Ruth Weerasinghe | Finalist at Redress Design Awards

Flying the flag for Sri Lankan design, Ruth Weerasinghe has earned a place in the finals of the Redress Design Award based in Hong Kong. Formerly known as the EcoChic Design Award, this is the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. Organised by Redress, the competition works to educate emerging fashion designers around the world about sustainable design theories and techniques in order to drive growth towards a circular fashion system. By putting sustainable design talent in the global spotlight, the competition creates a unique platform for passionate and talented fashion game-changers to transform the global fashion industry and rewards the best with career-changing prizes to maximise long-term impact. For Ruth, her passion lies in creating clothes with a strong emphasis on sustainability. This collection features strong elements of sustainability while maintaining a focus on fashion which earned her a place in the finals of this prestigious competition. As a finalist Ruth now looks forward to presenting her sustainable collections at HKTDC Hong Kong’s Fashion Week CENTRESTAGE when restrictions are eased.   


Q Describe your journey into fashion?   
The foundation of my fashion journey began at a very young age, at the age of 12.  I started sketching outfits and accessories. As I grew up, I did some research and realized that I could learn to become a professional designer to pursue a career in the fashion industry as a Fashion Designer. When I was 15, I heard about the Fashion Design course and took part in one of the open days held at AOD in 2013. It was my dream to join AOD and complete my degree. I joined the Fashion Design and Marketing Degree program as I was interested in both the creative and marketing side of fashion from end to end, design to product, promotions, and marketing. I was very fortunate to have inspiring and extremely supportive lectures and gained many industry exposures throughout my time at AOD. Today I work as a Junior fashion designer at Inqube Solutions – (Innovation arm of Brandix).   
Q What would you describe as your specialty, menswear, or womenswear?  
I prefer both menswear and womenswear. During my time at AOD I got the chance to explore both areas in depth and throughout that period I have always had an equal interest in both men’s and women’s wear. My graduation collection was a menswear collection and the Redress Award collection is a womenswear collection.  
Image from Ruth's lookbook
Q What made you enter the Redress Design Award 2020?   
As a designer, sustainability and innovation are two of the main areas I focus through my work. Redress is the world’s largest sustainable fashion competition and I was always interested in their impact in the sustainable fashion industry as well as the competition cycles. AOD shared the 2020 competition link and I thought it would be exciting to apply and take part in the competition.   
Q What is the concept you presented for this competition?   
The concept is based on slow fashion, designing garments that would evolve with the consumer and stand the test of time (designed for longevity from materials to garment construction), where the user will eventually create an emotional connection with their clothing, giving more value to the product and move away from the take-make-waste process and embrace a more sustainable process of take-make-reuse by reconstructing, upcycling or recycling.   
Image from Ruth's lookbook
Q What inspired this concept?   
During my early years, I spent my holidays in Kurunegala, where my grandparents lived. From rivers to lakes and paddy fields, it was another world and I loved that experience. However, as I grew up I realized that environment was rapidly changing. The rivers were drying out, the streams did not have fish anymore and the paddy fields could not yield harvest as they did before. Meanwhile, acid rains in different urban areas were reported, which made me think about the impacts of pollution on air, water, and land and look at ways on how environmental pollution impacted the planet and humans and their protection.  This is when I merged sustainability, protection, longevity and explored the concept of using repurposed non-biodegradable, durable industrial synthetic waste and clothing waste to build an inspiring equation to explore the concept of take-make-reuse (upcycle, reconstruct) through design.   
Image from Ruth's lookbook
Q  You employ upcycling and reconstruction as your design techniques. Can you explain how you incorporated those elements into this collection you presented for the competition?   
Industrial waste materials and textile waste materials are merged through patchworking. Industrial textile waste comes in various compositions, weights, and inbuilt functional properties, and its tricky as well as explorative to work with them as they are not designed to be used for clothing. Mainly these materials are deconstructed into workable flat pieces and then puzzled with clothing and textile waste to create interesting and unique pieces.   
Q  Where did you source the materials for this collection?   
The materials were sourced from various places including secondhand clothing stores to write off stocks and numerous industrial sites where industrial materials are discarded from their intended use.
Image from Ruth's lookbook
Q What was your reaction when you reached the finals?   
My mind exploded… I was very happy and thrilled to hear the news.  
Q What would winning this competition mean for you?   
Taking part in the finals of the Redress Design Award and showcasing on the Redress Runway will be a great opportunity and experience. Winning the competition would help me gain more exposure and experience in sustainable fashion and it will also give me the opportunity to meet many industry experts from around the world and widen my scope as a designer. I will do my best for the competition representing Sri Lanka and AOD because sustainable manufacturing and design practice have always been a priority of the SL apparel industry and part of the DNA of AOD.