You Won't Believe It's Trash - Trash to Couture Fashion Design Contest

Published/Updated on:
May 30, 2023
Graduate Spotlight

Hey there, fashion enthusiasts! I'm Nicole, a fashion writer for the family. Recently, I got to experience my first ever couture fashion show. It was a unique experience, watching models and designers walk the stage so glamorously, decked in various different kinds of gowns, puffy dresses and unique one of a kind accessories. Everything worn on the models were designed and executed all within a span of less than 2 months! The designs were made with very interesting materials such as coffee capsules, construction netting, poly mailers and more. Amidst all the squeezing in between the crowds, and trying to find a spot to take good photos in, I learnt so much about fashion, waste and how creativity and a brilliant mind can create trash into fashion, and least to say I was very awestruck by the designs I saw. 

Sustainability in Singapore

Sustainability is a big buzzword in the fashion industry now and Singapore prides itself to be a green country. But ever wondered how much waste we actually produce? You’ll be surprised that about 7.39 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in Singapore in 2022 and this is an increase of about 6% from the 6.94 million tonnes in the previous year! 

This increase highlights the pressing need to address waste management and promote sustainability in the country. Recognizing the significance of this issue, Lendlease, a company committed to sustainability, launched their mission called Mission Zero to reach a target of Net Zero emissions by 2025 and absolute zero carbon by 2040.

Source: NEA Waste and Recycling Statistics (2022)

You Won't Believe It's Trash (Y.W.B.I.T) Campaign

One person’s trash can be someone else’s treasure. With Lendlease's mission, they launched their first You Won't Believe It's Trash (Y.W.B.I.T) campaign in 2022. Having showcased creative art pieces such as movie props and models made from discarded and recycled items last year, this year’s Y.W.B.I.T. – Trash to Couture shifts its focus to fashion. By highlighting the creative possibilities of waste, Lendlease aims to inspire individuals and communities to rethink waste and sustainability.

This Fashion Design contest was open to all citizens and residents of Singapore aged 16 and above. People from all walks of life who has an interest in fashion were welcome to join. All finalists had to provide visual concepts, sketches, mood boards, write up and fabricate their couture pieces. We are very proud that 3 of our graduates from made it to the top 10 finalists of the competition. The Judging Criteria was that at least 80% of the materials used in the design should be diverted from waste streams i.e. recycled, repurposed or upcycled. 

About Our Finalists & Their Concepts

1. Packaging Waste Concept

With Singapore being such a modern and technologically advanced country, online shopping has become the norm. Constant sales campaigns, advertisements and online shopping contributed greatly to the packaging waste produced. According to an article by Today, Singaporeans were unsure of what materials could be recycled. Following this theme, Kassandra and Joshua’s concept is based on online shopping and the fashion waste that is generated. 

Kassandra Lim who is an architect, an award winning filmmaker, has many interests like photography, baking and photography, is a former student at who took up a Diploma in Fashion Technology. While Joshua Toh a graduate at Bartlett School of Architecture UCL and former student of’s Fashion Business Plan Development course and Drafting & Sewing: Jackets

Their concept named “RE-POST” comes from the first syllable of “Reduce” “Reuse” and “Recycle” while the “Post” originates from the word postage. The fashion design is mainly constructed from the yellow padded plastic packaging/black poly mailers often used in e-commerce shopping, and the various other bubble wraps and tapes that the product is often protected and swelling in. The final silhouettes were created with the design of a parachute and winter jacket in mind, in the striking yellow with the bubble wrap hidden underneath to inflate the dress.

Source: Re-Post Submission Sketches by Kassandra Lim & Joshua Toh

2. Denim Concept

According to the same report above, the amount of textile and leather waste produced was 254,000 tonnes and only 2% of it was recycled. There are only around 60 textile recycling bins across Singapore  and Singapore does not have any textile or leather recycling facilities, so all such waste that gets recycled is exported. There, the textiles are sorted by hand into around 500 categories and for three broad purposes — reuse, upcycling and recycling. Following this concept of textile waste, Amy and her team decided to overhaul the definition of a wedding dress by upcycling the fabric, denim. 

Amy Tan Wei Kim who is also our former student having taken 10 over courses here at, including Global Sourcing for Textiles and Apparel  , E-Fashion Business and together with her teammates Octavia and Connie they came up with the idea of using 2nd hand denim and repurposed used gowns for their design. Having owned more than 100 pairs of denim, used gowns, leftover stock samples, the team reimagined the bridal gown. Their concept came from wanting to experiment with the more casual fabric with traditional tulle used in wedding gowns. The denim is adorned with little crystals, beading and embroidery to glam it up. 

Once again, congratulations to the 3 finalists from, Kassandra, Joshua and Amy!

From Rural Roots to Couture 

Alongside the participating contestants showcasing their pieces, Thai sustainable designer Apichet ‘Madaew’ Atirattana also unveiled 5 of his specially curated designs on the runway. A little background of Apichet ‘Madaew’ Atirattana, he became a fashion sensation at the tender age of 16 that she made out of household items. Growing up among the rice fields in Thailand’s Isaan region, her love for fashion has brought her all over the world, even to star as a guest judge in Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 4 episode 5 in Singapore. 

Source: @madaew99 (Instagram) 

If you’re interested to see all these designs from the Lendlease competition and Apichet ‘Madaew’ Atirattana’s designs for yourself, you can head down to these locations 

Personal Thoughts 

After attending this fashion show, I personally feel that fashion is really an outward expression of oneself! I really admire the hard work and determination that goes into each and every custom fashion piece. The number of hours, attention to detail and speed at which the garment was created never ceases to amaze me. It is also extremely meaningful to witness people from all parts of society coming together for a good cause and promoting sustainability in this current fast paced and fast fashion society.

Although it is certainly the best option to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, however, not all of us can afford to do so. A simple way that we can integrate sustainability into our daily life is through slow living and learning to adopt a circular lifestyle. How we can do so is by adopting the habit of avoiding waste by reducing, reusing, repairing, re-gifting, recovering, recycling and rethinking the items in our lives. After looking through the designs and seeing how easily wastage is produced in our daily lives, I’ve decided to adopt slow living into my life and plan ahead to be able to consume in a more sustainable way. 

After reading this article, I hope that you will be as inspired as I am to live a more sustainable lifestyle. What are some ways you think that you can incorporate it into your personal daily life? 

Want to learn more?

Interested in sustainable fashion? Join our course on “Sustainable Fashion Value Chain” where you can learn sustainable fashion trends and concepts of sustainability including business’ impact on society, environment and economy. 

Do you already possess sewing skills and have a budding entrepreneurship spirit? Promote sustainability and reduce waste by helping others alter their clothes. Come and sign up to be part of our AlterAround program! You can do your part for the environment and earn a little income on the side as well! 

Nicole Toh

Hi! I'm Nicole. I am a Junior Marketing Executive in Look forward to more blogs and content coming up from me! I love a good cup of tea, some light exercise and listening to music! I am always open to a thought provoking conversation, so hit me up if you've something you want to debate on! 

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