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Brazilian designer Lívia Aguiar de Castro, one of the finalists for the Redress Design Award 2022

By Marta De Divitiis

May 20, 2022

News |INTERVIEW

Photos: courtesy of Livia Aguiar de Castro

On May 10, the world's largest sustainable fashion competition for emerging talent, the Redress Design Award, announced its ten finalists. Lívia Aguiar de Castro from Betim, Brazil, was one of the lucky ones and is also the only Brazilian woman in the competition.

There will be three winners from the ten designers who reach the final. These three will have the opportunity to participate in the design collaboration with Timberland and receive cash prizes and sewing machines. This year the Redress Design Award received entries from 47 countries and regions. "Year after year, the quality of the submissions we receive improves. It is amazing to see these emerging designers from around the world propose so many diverse solutions to promote circularity within our industry," said Morgane Parizot, director of education at Redress, in the announcement release.

Lívia Aguiar de Castro is 27 years old and has a degree in Fashion Design from Fumec University in Brazil and founded RE. TRAMA in 2019, a brand of accessories developed through upcycling jeans. The designer granted an exclusive interview to FashionUnited about her career and involvement with sustainability in fashion. Check it out below.

Photos: courtesy of Livia Aguiar de Castro

FashionUnited: How did you find out about the competition, and why did you decide to apply?

I learned about the Redress Design Award through my research on sustainable fashion. The competition selects designers from all over the world who submit fashion collections made of textile waste, old or used clothing or fabrics, and so many other materials that have been discarded and that people have forgotten about. This is exactly the kind of fashion I like to produce. I decided to apply for the award because it symbolises what fashion means to me.

How did your connection with fashion come about?

For me, fashion has a cultural dimension. In general, I believe my work and fashion can benefit from a human, handmade touch. I've always liked handicrafts. My father's grandfather supported his family by making copper pots and paintings with copper wire. On my mother's side, my grandmother was that person who was always embroidering, painting and making fuxico. Handicraft has always enchanted me; the imperfection, uniqueness, manual labour, and human touch generate history and memories.

In my family, passing on your clothes to your relatives was this, and I always liked it. More and more, I saw myself creating my own style with these used clothes. And that's where fashion comes in. In the expression of the self, in the possibility of building one's own image and having fun in the process.

Before thinking about fashion, I was already interested in sustainability and reflecting on the world around me. The waste troubled me, to think where the materials went after use, and that made me collect some of these materials, as I saw my father do, by doing a DIY or reusing something based on improvisation. I loved studying fashion, but what turned a switch and made me realise that I wanted to be a fashion designer was my contact with Fashion Revolution. When I discovered this political dimension of fashion and started to meet so many brands that work with sustainability as a concept, I realised I wanted that too. I like to look at materials with their colours and textures and imagine new functions and applications for them. For me, sustainable fashion is the possibility of transforming an old piece into something totally new.

Photos: courtesy of Livia Aguiar de Castro

What is the collection you developed for the competition like?

HeritageBlue is my collection for the Redress Design Award. The idea was to create the pieces with a material so common and present in people's lives, produced so widely, which is the type of material that is most often than not discarded.

The production of jeans can cause damage to the environment, and, at the same time, jeans usually have a unique connection with the wearer. It's more common for people to buy new jeans, as they have a fit that suits the body well and can be worn for many years. The piece that never goes out of fashion has been reinvented so many times, but it carries this heritage, this affection.

I tried to recreate it in new patterns with a checkerboard pattern, adding the texture of jeans since each pair has a unique wash. The sketches were made with denim residues that were hand-woven and threads from the unravelling of the jeans, on which I crocheted. It's handmade, made to be unique and patched up over the years.

The reuse of jeans makes us reflect on the transformation of the industry and our relationship with fashion since it is a piece that everyone has owned at some point in their lives and that even if they have not directly discarded it, it has undoubtedly already ended up as waste. With reinforced seams, mixed metals and a mixture of fibres, they are a challenge to recycle, offering various possibilities for reuse.

Photos: courtesy of Livia Aguiar de Castro

How does RE.TRAMA work?

My brand RE.TRAMA was the continuation of my purpose. The name I gave to the brand was the same as my TCC - Trabalho de Conclusão de Curso (End of Course Work) collection, RE de re-tramar, re-construir a fabric with jeans, as was the case of my end of course collection and also my collection for REDRESS.

After graduating, I had to understand how to materialise this concept. In 2019, I had the opportunity to exhibit at a fair. I decided to create accessories with the waste from my collection. Since then, I have been building a business with donated jeans and old jewellery, creating what would be 'rejected'. I create original, handmade and modern costume jewellery with scraps and old jeans, buttons, eyelets and tin seals. I also customise accessories and clothes using waste. I like to explore the possibilities of reusing materials creatively and organically, upcycling them in as many ways as possible.

How important is sustainability today?

It is an important issue because it concerns all of us about our survival in a world that we pollute and destroy more and more every day. It no longer makes sense or has never made sense to create clothes and products in bulk and encourage disposal through the logic of planned obsolescence. Waste does not exist; it is not an end. When a product is produced, it generates environmental and often social impacts. When discarded, often still in a proper condition, it generates even more negative impact and pollution.

Circular solutions and products are needed. Like other societal structures, fashion requires a shift, and I want to be part of that movement. Creating something new with something that would usually be discarded is also prolonging the life cycle of an object, avoiding the impacts of its disposal and using virgin raw materials.

What does the recognition of being a Redress Design finalist mean to you?

Being a finalist is a great achievement; representing Brazil in the biggest sustainable fashion contest, being among great talents and professionals of this industry who make an effort to create fashion that is fairer and has less of an impact on the environment is an honour and a great opportunity. Redress is a community, and being connected with people who work and are active in the field of sustainable fashion creates bridges and possibilities to develop my concepts with RE.TRAMA and bring more of this knowledge to the national fashion landscape in Brazil. Redress shows that a fairer fashion industry is possible and thinking together is the key. I want to be part of the change.

Redress is a pioneering environmental charity working to prevent and transform textile waste in the fashion industry. Its dynamic programmes work to minimise the negative impacts of fashion, promoting innovative new models and driving growth towards a more sustainable industry through the circular economy. Redress aims to create lasting environmental change in fashion by working directly with a wide range of stakeholders, including designers, manufacturers, brands, educational bodies, government, and consumers.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.BR, and has been translated and edited into English by Veerle Versteeg.