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CLOTHES FOR THE FUTURE: RUTH WEERASINGHE


Image via Ruth Weerasinghe


RUTH WEERASINGHE WAS THIS YEAR’S REDRESSED WOMENSWEAR COMPETITION RUNNER-UP. WITH PIECES MADE FROM INDUSTRIAL WASTE DESIGNED TO BE TAKEN APART AND LAYERED BACK TOGETHER FOR EVERY ACTIVITY AND WEATHER CONDITION, HER JUST “SO4 OUTLAST” COLLECTION MIGHT BE THE FUTURE OF HOW WE DRESS.

WARDROBE CRISIS: Tell us about why you started your brand.  RUTH WEERASINGHE: “As a child, I spent my holidays in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, where my grandparents lived. With rivers, lakes, and paddy fields, it was another world and I cherished it. However, as I grew up, I realised the environment was rapidly changing. The rivers were drying out, the streams did not have fish anymore and the paddy fields could not yield harvest as they did before. Reports of acid rain in urban areas made me think about the impacts of pollution on air, water, and land. I began to think about sustainability, protection, and longevity. I explored the concept of using repurposed non-biodegradable, durable industrial synthetic waste and clothing waste to enact take-make-reuse (and upcycle and reconstruct) through design.

“The inspiration and idea around my concept and brand, SO4, started during my final year in college, studying Fashion Design and Marketing at the Colombo Academy of Design. I took part in an apparel waste management program with the University of Cambridge that brought together the university and Sri Lankan apparel industry leaders to tackle the problem of waste. This inspired my start as a sustainable designer as I understood the scale of waste produced by the clothing industry.”



Image via Ruth Weerasinghe


WARDROBE CRISIS: Why is sustainability important for you? RUTH WEERASINGHE: “I wanted to do something that would impact the world for the better. Being born in Sri Lanka, a country with a large apparel industry, gave me an understanding of the impact clothing has on the environment. During college, I watched The True Cost and was shocked. It inspired me to be curious and find solutions through product innovation. Our clothes should not be a threat to this planet.”

WARDROBE CRISIS: How do your designs implement sustainable practices? How did you decide on the materials you use?  RUTH WEERASINGHE: “Design for longevity is at the heart of the brand. Using pre-existing materials is the most effective method of reducing the carbon footprint of apparel. I repurpose synthetic non-biodegradable industrial waste and give it multiple lives and keep it in the loop.”

WARDROBE CRISIS: Like old used car airbags? RUTH WEERASINGHE: “Yes! I also source damaged, second-hand garments from collectors and dealers.”

WARDROBE CRISIS: Where do you think people will wear your clothes? RUTH WEERASINGHE: “The most popular items are statement pieces, particularly a men’s jacket from the previous collection and a women’s oversized jacket from the recent womenswear collection. SO4 has a street-style edge that allows young people to dress their beliefs and identities as they strive to heal the planet. 

WARDROBE CRISIS: Where do you want your company to be in five years? RUTH WEERASINGHE: “SO4 currently has conceptual clothing and commercial ready-to-wear. In five years I would like to develop SO4 into a brand with a stable identity and consumer platform that gives more to the planet.”


Image via Ruth Weerasinghe

WARDROBE CRISIS: Your designs have many layers that can be taken on and off. Can you tell us how form and function come together for you? RUTH WEERASINGHE: “The inspiration behind the aesthetic of the garments was pollution in air, water, and land. The clothes are designed to be functional, protective, and adaptable to unpredictable weather conditions as the world continues to see the effects of global warming. The industrial waste materials have inherent protective properties including water repellency and fire resistance. The garments are designed to be adaptable to unpredictable weather conditions, damage, and wear-out replacements. They are also versatile in design: the user can play around and adapt the garment to fit their need from form to function as they switch activities. If an area of the garment gets worn out, it can be detached and replaced with a spare part, so the garment keeps upgrading and could be worn throughout generations.”


INTERVIEW BY CLAIRE KALIKMAN.

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