From The Straits Times    |

It’s trash — or is it? The saying “There’s no such thing as waste, only wasted resources” has never rang more true in the second instalment of You Won’t Believe It’s Trash (Y.W.B.I.T), a campaign by real estate group Lendlease that culminated in a spectacular first-ever trash-to-couture runway show on May 11.

The campaign, which aims to showcase the consequences of wastage and promote meaningful recycling, involves a competition that would allow trash be given a second lease of life. 

Aspiring couturiers submitted design ideas for couture pieces, but here’s the twist — at least 80 percent of the piece must be made with different forms of trash materials, such as plastics, old outfits and carton boxes.

Fifteen finalists from all walks of life were shortlisted from more than 100 participants. Their designs were brought to life with the help of renowned local couturier Alfie Leong. It was a rigorous process that took two months.

In the end, 10 finalists were selected to showcase their creations on the runway with the help of professional models. They were joined by Thailand’s innovative upcycled fashion designer Apichet Atirattana, better known as Madaew, who presented five of her own trash-to-couture designs at the fashion show at 313@somerset. 

Madaew (seen below) or better known as @madaew99 on Instagram and @madaew999 on TikTok, is known for her humble beginnings as a Thai teen designer who gained attention for her inventive, sometimes bizarre, designs launched at the age of 16 in 2015. The materials she used included bamboo rice steamers, banana leaves and hand-held fans.

Back at 313@somerset, the stage was dramatic enough — the indoor escalators of the mall were transformed into a multi-dimensional runway — but the pieces were even more eye-catching, befitting of the occasion and location. 

The models paraded the finalists’ breathtaking designs that looked so exquisite that you wouldn’t have imagined they were all made from sustainable materials. 

There were trench coats and gowns sporting geometric patterns or cut-outs, as well puff sleeves and bulbous puffer skirts. Eventually, three winners, selected by a panel of judges including Madaew, came out tops with their stunning, innovative and well-thought-out creations. They were judged based on their creativity and originality, presentation and sustainability, and craftsmanship and fit.

Jamela Law, 30 (seen below), a fashion technologist and the founder of Baëlf Design, emerged as the grand prize winner. Her design, a stunning three-dimensional silver outfit with spikes made from Tetra Pak drink cartons and recycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), was a symbolic portrayal of how Earth’s infinite life cycle was being disrupted by man’s destructive habits.

Calling her dress a “community effort”, Law said she was very proud of the final product, which “answered the brief with sincerity and humility” and embodied the message of reimaging waste. 

While the dress did not turn out as expected, she loved it all the same. “The dress patterns were generated by computer and then assembled by hand. Due to the subtle discrepancies brought on by inconsistent material properties, gravity and my own human idiosyncrasies, there are slight differences from my digital render, which made it more authentic and expressive,” she added.

In second place was Gini Ika Jayanti, 40 (seen below), a domestic helper, whose creation was her interpretation of Rihanna’s ‘Omelette Dress’ from 2015’s Met Gala ceremony. Jayanti’s dress, however, was adorned with a slew of used coffee capsules that have been cleaned and flattened to form a “V” shape.

“I am so proud that trash can be transformed into resources and that trash can transform into a unique beautiful dress,” said Jayanti. “I have looked at these used coffee capsules with a different lens as inspired by Lendlease and turned them into something beautiful. I hope that others who see my dress can be inspired in the same way too.”

Third place went to Andrea Angelique Karundeng (seen below), 21, a student at Raffles College of Higher Education. Her whimsical, otherworldly design was made from cardboard boxes and deconstructed coffee jute sacks — their swirls inspired by shapes and textures found in nature.

“This competition by Lendlease really provided me a unique challenge when it comes to fashion design, and inspired me to think out of the box,” said Karundeng, who shared that she faced many challenges creating her sculpture shoulder piece. 

She came up with her own recipe using a cardboard box that she transformed into clay, mixed with leftover coffee grains and glue. She also had to ensure that the stiff material was able to fit onto the model’s body perfectly.

 “I am very happy and proud of the final look of the dress. This was the first time I created a fully sustainable dress using unconventional, organic materials — I had lots of fun experimenting with this dress.”

What’s deemed as garbage and waste are turned into innovative and fresh couture-like outfits that don’t look out of place on the runway

For their efforts and visionary ideas, the three winners nabbed trophies and S$18,000 worth of cash and Lendlease E-Vouchers.

Those interested in viewing these stunning creations can catch it in a roving exhibition across the island. If you missed its debut at 313@somerset, you can still see it up close at three other Lendlease malls — Parkway Parade (May 24 to June 4), Jem (June 7 to 18) and Paya Lebar Quarter (June 21 to July 2). 

Lendlease will also be partnering with local textile recycling company, Cloop, for mall visitors to drop off unwanted textiles in collection bins for recycling and upcycling purposes.

Lastly, here’s another attractive incentive for you to continue your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. Lendlease Plus Members will be awarded with 2,000 Plus$ for every 1kg of textiles donated. If you’re not a Lendlease Plus Member, you can sign up through the Lendlease Plus mobile app or at with the promo code ‘LLPYWBIT23’, and be rewarded with 5,000 Plus$. Other terms and conditions apply.

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Brought to you by Lendlease