The M&S Future Needs competition, which is open to anyone across the UK, had more than 2,000 entries submitted across its five categories of Design, Digital, Food, Retail and Enterprise. Judges examined the feasibility of each submission and whittled it down to just one winner per category.
As part of her Fashion and Clothing Manufacture degree, 18-year-old Caitlin Saxby from Hull explored what fashion would look like in 2030 and used the issue of sustainability as her inspiration.
“A lot of clothing brands focus on low-cost, throwaway fashion and it’s not very environmentally friendly,” said Caitlin. “As part of our course, we’ve been looking at the sustainability of the fashion industry and having learned about the manufacturing process, I felt that something needed to be done to address our throwaway culture.”
“Maternity wear is one aspect of the fashion industry that is particularly unsustainable. Whilst many maternity pieces allow for body growth, they rarely get worn again after the pregnancy, so I wanted to imagine a future where maternity wear was a thing of the past.”
Having researched the process of making fabric, Caitlin stumbled upon a company specialising lab-grown materials. The materials, which are cultured in a laboratory can be infused with cells and enzymes to give the fabrics innovative properties.
“The process of fabric being grown in a test tube fascinated me and got me thinking about whether or not it could be genetically modified to include a cell which expanded and contracted as the body changed shape,” said Caitlin.
“The garment I designed for 2030 was a simple jacket, made using the innovative fabric I’d imagined. The fabric properties would enable the piece to react to the changes in body shape and size as the pregnancy develops, making it not only last the duration of the pregnancy, but also be stylish and wearable once the baby had arrived.”
Caitlin’s design was praised by the judges, who commented on how innovative her design was. The judges particularly liked how Caitlin had researched the concept extensively and used it to develop an idea that could be very plausible in the next 15 – 20 years.
On Caitlin’s award win, Phionna Fitzgerald, course tutor at Bishop Burton College, said; “I’m absolutely thrilled for Caitlin – she really deserves this award after all the hard work she put into developing her idea. It took her a while to come up with a concept, but her approach was spot on; researching and exploring current innovations in the fashion industry and then looking logically at how it could be taken to the next level.”
She added; “As part of the programme, I always try to find real-life briefs that students can use as part of their course; it makes the course relevant and as near to working in the industry as you can get. The M&S Future Needs competition was an ideal project and one that really inspired my students to consider the possibilities with fashion in the future.”
As part of the win, Caitlin was invited to Marks and Spencer’s head office in London, got to meet their top designers and talk about the feasibility of her design with a panel of industry experts. Caitlin will also feature in a Future Needs video, which will be released later this year.
On the award win, Caitlin said; “I really didn’t expect to win – it’s very surreal. To think that Marks and Spencer’s thinks my idea could be the reality of the future blows my mind. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see people wearing my design in the future, but I know I’d be incredibly proud if it came to fruition. Sustainability in fashion needs to be addressed and maybe one day, my creation will help to make the industry much more environmentally friendly.”