meaningful and current topic. Concepts included but were not limited to: garments, soft products, art pieces, interior design products, creative packaging, or zero/minimal waste designs.

Our Social Fabric Store Tour from oursocialfabric on YouTube

Our Social Fabric (OSF) envisions a future where no usable fabric ends up in Canadian landfills. This non-profit fabric recycling initiative, located in Vancouver, has been operating since 2009. Prior to its establishment, large quantities of surplus fabrics from designers, manufacturers, the movie industry, and wholesalers were consistently discarded in landfills. Today, this non-profit organization welcomes donations of these waste materials and offers them for purchase to the general public at significantly reduced prices, both through their online store and during twice-weekly sales at their distinctive brick-and-mortar store on Venables St. Over the past five years, OSF has successfully diverted an astonishing 85.5 tons of fabric and sewing-related materials from being disposed of in landfills.

The Upcycled design competition combines reclaimed materials with the skill and expertise of the Wilson School of Design’s students to demonstrate the viability of transforming material waste into upcycled design concepts. The goal is to create awareness of Our Social Fabric’s efforts and inspire the many talented, emerging designers at the Wilson School of Design. Further details on the submission eligibility and guidelines can be found here.

During the initial concept submission stage, participants were tasked with creating visual boards outlining research photos, sense of theme, potential concept drawings, and projected colourways.

Once the finalists were selected, students then continued to build, design and fabricate their chosen concept. Along with the final product, students were required to submit a video that outlined their design process, representation of the theme “Protopia”, and other detailed relevant information. The submitted projects were evaluated on the innovative use of reclaimed materials (sourced from OSF with a maximum budget of $40), representation of “Protopia”, creativity, quality and workmanship. Four winners were selected with the first place receiving $2000, second place receiving $1500, third place receiving $1000, and the people’s choice award winner receiving $500.

In late April, a Winner’s Announcement event was held at The Wilson School of Design, and the winning designs were showcased. This annual event is supported by our Office of Advancement, the Office of External Affairs and many other departments from across KPU. Thanks go to our panel of judges for their time and dedication:

  • Andhra Goundrey – Dean, Wilson School of Design
  • Paul King – President, KenDor Textiles
  • Michael Pope – Faculty, Wilson School of Design
  • Heather Young – Faculty, Wilson School of Design
  • Jennifer Lamont – Coordinator, Indigenous Student Transition and Engagement, KPU

We take great pride in our community partnerships and once again, thank Our Social Fabric for their generous support. We look forward to seeing what wonderful ideas and concepts come forward in next year’s Upcycled Design Competition! Please take a few minutes to view the winning submissions below…they will give you hope for our future.

First Place: “From Rags to Riches” by Nina Rozin

Nina Rozin from Wilson School of Design at KPU on Vimeo.

Nina created heeled boots from scratch using upcycled denim. She was inspired by French designer Roger Vivier who often worked with fabric. Nina wanted to elevate denim as it was originally used for workwear. It is also a very wasteful material during production, so she repurposed it to spread awareness about the fashion industry’s impact. She says that

“As a designer in the fashion world, I am fully aware of the damaging effects of the fashion industry on our planet. The idea of upcycling is an important part of the solution. Being a student again, I have the freedom and time to explore these issues and work to bring more awareness and hopefully encourage more solutions. “Every little helps” is my motto and I want to be part of the change!”

Nina Rozin
Nina’s design “From Rags to Riches” on display at the Winner’s Announcement Event

When explaining the theme of “Protopia”, Nina described a world where there is a “constant sense of progress and growth, and people are optimistic about the future.” This inspired Nina to “take responsibility and use our “garbage” to create beauty.”

Second Place: “The Mystical Shawl of Unknown Futures” by Emma Juhala

Emma Juhala from Wilson School of Design at KPU on Vimeo.

Emma created her own fabric using a unique fibre art technique that uses “water-soluble embroidery stabilizer to gradually attach layers of yarn and fabric scraps.” After the stabilizer was dissolved, her beautiful fabric was revealed. Emma then turned the fabric into a shawl. She says that “the symbolism is in the process of gradually making the fabric without any sense of what it will look like.”

Emma with her Design “The Mystical Shawl of Unknown Futures” at the Winner’s Announcement Event

Emma describes the theme “Protopia” as

“the concept of making small incremental changes over a long period of time that will hopefully lead to a better more sustainable future. Key word here is “hopefully”. We don’t know if or how the actions we make today will impact our future. My project is based on the vulnerable feeling of blind faith we get from not knowing the effects our actions will have on our futures.”

Emma Juhala

Third Place: “The Girl From Tehran” by Mehdi Abbasi and Elise Charpentier

Mehdi and Elise from Wilson School of Design at KPU on Vimeo.

Together, Mehdi and Elise designed a dress inspired by the Azadi Tower, or “Freedom Tower,” in Tehran, Iran. The coloured ruffles on the dress represent Iran’s flag. The writing on the train was created using fabric scraps to reduce waste, and it translates to “women of freedom” in English.

Elise with her and Mehdi’s Design “The Girl From Tehran” at the Winner’s Announcement Event

Mehdi and Elise wanted to talk about the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement created to combat the discrimination against Iranian women in Iran. As a team they want to

“take initiative to create incremental change by educating and bringing awareness of the current events and developments in Iran afflicting women; to become a voice to inform the truth and reality of these women. We seek to freely express our emotions and concerns that have grown over months of observing the stories of young women sacrificing themselves for the same freedom we currently indulge.”

Mehdi Abbasi and Elise Charpentier

People’s Choice Award: “Ro” by Eren Berg

Eren Berg from Wilson School of Design at KPU on Vimeo.

The People’s Choice Award winner was selected through a social media voting campaign.

Eren’s theme is about “sustainability and reducing fabric waste.” His design features a wide-legged pair of pants along with a navy blue triangle bag. These pants can be transformed into a new garment by unsnapping the inseam of the pants and attaching the triangle bag to the front and back of the pant to create a skirt.

Eren with his Design “Ro” at the Winner’s Announcement Event

When considering the theme “Protopia” Eren wanted to “combine the theme with [his] passion for sustainability.” When talking about the future he said,

“I see no better future than one that majorly reduces material waste! Forget your bag at home when grocery shopping? Unsnap the skirt, snap up the pants and the triangular parts and boom! No need for a plastic bag! In the end, Ro takes sustainability to a whole new level by being three unique pieces out of one large garment!”

Eren Berg