Eco-friendly garments to help plant Ghaf trees

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Eco-friendly garments to help plant Ghaf trees

Creations of 16 eco-conscious designers on show; every Dh35 spent goes to planting of one Ghaf sapling


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Thu 20 Feb 2014, 12:04 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:56 PM

What do you get if you throw scrap denim, ambitious designers, and 14 sleepless nights into the same mix? A collection of eco-friendly garments and the potential to grow thousands of Ghaf trees.

A concept sketch created by the eco-warrior designers under the ZINZIN project on display at Mercato Mall in Dubai. — Supplied photos

Since February 13, a fortnight after 16 designers descended on Burj Park to try their hand at turning denim rags into sustainable riches, Mercato Mall has been showcasing the “fruits” of the hard work of these fashion-forward, eco-warriors.

From haute couture gowns to head-turning swimwear, the eco-friendly project was launched by local design house ZINZIN, in a bid to help plant more of the drought-tolerant Ghaf trees in the region.

With 100 per cent of the proceedings being donated to the Give a Ghaf foundation, sales were yet to take off on Monday, but with price tags ranging from Dh500 to Dh8,000 — and a single tree costing just Dh35 — the potential to re-plant these indigenous species of the UAE is huge.

Scraps turn to gold

One designer, who describes himself as “pro-planet” by championing the use of recyclable materials in his own designs, is Philippines-born Yen A. B.

Finding himself at a crossroads in 2008, the Abu Dhabi-based designer toyed with a career in nuclear medicine or following a more creative path as a fashion designer.

Now catering to some of the world’s most affluent trendsetters including royal clients in the UAE, Yen’s garments have been spotted on hotel heiress Paris Hilton and American model Donna Feldman.

Although many of the quirky designer’s lavish ensembles often reach up to six figures — with the exact price being kept under wraps — Yen’s denim take on a haute couture gown is the highest-priced from the Give a Ghaf initiative, but can be bagged for a more reasonable Dh8,000.

Made from scrap textiles including household curtains and the key ingredient, discarded denim, Yen described the process as “a bit of a science fest”.

As time was of the essence during the two-week eco-project, Yen said he was reluctant to hand-stitch each bit of bleached denim on to the lace body of the gown, so reverted to an old trick he learnt at school.

“We used to boil vinegar and milk together to make a type of glue, but that wasn’t going to be strong enough for this design.”

Turning to YouTube, Yen trailed through several ‘how to…’ videos, before coming up with the perfect combination.

“I mixed together vinegar and gelatine, then let it bring itself to the boil. Once it began to crystalise, I grabbed a paintbrush, dipped it in, and then used it as a material adhesive.”

With the help of his team, Yen managed to complete the design in just two days — but admitted he did steer away from his initial sketch ideas.

“I wanted to create something more retail, but then I thought about designing an origami piece. Someone even suggested a wedding gown.”

With numerous ideas floating around the creative artist’s head, colleagues persuaded him to get out of his “confused little world” and create something more simplistic.

“I finally came up with the fish-tail design. Then it was two days of very little sleep,” he said.

Yen will be appearing alongside 30 of his environmentally-friendly designs at this year’s London Fashion Week, but is hopeful his Give a Ghaf gown will plant the 228 trees the price tag is capable of donating.

Give designs once over

With all the denim-influenced designs now on exhibition at Mercato Mall, fashionistas looking to do their bit for the environment while bagging a stylish one-off design in the process can check out the garments till February 20.

And although price tags vary, ZINZIN is encouraging customers to give more to the foundation by paying a little more than the asking price. So why not make your mark on the environment and give for a Ghaf.

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