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Designer Yan Jianhui uses recycled materials to create sustainable fashion

Designer Yan Jianhui uses recycled materials to create sustainable fashion

Fashion may not be the first industry that comes to mind when discussing global sustainability, but the clothes we wear don’t just impress people on the street; they also leave their mark on the planet.

according to a Recent report from the Clothing Impact InstituteAccording to statistics, in 2021, the fashion industry accounted for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But the fashion industry’s impact on the environment isn’t limited to greenhouse gas emissions. Cotton production consumes a lot of water, Textile dyeing and finishing leads to global water pollutionand Synthetic fibers such as polyester leach microplastics Access to oceans and other bodies of water. Kicker? about 85% All textiles produced in the United States (approximately 14 million tons per year) are ultimately incinerated or buried. As the fast fashion market continues to expand, Fashion industry’s carbon emissions expected to surge in coming years.

Yan Jianhui spoke at the

Yan Jianhui spoke at the “Building a Green Planet” event.

Some suppliers, manufacturers, business leaders and consumers are recognizing its huge impact on the environment and are beginning to call for a more sustainable fashion industry.But for jewelry designers Jianhui Yansustainability is not a new issue; it has been a cornerstone of his work since he opened his first store on London’s South Bank almost two decades ago.

Yan recently discussed his design and vision at “Building a Greener Planet,” part of Columbia Climate School’s event slate climate week 2023. In the interview below, I caught up with Yan to learn more about his work and what inspires his innovative approach to fashion.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? What influences your design philosophy?

I was born and raised in a small village during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. When I was a kid and teenager, I spent a lot of time alone in the mountains. My love for flowers, plants, birds and animals began then. I love nature and am often inspired by it. So being kind to nature is always on my mind whenever I create designs.

How did you get started in fashion design and using recycled materials in your work?

To pay off debt from studying for my MBA in the UK, I used to sell antiques and curios at Portobello and Spitalfields markets in London. During that time, I started making necklaces out of damaged vintage pieces.From these early works to my most recent work Aquarium series Made from recycled plastic water bottles, I have been using recycled materials to create my eco-friendly designs for over 18 years. I believe that the most sustainable materials are the ones we already have and that sustainability is not a trend but a mission to make our planet greener.

The flyer shows how Jianhui transforms recycled materials into jewelry.

The flyer shows how Yan transforms recycled materials into jewelry.

I use a variety of recycled materials to create my designs.this Next page Pashmina The collection is made from recycled wood and has been praised by Elio Fiorucci as “the most beautiful eco-friendly design”. My recycled leather collection won the NY NOW 2020 Sustainability Award. My latest series, “Love from My Father,” is made from recycled newspapers and has the Chinese character “爱” written by my father himself. It is loved by people all over the world.

How do you find materials for your work?

Most of the time I get scraps or discarded scraps from workshops and factories. Sometimes I also buy leftovers from factories that are going out of business or going bankrupt. If I didn’t use these materials, it’s likely that most of them would end up in a landfill. But to me, every piece, no matter how big or small, is either toxic to our planet or us if we don’t use it, or precious if we choose to use it.

What are the main challenges on the road to a more sustainable fashion industry?

The biggest challenge is how to get fast fashion companies to become less concerned about profits and more focused on the pollution caused by the fashion industry. The fashion industry must face the fact that manufacturing new materials requires a huge amount of energy, and it also has a huge negative impact on our planet, both environmentally and socially. While they are doing their best to make money, they should also give themselves time to think about how future generations will live.

Do you think personal choices have an impact when it comes to sustainability?

Yes, that’s right. Slowing down these problems and making our planet a greener place requires everyone’s efforts. Never underestimate the impact your daily life can have on our planet, whether it’s good or bad.

Event participants showcased sustainable fashion, including some of Jianhui’s designs.

Event participants showcased sustainable fashion, including some serious designs.

In the West we are richer than most other countries, so we consume more. Especially when it comes to fast fashion, some people just buy, buy, buy. Every time I walk into a fast fashion store, I see people queuing up with five to ten items of clothing in their hands, waiting to pay. How long will these pieces last? Some may last a month, others may only last a week. Some may even be thrown away before they wear out. To stop the climate crisis or slow it down and buy us more time, individuals must act together and work together. I believe in “United, Stronger”.

Why is sustainability an integral part of your work? What inspires you to ensure your designs are as environmentally friendly as possible?

This is a private matter. My colleagues and I have many nieces and nephews, as well as nieces and nephews, ranging in age from one to twenty-five years old. We love them. We want to make their future safer and greener. Almost all of the artisans we work with have young children or grandchildren, and we feel we have a responsibility to protect our planet for these younger generations.

Samples of Yan's work.

Samples of Yan’s work.

We try to use as little energy as possible and recycle materials. We take every step with care, such as using candlelight instead of a lighter to burn the edges of the plastic petals after cutting them by hand.

“Building a Greener Planet” was presented during Climate Week 2023 as part of Columbia Climate School’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Anti-Bias, Anti-Racism, Accessibility and Justice Initiative.

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