Ashna Patel: Vinder af Årets Talent 2020

Ashna Patel vandt i 2020 prisen som Årets Talent, da hun i sit afgangsprojekt satte fokus på miljø, forretningsmodel og produktionsmetoder. Gennem workshops undersøgte hun, hvordan forbrugeren opnår et tilhørsforhold til sit tøj og dermed forlænger brugen. Ashna Patel har beskæftiget sig med essentielle områder indenfor bæredygtig mode, og herved er hun med til at bane vejen for modeindustrien.

What does it mean to you that you have won this award?

It means more than I can say. I am so happy, honored and grateful to have won the Talent of the Year award, and I couldn’t have imagined that the celebration of my graduation would end on such a high. It feels great to have been recognized for all the hard work that went into my Masters project, as I believe that it doesn’t happen very often in the fashion and textile industry. However, I’m really glad that this is changing and companies like Salling see the importance in supporting creatives in this shift towards prioritizing the planet and its people.

What do you intend to use the prize for?

I intend to continue to explore environmental intersectionality within my practice, this being the intersection of social and environmental justice. During my Masters project, I was in collaboration with a Community-Interest-Company called Khadi London. The collaboration unfolded the potential of working with a beautiful handspun, handwoven (organic) cotton ethically-cultivated in India. It opened me up to the movement of natural fibers, and showed me the importance of learning about them, working with them, and sharing my knowledge and experiences with others, whether that be fellow practitioners or users. The prize allows me to continue working alongside them on a volunteer-basis, to learn as much as I can and infuse this knowledge into my own practice. It also opens up the possibilities of investing in materials such as khadi cotton and natural dye in order to cultivate made-to-order garments. I received some interest in garments that I designed and constructed for my project, so I’m excited to continue working in collaboration with users to cultivate one-off garments they will care for and cherish.

What does Salling FFF Award mean for new talents in the future, in your opinion?

I believe that along with being a huge moment of celebration, it is also a chance to take a step back, reflect upon their hard work, the values that brought them there, and think ‘now how can I move forward?’. I think acknowledgement and support are key in motivating creatives to continue taking steps forward, and this award provides the financial means to do so. It is a wonderful start to our professional life, and provides a great way to network with like-minded practitioners.

What possibilities does this award offer you now?

It offers me the opportunity to continue with my creative practice and invest in materials, learning opportunities and to connect with a wider network within the fashion and textile industry, who I can both share with and learn from. At the event itself, there were many practitioners who have been inspiring to my own practice, and seem to share similar values and visions for the industry. The word seems to have spread far, and I have already been in conversation with some of these people. And so I believe that getting the word out of my work as a designer has been a wonderful opportunity to connect with those people and further my practice.

Why is sustainability such an important part of your design? Vision?

For me, sustainability is not an optional add-on. Before coming to Denmark, I studied a bachelor’s degree in fashion design where we were not encouraged to design intentionally or to really think about the value chain — where did this fabric I sourced come from? Whose hands and minds were responsible for bringing it to life? Who am I designing for and will they wear and cherish it? It was only about aesthetics. Something felt off and I completed the course unsure of whether I wanted to be part of the fashion industry. However, the Design for Planet Master’s Programme at Design School Kolding has encouraged me to design from a planet-positive perspective and this has infused meaning into everything I do. It gives my practice a foundation, a purpose and a goal.

How do you work with sustainability?

Within my practice, I explore collaborative relationships with members of the value chain to together live into alternative methodologies of practicing fashion and textiles. Through my work I want to challenge our often destructive relationships with clothing and textiles and offer a more earth-positive alternative, without having to compromise aesthetics. A few ways I practice this are by working slower and more mindfully in turn designing and producing less, working with natural ingredients so garments retain the opportunity to return back to soil at the end of life, and taking the time to build and develop relationships with members of the value chain to understand how I can be better ally. I believe stepping out of our studios to build these relationships could help us have a more critical approach to designing, producing and consuming. I see my next steps as working alongside the movement of natural fibers and bringing forth the knowledge I gain into the industry and into my own practice.

Where do you see sustainable fashion is going, moving towards?

I see sustainability being the non-negotiable foundations of fashion — not something that we can choose to work with, but have to work with. Though the conversation around sustainability has been around for years, it feels very new that the industry is realizing the importance and acting on it. In light of this, I see collaboration as key as I believe working together will allow us to take strides forward towards an intersectional future.

Have the award and it’s nominees inspired you to think in new ways for the future? Anything you’d like to highlight?

It brought to light that everybody has a different focus in relation to sustainability, due to our diverse experience of the world. I see this as a huge strength as sustainability covers a wide span that is impossible for a single creative to tackle alone. To stand beside fellow designers, makers, researchers, activists, etc. who share the same vision for a more earth friendly future gives me hope that we can create the shift that the industry needs.