Barbara Adam looks at an exciting new design competition. Photos by ELLE Vietnam/DAINGO Studio.

The breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef helped two young Vietnamese fashion students win the prestigious ELLE Design Contest with their sustainable fashion creations.

Nguyen Minh Tuan and Nguyen Do Nhu Khoi, both fashion students at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, took out the top honours with their Great Barrier Reef collection, a tribute to the world’s largest living structure.

Tuan and Khoi, who called themselves the Mini Heart Team for the competition, beat almost 80 other entries from around Vietnam to win first prize, which includes a study trip to Australia.

Sustainable fashion was chosen to be the theme of ELLE Fashion Journey 2017. The first ELLE Design Contest was sponsored by the Australian government, the Woolmark Company, RMIT University, and Shiseido Ginza.

The fashion industry, with all the processes and products used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping, is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world.

Reducing the industry’s environmental damage seems imperative for the future of the planet.

As well as its eco theme, the competition was also designed to bring inspiration, knowledge, and real-life experiences to young Vietnamese design talents with mentoring workshops by Australian and Vietnamese fashion designers as well as the RMIT Fashion and Design School.

For the design competition, teams of two  were required to submit six original designs for a men’s or women’s collection, inspired by the nature of Australia and adopting elements of sustainable fashion and using Australian wool.

ELLE Fashion Journey 2017The competition guidelines included many suggestions for how to incorporate sustainable fashion, including using natural, organic or vegan fabrics, or vintage or recycled materials, and minimising waste and the amount of water used in production.

Australian Consul-General Karen Lanyon, who was a member of the judging panel, said she was pleased the design competition had raised awareness of the importance of sustainability and environmental protection in Vietnam’s burgeoning fashion industry.

“‘Eco’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ are not just buzz words in Australia, they’ve become a meaningful way that many Australians choose to shop,” she said. “Consumers are more mindful of where their clothing is coming from, and iconic Australian labels are leading the way in terms of sustainable and ethical fashion.”   

“Natural, sustainably-produced Australian fibres such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and linen are increasingly being used worldwide as an alternative to synthetic, environmentally-damaging fabrics, while Australian wool, one of our most sustainable fashion exports, now makes up 80% of the world’s wool apparel,” she said.

The Consul-General congratulated the winners of the competition for their designs, saying they captured the beauty of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the need to preserve the world’s marine environments.

For the final round of the competition, the top three entries were required to make two outfits each, under the mentorship of a team of experts in the fields of fashion design, material production and media.

Each team received VND15 million (US$660) to complete two designs in two weeks, with one the designs incorporating Woolmark fabric.

The finished designs were showcased at the ELLE Fashion Show in Ho Chi Minh City on December 7, photographed by ELLE’s creative team and published in ELLE’s magazine and media channels.

Tuan, one half of the winning team, said he was thrilled with the result.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he told AsiaLIFE, adding that he felt all his team’s hard work in the competition had paid off.

Tuan said he hoped the opportunities presented by the competition would allow him to pursue his dream of working in the field of sustainable fashion with a well-known designer.