Rebecca Powell Alumni story

Rebecca's story

BA (Hons) Fashion and Textile Design 2020

The future of sustainable fashion

Rebecca Powell, BA (Hons) Fashion and Textile Design ‘20, has applied a conscientious, future-thinking approach to her graduate collection that has recently seen her declared the winner of a prestigious national fashion award. With its focus on the intersection of design and sustainability, the course at Portsmouth is giving rise to a new generation of fashion creatives. In both the production and aesthetic, Rebecca is looking towards a kinder future for fashion.


"Sustainability is something that I always have in the back of my mind when creating my designs. I’d explored sustainability before, using organic fabrics and natural dyes, but nothing as extreme as my graduate collection! When I was given the freedom to set my brief, I saw this as an opportunity to take this focus and place it at the forefront.

I have always loved the ocean and the unique life within it. Seeing the destruction of its wildlife is upsetting. I was determined to produce a collection that demonstrated the impact of ocean pollution while being 100% sustainable.

To achieve this, I used beautiful hand embroidery techniques to mimic coral and show the natural beauty found within the ocean. I then layered plastics on top to portray the masking and suffocating effects that pollution is having on marine habitats.

I’m so happy to have won Graduate of the Year 2020 in Drapers’ Sustainable Fashion Awards. I think the extent to which I considered sustainability in my collection played a huge part in this.

Rebecca Powell, BA (Hons) Fashion and Textile Design Alumni

I’m so happy to have won Graduate of the Year 2020 in Drapers’ Sustainable Fashion Awards. I think the extent to which I considered sustainability in my collection played a huge part in this.

I considered every aspect of my designs very carefully to ensure that I could find a sustainable alternative for each element. The fabrics and materials used for my garments came from secondhand or unwanted sources. All the components, such as the zips and threads, were sourced from quality-control failures. I only used items that were considered imperfect or unwanted and which would otherwise not be used. I avoided the use of printing, as printing methods can contribute negatively to the environment. The only factor in my collection that might have affected the environment was the electricity used to power my sewing machine!

Rebecca Powell design
Rebecca Powells sustainable collection
Rebecca Powells fashion designs

My vision for the future of fashion centres on the production of fabrics. During my research I came across Panipat in India, also known as the ‘Worlds Cast-off Capital’. The images of entire streets of discarded clothing were shocking. These photographs influenced my opinion that fashion must become more sustainable. The industry needs to minimise the production of new fabrics and instead focus on the huge numbers of unwanted garments. We need to find ways to transform them into either new materials or clothing. 

Sustainability is something that I feel very strongly about. In the future I want to document and broadcast what is happening in Panipat to raise awareness of the issue. I was unaware of the scale of the problem and I suspect that many others may not know. Greater awareness will allow people to see the extent of the waste created by the fashion industry and hopefully prompt action to be taken. I hope that seeing these images will cause people to think twice before buying fast, throwaway fashion, and hopefully focus on clothes that they will keep for longer."

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