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How I found a new way for the fashion industry to be sustainable

New Blood Quickfire x IBM winners on the work that earned them the top spot

For the latest New Blood Quickfire brief, IBM invited emerging creatives to design a digital product or service for the fashion, food or electronics industries. The product had to explore how one of these industries could develop their own circular economies – keeping sustainability at its heart and using the latest technology.

Newly launched in 2020 to provide emerging creatives new chances to get real-world experience during the pandemic, New Blood Quickfire is a set of shorter briefs set by clients, aimed at helping emerging creatives to develop their portfolio and find paid opportunities during a tough time. 

Sophie Adam won the IBM brief for Fabrication – an idea for a digital product that allows users to wear virtual versions of real clothes, to combat the problem of people not wanting to wear the same outfit twice on social media. We spoke to Adam and four runner-up winners about how they found inspiration and ideas based on insights to crack the brief. 

From inspiration to execution

Sophie Adam: When I read the term “circular economy” in the brief, my mind immediately dived back to a conversation I had with a friend who studied sustainable fashion. We were out for coffee  and she was explaining how the fashion industry follows a “take, make and waste”  model. To create something less linear, we’d need to "drastically change the processes along the entire supply chain”. She had put forth all the ways we could do so; using more  sustainable resources, encouraging design for longevity, empowering consumers to buy  less new clothing, etc. But this just all seemed so slow. After revisiting this conversation, I had started to wonder if there was a way to avoid the actual creation of the garment in  the first place. 

Adam: I searched for the main culprit of textile waste, and simultaneously found my core insight: people are reluctant to re-wear something if it's already appeared on their social media.  That’s when I came up with the core of Fabrication. I looked to see if my idea had already been created, and was pleased that it sort of had, but not quite. I found that there were so many gaps in the market, and in turn, so many  opportunities. I think the pandemic just proved how much of our lives are lived virtually, so I wanted this idea  to be executed in a way that made the idea of wearing digital clothes in social media, just plain obvious.

The creative process

Adam: In Advertising we’re told to "never use the first idea that comes to mind”. But I think the exception to this rule is when your idea is born from a strong insight. It was fortunate I arrived at the core insight and idea almost immediately, so that allowed the exploration stage to focus more on searching for the most sensible way for my idea to  exist, rather than what was the actual idea itself. Throughout the process I kept asking myself “would I use this?” and it was a great metric to measure whether or not the idea seemed feasible. 

Adam: Every aspect of the idea’s execution was also quite deliberate. Establishing the Fabrication brand and its tone was so important. It needed to appeal to young people, be “up to date”, and also seem professional. I really wanted the idea to seem as real as possible, so even selecting a popular sound the target audience would’ve heard  countless times on Tiktok, and utilising it in the case study video, was purposeful.

Fabrication by Sophie Adam

Key learning

Adam: The key take away from working on this brief is it’s near impossible to ask people to  change their behaviours. Everything I have proposed sounds all well and good in theory, but actually carrying it out in practice, is much much different. Fabrication could have the potential to shift culture, but the only way it can achieve this is by inspiring people, and that’s the most complex part of this puzzle.

Runner-up winners on ideas to make fashion more sustainable

Two of the runners up also focused on sustainable fashion. Mark Suan created SUSTAIN – an app that traces the journey of thrifted clothing and updates a garment’s carbon emission score as it changes ownership. Suan says, “I created SUSTAIN as a means of integrating the environmental cost back into garments to shift the way we perceive and consume clothing. To empower users to use their filled wardrobes as vehicles to drive positive climate action by showing the impact and benefit of participating in second hand marketplaces vs. fast fashion.”

The second fashion industry idea from Proud Sornpaisarn and Claire Nanthayapirom called Cirsee is an app that reimagines and repurposes old clothes to make them new. The team said, “New Year’s sales. Membership discounts. The occasional retail therapy. This culture of over-consumption generates a vast amount of waste in the fashion industry and is exacerbated because we are unable to imagine clothes outside of their stylistic or design functions and give them extremely premature expiration dates. How do we address the cycle of overconsumption without limiting consumer self-expression and brand creativity? Our team’s answer is to extend garment life by encouraging designers to extend design potential and helping wearers reimagine the clothes already in their closet.” 

SUSTAIN by Mark Suan

Using WeTransfer to lessen your carbon footprint

Two other runners up winners focussed on the digital space  and electronics industry. Simao Barreto, Hila Narducci and Yani Gabriel pitched an idea called Cloud into Clouds that gives WeTransfer users the power to lessen their carbon footprint by choosing how long their data stays on the cloud (which could be simply five minutes). The team said, “We realized there is an opportunity to create sustainable businesses when it comes to digitally-focused work. We tried to bring the concept of a circular economy to this new era. People are beginning to be conscious and sustainable in their physical lifestyles – but they forget they can also make a change in the digital space.”

Bridging a gap to make phone repairs easy

Lastly, Quach Tan An, Nguyen Le Duy and Pham Quang Vinh pitched the runner-up entry IBM Smart Repair – an app to bridge the gap between original manufacturers and local repair stores, which would extend phone lifespans and reduce e-waste. The team said, “Surprising as it seems, the ‘eureka’ moment came to us while we were having our own devices repaired. Visiting local service spots is such a common practice here, but there remain certain doubts about their competence. Customers are not always confident in the quality of repair parts, and many a time they leave displeased as the store simply cannot carry out their requested repair due to lack of knowledge or components. As heavy smartphone users ourselves, we’ve had our fair share of bad experiences like those and felt there needed to be a change in order for these small repair shops to play into the greater circular economy. With this problem in mind, we began researching IBM’s products to see how they can lend a helping hand to our local repair shops.”