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Meet the global finalists of India's Circular Design Challenge

From plastic, textile and banana waste to upcycling discarded garments, designers share their moodboard and inspiration behind green collections

From the collection of Indian brand, Without

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 29.09.2023  |  01:18 PM IST

At the forthcoming Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) in Delhi, finalists of Circular Design Challenge (CDC), a platform for emerging fashion and accessory designers to showcase products designed with circularity as the key design principle while looking at waste as a resource, will compete for the top award.

The finalists are from the UK, Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions. This is the first time the design competition, which focuses on parameters of sustainability for evaluation such as biodegradability, durability and multi-functionality of products, has been opened to international designers. Now in its fifth edition, CDC is presented by R|Elan, a next-gen fabric brand of conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL),in association with the United Nations in India.


The CDC winner will receive funding worth 15 lakh, a CDC Trophy, and a six-month mentorship programme, along with a stand-alone showcase at Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI in March 2024. The runner up will receive funding worth 5 lakh and mentorship.

The winner and runner-up will be mentored by Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution and creative director of Estethica. She will also conduct a masterclass for all the finalists.

“The aim for CDC was to nurture, mentor and promote environmental champions leading circular innovations in the fashion and textile value chain," says Rakesh Bali, senior vice president (head of marketing), RIL.

Lounge spoke with the finalists about their collections and what drives them. Edited excerpts:



Anish Malpani: Without

The collection

Our recycled material gets extracted from "impossible-to-recycle" plastic waste. Think packets of chips, chocolate wrappers or the notorious multi-layered plastic packaging (MLP). This MLP is also multi-coloured, espousing the aura of a rainbow, but to bring uniformity to the chaos, we revive this waste to black. Our collection is a set of accessories, black and bold, comprising three different designs of sunglasses, a pair of earrings, a pendant, a necklace, a ring, and an ambitious haute couture piece. This will be adorned by models wearing different monochrome colours, just like those colourful packets of chips.


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The idea

The name of the collection will be Without's Obsidian Fade: The Black Eclipse Collection. In this name, "Obsidian Fade" highlights the graceful transition from vibrant hues to a bold black that the collection embodies, resembling the smooth fade-to-black concept. "The Black Eclipse Collection" underlines the circular fashion theme, representing a phenomenon that brings a moment of stunning darkness, much like an eclipse. It captures the essence of the transition to a bold, dark, yet sophisticated phase in fashion.

The inspiration behind this theme is a transformation into black, which for generations has embodied negativity. But in our world of waste, the least recycled plastic waste is flexible packaging like packets of chips. This packaging waste is as colourful as the rainbow. But 99% of it ends up contaminating our landfills and oceans because it's considered "impossible to recycle". However, we've found a way to recycle this. Our technology transforms this colourful waste into black gold, high-quality, recycled materials that can have a range of applications in fashion, from sunglasses to jewellery to the most enigmatic forms of couture.


Riddhi Jain & Dhruv Satija: Studio Medium

From 'Future Tense'

The collection

Our collection, Future Tense, is made fromthread waste from various tie and dye processes and textile offcuts generated in the textile and apparel manufacturing process. It consistsof 14-16 separates for men and women; it's our take on wardrobe essentials that one needs through the year, from a sari to a dress to a statement pair of denim. Techniques like embroidery, quilting, applique, patchwork, crochet, and hand-knitting have informed the aesthetic and visual grammar of theensembles.

The idea

The idea behind the collection is quite simple. Apart from experiencing the volumes of discarded textile offcuts being sent to landfills, we had also witnessed kilos of thread and yarn discards go to landfills thatare generatedfrom the varioustie and dye practices done all over the country. Considering the sheer human effort that goes into tying, dyeing and opening of these beautiful textiles, we wanted to intervene to use these discards and prevent them from going to waste. The multiple processes that these textiles go through lend a very interesting texture to these threads, and after years of trial and error we have been able to realize textiles and garments that are truly ready to live a second (and longer) life.

Future Tense is an effort to re-look at the entire cycle of innovation from the discards derived from the process itself.

To us, sustainability is not an end goal. It is a process and a journey, and it is the very basis on which our practice stands.


Jinali Mody & Arundhati Kumar: Banofi & Studio Beej

From the 'Dvija' collection

The collection

We will be presenting six bags as a part of the collection, along with some complimentary accessories, to complete the look. These are handcrafted using Banofi, a leather alternative made from the fibres found in the stem of the banana plant, which is essentially a crop waste. Banana farming is a major source of crop waste and over a 120 million tonnes of waste is generated in India annually. Banofi reduces water consumption by 95%, carbon emissions by 90% and eliminates toxic waste.

We are looking at two primary colours for the collection and two complimentary accent colours. The collection is also deeply inspired by the arts and culture of West Bengal as both brands Banofi and Studio Beej have their origins in Bengal. You will find this reflected through the creative uses of indigenous craft forms like Dokra and Kantha incorporated within the designs.


The idea

The working name for our collection is Dvija, which means second life in Sanskrit. Coming from a crop waste, which would otherwise be burnt, we’ve reimagined a material that literally gives it a second life.

Our concept is simple yet bold. We are celebrating the circular journey/lifespan of the banana plant. It is an interesting fact that all parts of banana plant are in one form or another utilised or consumed by humans. Hence, we have used banana plant as a metaphor to establish an understanding of sustainability. Through our collection it will be used to represent the whole eco-system and its circularity.



Pei-Wen Jin

From 'The Complete Pieces' collection

The collection

My entire collection was created using black and white textile waste materials sourced from factory surplus. I'm presenting six looks that exude a mysterious, delicate, and slightly playful atmosphere, infused with my own cultural heritage. You will see geometric shapes inspired by the traditional tangram puzzle, Chinese knotting techniques, and origami craftsmanship all woven into the designs.

The idea

The collection is called The Complete Pieces. Its primary inspiration comes from a childhood toy I used to play with, the tangram puzzle. With simple geometric shapes, you can create a multitude of patterns. I've attempted to apply this concept to garment patterns, using fabric to create geometric components that can be assembled to form different clothing silhouettes. This allows the wearer to unleash their imagination in a straightforward way, enjoying the process of crafting their own style. It's a collection that invites everyone to participate and interact.

I used a zero-waste pattern called 'The Tangram" to create the clothing. This is a modular design method for which I have obtained a patent in Taiwan. In the traditional garment production process, 15-20% of fabric is typically wasted during cutting. However, my pattern ensures that all fabric is utilized efficiently, with zero waste. Additionally, due to this modular pattern, clothes can be easily disassembled and reconfigured, creating different clothing styles and accessories. This extends the lifespan and possibilities of a single garment indefinitely. Even at the end of its useful life, it can be disassembled into components for systematic repairs and recycling.



Amesh Wijesekera

From 'The Lotus Pond' collection

The collection

This capsule collection of 18 individually handcrafted pieces includes artisanal hand knitting, crochet and handloom. These are combined and reworked with dead stock/upcycled fabrics focusing on printing and appliqué embroideries. A focus on natural materials, including cotton blends and woollen yarns collected from factory waste. You will also see trans-seasonal statement pieces for a shared wardrobe concept with a focus on tailoring and knitwear. The collection invites you to explore a colour palette of cinnamon earth, burning orange, ruby, monsoon blues, veralu green (olive) and luminescent lilies.

The idea

The Lotus Pond celebrates the relationship between nature and sexuality. Historically, colonialism shaped conceptions of beauty, gender, and masculinity in Sri Lanka (the designer's native country). Reconnecting to the intrinsic presence of the environment in everyday life, the collection explores the possibility of a new platform exploring unbounded expression. The lotus pond is at the centre of communities across Sri Lanka and shelters nostalgic landscapes that embody the freedom, sensuality, and simplicity of youth. This abundance of nature intersects with my work, exploring South Asian masculinity, identity, and beauty norms.

We have been working closely with rural artisan communities of Sri Lanka for over six years in the handloom and knitting cottage industries. These traditional techniques consume low energy and are made entirely by hand by women using ethically sourced natural yarns reducing our carbon footprint while empowering and supporting their livelihoods. Secondary fabrics are salvaged from Sri Lanka’s garment district and street markets. These textiles are given a second life through reconditioning, embellishing and sustainable printing methods.


Felipe Fiallo

From 'Walk The Future' collection

The collection

Inspired by botanical themes, the collection's colour palette includes crimson paired with ancestral tones of natural dyes. It features six items, including sneakers and boots.

The Monolith Space boot, for instance, is sculpted from a single piece of premium recyclable TPU. Its state-of-the-art innovative outsole suspension system ensures a luxuriously comfortable stride and captured gazes. This eco suspension system performs between the gravity and the body weight, creating the perfect fit. The Kira High Sneaker, on the other hand,is a good mix between Italian artisanality and advanced technology. The upper is built using chrome-free leather.

The idea

The name of the collection is Walk The Future. The concept I rely on is the idea that to move forward, we must look back.That is, we must understand what our ancestors thought and make it our own.For me the future is what our ancestors experienced and what they left us, and this is closely linked to the indigenous cosmic vision,nature.For example, many of their sculptures feature one closed and one open eye: the closed one allows introspection, the open one allows one to see the future.When I think about the future, my imagination focuses on problems.When I think about problems, I try to develop a solution and a narrative starts from there.