Olivia Rubens Will Represent Canada in This Year’s International Talent Support Competition

Photography by Brian Rankin.

The livestream event will take place this Friday at 10 a.m. EST.

Later this week, Ottawa-born sustainable knit designer Olivia Rubens will be competing in the international Talent Support competition, which is practically happening this Friday at 10 a.m. EST. The 11 finalists in the fashion category of the prestigious competition (following in the footsteps of greats like Richard Quinn, Mark Fast and Demna Gvasalia) will not only compete for the Diesel Award – a cash prize of € 10,000 and a 6-month internship the headquarters of the Italian brand; The celebrations also include a Responsible Fashion Award and one for People’s Choice.

Rubens is well placed to win the Responsible Award as their brand’s ethos focuses on using ethical manufacturing practices as well as upcycling and recycled materials to create the complex whimsical knitwear for which it is known. “My motto is that once you know something you can no longer know”, says Rubens, describing her foray into mindful design.

Olivia Rubens
Photography by Brian Rankin.

After Rubens took part in another design competition a few years ago, for which she had made “the heaviest sweater you have ever seen” from yarn she had spun from 15 pairs of used denim, Rubens began to dig deeper into the roots of Ethics and sustainability invade practices methods exercises And after Rubens learned more about the myriad facets of these topics, including materials that are actually better for the environment than those simply marketed as such, there was no going back to the direction of their brand. She asks, “Why should you keep using certain materials when you know how terrible they are to the planet or how bad they are ethical to produce?”

Rubens – a Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute scholarship holder who did her MA at the London College of Fashion – has not only used petroleum-based textiles in her collections, but has also worked with textile scientists Dian-Jen Lin and Hannes Hulstaert from London -based mail Carbon Lab on two material innovations: creating a pigment dyeing process using bacteria and developing a “photosynthetic coating” for fabrics (which means that carbon dioxide is converted to oxygen and you have to water your garment like any other water). Maintenance houseplant).

“My standards are really high now,” says Rubens of her approach of researching, developing and sourcing the elements that go into her designs. She says that initially the shortage of sustainable textiles – especially when she was working in Toronto – was frustratingly daunting; But she has built a “good network” to draw on, and she even shares her sustainability consultant skills with others in the industry.

Canadian design
Photography by Brian Rankin.

Another way Rubens has taken her destiny as a designer in hand is by staying off schedule and choosing to stop following the traditional cycle of fashion week. After Rubens last attended the digitized Helsinki Fashion Week last spring, he decided to “publish looks whenever I want. It’s stressful but also exciting. “

Rubens seems to take it for granted to map such unknown territory. She grew up a “madman” bullied throughout middle school and says that she considers herself a “very resilient and stubborn person”. So I got through that time without changing who I was; I’ve always been super eccentric – definitely a weird ball. I stuck with it and I think it made me stronger. “

In fact, Rubens says that what she endured “has a huge impact on where I direct my research from and how I choose to express myself through my work”. Her continued interest in unpacking questions about humanity, judgment, and the perceptions we have of one another informed her MA graduate collection titled Duplicitous Lives, which was inspired by the research question, “Is it possible to really really know yourself ? “

Canadian design
Photography by Brian Rankin.

“My perspective is no,” says Rubens with a laugh, adding that “you have to meet and face every single person on the planet because you change depending on who you are in.” in front. [It’s] logistically impossible. “The concept of identity and how we present ourselves is linked to the collection in other ways, including the inspiration Rubens drew from the work of visual artists Laurie Simmons, Juno Calypso, Nadia Lee Cohen and Cindy Sherman.

“It doesn’t play out anyone specifically,” says Rubens of Sherman’s challenging oeuvre. “It plays out those kind of ‘nostalgic’ people, and we can read who that person is without being directly related to or knowing who that person is. It comes back to the fact that we focus our perception on people we believe to be. “

Rubens suspects that for these reasons the journey to self-discovery never ends; and it says it also has “more purpose” to serve. After making masks and medical gowns for local long-term care facilities and hospices at the beginning of the quarantine, Rubens is now considering introducing a sustainable knitwear brand (she rediscovered her love for nature in the last few months while visiting Ottawa during the lockdown) . And she says she will continue to find ways to improve the lives of others through design. “It’s about making a positive impact in everything I do.”

View the 2020 ITS competition here.

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