EFWA 2018 Upcycling Challenge Interview With Anne Ruggieri of KOLIBRI

Please share a bit about the journey that led you to embrace fashion design as a career.

I discovered from quite a young age the power of individuality and identification through the way one chooses to dress. Clothing and accessories, whether intentional or not, tell a story about who the person is or aspires to be. To me, that is such a brilliant concept.

I taught myself how to sew before I decided to study fashion, and find so much passion and excitement through manipulating what was once deemed useless into something beautiful. In the mind of a sustainable person, trash is not trash. And I love the challenge of upcycling, the process constantly picks at your brain. It’s such a satisfying journey every time.

I know you are studying at The Masters Institute of Creative Education in Melbourne. Talk about the highs and lows of studying. What do you find easy? What is a challenge?

I am studying a Bachelor of Fashion and Business. My course has really helped open up my knowledge on how to transfer art into commercially viable tangibles. The institute has a great supportive faculty. They get to know each student’s individual aspirations and guide them to attain their goals through business. While my course has taught me so much about the scope of the industry and helped me gain an aptitude for business, I would love to know more about the production side of fashion. At the moment I have mostly self-taught skills in craftsmanship and development. My only other challenge while studying is trying to juggle being a wife, mother and working in between. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though! 

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you, or do you plan to, offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I identify myself as a sustainable designer. Since my aesthetic involves techniques used in slow fashion, mostly draping and hand-sewing, I like to say my style attracts high fashion consumers. I connect particularly to more sculptural silhouettes. I have always been fascinated with the curves of the female figure so my aesthetic is devoted to enhancing femininity, with touches of whimsical details. The designers I aspire to are Johanna Ortiz, Alice McCall, Zimmermann and Kit X.

My up and coming clothing label, Kolibri, will offer smaller Prêt-à-Porter runs as a counteract to the mass production of fast fashion that is currently overtaking our precious environment. I would still like to offer consistent collections each season, but limit myself to slower and smaller drops. To me, this will help keep fashion as the precious art form it is and take a step back from filling up landfills and negatively impacting society. 

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson and Dalija Vlahov. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

Upcycling has been a part of my life since I was born. My mother’s influence of hoarding and re-purposing knick-knacks due to the hardship of life in the Philippines was the base of my creativity. I then cultivated these skills into turning my sisters’ and friends’ unwanted costume jewellery into remodelled and unique pieces. Every Christmas, I'd wrap presents using only upcycled materials. When my son was born, I developed a love for turning old materials into clothing for him. It wasn’t until I started studying that I found the possibility of upcycling in womenswear very real. 

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

I have mainly explored draping on the mannequin and my artistic intuition. This runway look plays with asymmetry while maintaining balance and proportion. The inspiration behind the look is the elements taken from the natural world. At the moment, I am fascinated with the notion of nature being so organic and freeform, yet we see so much symmetry and harmony in details such as the impeccable form of snowflakes or the tightly knit layers of mushroom gills. My design has incorporated the curls and billows of flower petals and the beauty found in imperfections.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you and what you hope to offer the world of fashion?

I want consumers to perceive second-hand and post-consumer materials as desirable as new materials. I would like to be a fashion label that stands by its artisanal traditions, and helps re-gain the value of fashion. I would also like to be seen as one of the next generation designers that are part of the movement against fashion’s notorious environmental footprint. My ultimate hope is to bring about awareness of the need to protect the inestimable well-being of our world. The fashion industry needs to change. 

What's next for you? What are your long term dreams?

I would like to continue to be an advocate for sustainable fashion, whether it be to launch my clothing label to full-scale or to be involved in movements that cater to safeguarding our environment.

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