R.E.D – Lanka’s first sustainable label

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Brainchild of Sri Lankan designer Mihiri De Silva, R.E.D looks at dealing with the waste of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry by recycling and converting it into a line of clothing for export.

Mihiri returned to make a difference in her home country after completing her degree in Textiles and Design at the University of Leeds, UK. For the past two decades she has worked as Head of Design for two of Sri Lanka’s foremost garment manufacturers, helping to fashion clothing and innerwear for well-known European and US brands including Victoria’s Secret, PINK, Express, M&S, the Arcadia group and Intimissimi.

Her experiences have enabled her to channel her creativity in more ways than just design and marketing. Part of her role at one point involved managing waste stock, comprising orders that had been paid for but were no longer wanted, items that had manufacturing faults, off-cuts and other unused fabrics and trimmings. This entailed helping find local markets to sell ready-made garments to, designing new items suitable for buyers in India, Australia and the Middle East and making everything from patchwork quilts to duffle bags from off-cuts of fabric that would otherwise have been wasted. She realized, however, that the majority of apparel industry waste was simply being stored to only be disposed of in ways which were harmful to nature.

It was this that sparked the idea for a company that would re-engineer apparel waste, by creating fashionable and wearable clothes from materials salvaged from the industry’s unwanted material mountain. In 2009, Mihiri was part of the core committee that organized the inaugural Sri Lanka Design Festival, an event attended by buyers, press and environmental specialists from the UK garment industry. This drew her attention to the growing demand in the country for clothes made without harming the environment, hence, R.E.D – Re-Engineered Design – was born. “I want R.E.D. to engage Sri Lanka’s apparel industry in the process of ‘re-engineering’ its waste into fashionable, wearable pieces of clothing,” says Mihiri.

The brand only sources materials from factories certified under the ‘Garments without Guilt’scheme. This accreditation is awarded to manufacturers that recognize, respect and protect the rights of labourers in the Sri Lankan apparel industry. R.E.D ensures its fabrics are never manufactured using child or forced labour or in factories with discriminatory employment policies. By sourcing its raw materials in this manner, and manufacturing clothes in the same factories that produce the salvaged waste, the brand has distinctively shorter lead times from order placement to delivery. R.E.D products are a low carbon based due to its minimum number of processes and results in the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning and sending waste to landfill.

“Mihiri de Silva, who has been engaged in the conscious transformation of the Sri Lankan Apparel industry from a mere ‘manufacturer’ to a ‘total solutions provider’, embarks on a design journey, to take this concept further by creating fashion, which is re-engineered”, commented Ajith Dias, Immediate past Chairman JAAF (Joint Apparel Association Forum), Sri Lanka.

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