This year, U.K.-based designer and Regents University London student Yuriko Fukuda, won for women’s wear, while Singapore-based designer and Singapore Polytechnic alum, Zhi Hong Benjamin Koh, won for men’s wear.
Open from July to August to designers 21 years old and older, the international design competition competition centers three environmental themes: regeneration, circularity and decarbonization. Lenzing-owned Tencel and design software CLO Virtual Fashion were strategic partners.
Samata Pattinson, chief executive officer of RCGD, said the competition is really about “tapping into what the design students and the college students are paying attention to.”
Lately, students are keen on entwining sustainable fashion with “wearable art,” per men’s wear winner Koh. He entered the RCGD competition with “the hope of sharing [The Material Atelier by 本 (BEN)’s] sustainable fashion vision” of partnering with local artists and sustainable materials. One of the studio’s goals is to inform the public through informative videos about what goes into the material and the design of their garments.
Similarly, Fukuda champions fashion as “a work of art,” with sustainable fashion revolving around timeless cuts, durability and natural materials as a “unique way of presenting luxury.”
“Expressing myself through design feels like meditation,” she said. “Our minds and art are indeed interconnected, having a bidirectional impact on our mental health. Fashion is a work of art and I believe it has the power to control our mind and body. It’s a unique way of presenting luxury. Sustainability is an exciting and new way of creating a better future for all.”
Fukuda’s gown and Koh’s suit were selected by an esteemed panel of judges including Suzy Amis Cameron, founder of RCGD; Harold Weghorst, vice president of global marketing and branding, Lenzing AG; Abrima Erwiah, cofounder of Studio 189, and New York-based celebrity fashion stylist Micaela Erlanger.
“She had an aesthetic that we had not seen before,” said Pattinson, on why Fukuda won, without revealing the designs. “We’ve been doing the competition for so long, it’s quite rare for a gown to be so unique in its silhouette.” As for Koh, Pattinson shared: “His design was extremely technical — and it was a unanimous winner.”
The winners gain access to business mentorship and an undisclosed monetary prize. In the lead up to the Oscars, winning looks will be showcased for the first time as part of a sustainable design exhibition in Los Angeles this fall (separate from RCGD’s gala).
Last year’s contest winners Sanah Sharma and Jasmine Kelly Rutherford will also see their designs showcased since last year’s celebrations were postponed due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“I am sure Yuriko and Benjamin, together with last year’s winners, will become aspirations for young fashion designers by embracing sustainability and creativity in their work. Both designers have a bright future ahead of them and I look forward to watching their careers in the fashion industry grow,” said Lenzing’s Weghorst.
The two winning designs will be put into production in early 2022 employing sustainable eco-couture textiles from Tencel and digital design technology from CLO. Finished designs will be showcased at the Red Carpet Green Dress event slated for sometime in January.