SheSociety first noticed the work of Megan Robotham at MBFF Brisbane. Her designs were showcased on the Next Gen Show catwalk. Megan’s particular interest is in sustainability and her quirky designs use a range of everyday objects including water bottle labels, synthetic shower puffs and disused tent rope to create amazing designer clothes. As we look ever more carefully at reusing ,recycling and repurposing everyday objects, it is refreshing to see designers of the future who are already embracing this ethos. I will be heading along to the QUT 2019 Fashion Grad Show soon to watch the clever Honours students present their fashion show – Binary. Megan Robotham’s Label – IONA Designs creates designs for the future and we will all be watching to see what the future holds for this young emerging designer.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Megan Robotham and I’m currently in my final honours year at QUT in Brisbane studying a Bachelor of Design (honours) – Fashion with a second major in marketing. I’m 21 and, being a Virgo, I have been known to be a bit of a perfectionist!
- Have you always been interested in fashion?
Not necessarily fashion but definitely the way fashion makes people feel and behave. Ever since I was young I remember being asked for my opinion on what people were wearing, and over time, I’ve begun to realise that the thing that determined whether I liked an outfit or not was the way the garments allowed the individual to carry themselves. Fashion has this ability to let people ‘in’ or keep people ‘out’ depending on the individual and where they are at in their life and this is an incredible thing. But more importantly, it has the ability to spark conversation and I think that is what has drawn me to it.
- Your latest collection uses sustainable design. Have you always been interested in sustainability?
My very first subject at university was actually about sustainability, so I can definitely say it has always been in the back of my mind. However, I never really considered it to be a way of future designing until I did a semester abroad in Amsterdam. AMFI (where I studied) taught me that sustainability can be used throughout all facets of design and that, whilst it is quite obvious in my current collection, it doesn’t always have to be – all that is important is that it is in fact there. I have tried to show different facets of this in my collection with some pieces being blatantly obvious as a way to start the conversation, followed by more realistic ideas or methods of application which could easily be integrated into a slow fashion market environment.
- Can you describe some of your amazing pieces and what they are made from?
My collection is still being made, with our grad show coming up in November, hence l am still coming across some amazing materials and methods of application. But for the time being, I have a long zero-waste floor length dress made from a bright yellow fishing net, a bra made from tent guy ropes, pants made from waterbottle labels*, a jacket and top made from discoloured discarded shower puffs and many more ideas are brewing in my head waiting to be created as I find the right rubbish.
*the water label pants being my main conversation starter at the moment as, being quite literal, they are very easy for the public to relate to. It is also important to note that all of the labels come from my place of work as we don’t have a tap and end up buying slabs of water bottles at least once a week.
- Do you have a favourite piece in the collection ?
That is quite a difficult question as I have become incredibly attached to everything! For the time being it would have to be my shower puff jacket. With its upcycled pink mesh body and oversized shower puff collar which fills the nook between your neck and shoulders, it honestly feels so calming and safe when worn. Whilst this may sound incredibly odd, I find this really interesting as waste has always been something that I have never really thought about – to date my rubbish goes out on a Monday night and gets picked up early Tuesday by the bin-men and I never see it again! So to have a form of repurposed waste so close to my body and face it is really quite surreal, it does however give me hope that one day this sense of positive reuse can be felt in everything we wear, knowing that the items we are consuming, and the businesses we are supporting, are doing the right thing for both us and our planet.
- What is your own personal style?
To be quite honest, I probably have the most mundane style for a fashion student, but I promise it is improving! Over the past couple of years, I have become quite aware of the way that I personally consume and whilst I very much enjoy the act of shopping (as so many of us do) I now only purchase items that I know I will wear and can eventually repurpose, making my wardrobe very conventional and almost monochromatic.
- You are almost finished the honours program what will be next for you?
In terms of the next year, I am hoping to graduate and intern overseas. I have 6 months left of my marketing degree which I am hoping to complete in Canada on exchange and if all works out I’m hoping to intern in the US on completion of my studies. Either way, due to the fact that I studied more or less 24/7 over the last 4 years, I haven’t had any time to gain external industry experience, hence my next big step is to apply for internships so I can continue to grow and learn as a designer. Big picture – I would love to work in the atelier of a fashion house working with sustainable materials and be at the forefront of future fashion.
- Globally which fashion brands do you see embracing sustainability?
Good question! I think most big brands know that fashion needs to embrace sustainability and I think consumers are starting to care about the companies who do, due to the rise of media and general global awareness.
In terms of sustainability, there seems to be a lot of talk but not a lot of action, most likely because it is in fact quite difficult to change the way one sources and approaches sustainable materials, especially for big brands which have been running a particular way for so long. It is, however, a change that needs to occur and the more brands that embrace these changes the easier the process will be as it will become a norm rather than a statement or exception.
In relation to particular fashion brands, that is difficult as whilst all companies have an element of CSR to uphold it is also the consumers who need to accept this change. Great movement is being made in terms of a recent “Fashion Pact” made prior to the G7 summit with 32 leading companies such as Burberry, Chanel, H&M group, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney etc. to name a few, signing an agreement to meet certain sustainable based objectives which is great, however, I truly hope that action is taken and not just paid lip service.
- What have been your favourite materials to design with?
I’ve always loved a challenge and live for the experience of working with something new. In terms of my favourite material I’d have to say industrial fish net, mainly due to the fact that it comes in such unusual shapes depending on where it’s been cut or what it was previously used for, meaning that I have to really consider how I use it in order to accommodate for holes etc. I also love the way it holds a shape as it opens up so many different design possibilities.
- What are some of the constraints of working with sustainable materials?
The unknowns! When using materials that have been found, donated or blindly sourced (aka from recycling plants etc) there is so much that is unknown with regards to their composition and properties, this in turn impacts how they react when in contact with things such as force, light, water etc. meaning that things are constantly changing. For example, I made a jacket out of bright pink soundproofing foam which over the past 6 months has morphed into a pasty skin colour /apricot colour. Whilst it was initially quite frustrating, as I am so accustomed to purchasing exactly what I want, when I want it, it was a clear indication of how much more understanding/personal growing I need in relation to using sustainable materials and learning to deal with/ accommodate for their imperfections.
To see Megan Robotham and other emerging designers of the future, visit QTIX for tickets to BINARY 2019 Fashion Grad Show on 13 November or look at her work on Instagram @ionadesigns. IONA by Megan Robotham reveals designs that embrace the principles of sustainability, style and individuality and are paving the way for us all to combat the effects of climate change. Bravo to the Next Gen for leading the way!
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