By Jocelle Koh
The world of fashion, specifically fast fashion is a significant issue that impacts climate change today; accounting for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. From the production of unsustainable textiles that cannot be easily broken down, to the waste that comes from the industry encouraging consumers to view clothes as temporal and disposal, there has been an overwhelming need for brands to step up and review their collections starting from their designs to the materials used and even their distribution methods. This is by no means news to any of us.
But what is new to me is the way fashion and music have come together in Singaporean label AKINN‘s latest collection ‘Kind Earth’, which is an intimate collaboration with eco-warrior and artist Inch Chua. While music has long been seen as a mouthpiece for environmental activism due to the intangibility of most of its products, it’s interesting to see these art forms come together and complement each other in this collection. On one hand, the collection brings to the fore responsible creation of pieces through the materials used and also through the ingenious design philosophy of renowned fashion designer Wykidd Song; yet on the other, it is deeply informed by the ethos, music, and day-to-day routine of Inch as a performer and artist.
We took the chance to chat with both Wykidd and Inch about their collection as well as the intersection between sustainability, fashion, and music.
Q: Tell us a little about this collection. How did the idea to create a collection with sustainability at the forefront come about?
Wykidd: It started when we were going through the circuit breaker in Singapore, while all our lives were being disrupted and our lifestyle was abruptly halted. I was so thankful for nature and the trees that I lived next to. I am blessed with the forest that exists next to my apartment block. I have always been very aware of the waste the fashion industry dumps on earth and has always wanted to dedicate a collection or capsule to sustainability, so this pandemic actually brought the story up to the forefront. In our little way, we wanted to educate our customers and our community.
Q: There are many ways to be inspired by the earth and to incorporate that in fashion. What’s the inspiration behind AKINN 2.4’s ‘Kind Earth’ concept?
Wykidd: What we take from the ground belongs to the ground. Using naturally derived fabrics is a gift the earth has bestowed on us but mostly the capsule is inspired by Inch, her personality, and her style, not to mention her recent single ‘trees’ that adds to the whole theme.
Q: Inch, we hear that your daily routine and especially your career as a musician has also played a big part in influencing the collection. Can you share a little about your vision?
Inch: These were inspired by my music heroes like Joni Mitchell, Debbie Harry, and Stevie Nicks. Wykidd and I wanted the collection to be intentional and purposeful. While it retains the trademark flavor of low waste design and classic silhouettes that Wykidd’s work is known for, the pieces are also designed in consideration for e.g. a day in my life where some pieces are effortless everyday wear, and appropriate for going everywhere.
My recent song ‘trees’ is an ode to nature and finding comfort in nature surrounding us. The collection focuses on making sustainability sustainable, taking on a practical approach in terms of the use of sustainable materials. Fabrics used are centred around earth-friendly types like viscose, Tencel, and cotton, while stimulated by the colour palette that represents Mother Nature. Pieces are very fluid and considerately designed to give a sense of wonder for the world we live in – warm summer hues that we embrace, and comfortable.
Q: Inch, while you’ve tried a lot of mediums and art forms throughout your career, would you say fashion design is something that is new for you? What was the experience of conceptualising these designs like?
Inch: It’s my first time working on a collaboration of this nature. It’s been a great experience trying my hand in this together with Wykidd and the team. Wykidd’s designs have already had a trademark of timelessness. We worked together closely on exploring materials and concepts. I’d swing by the studio to discuss with Wykidd creative processes and try and feel different fabrics on what would or might work. It means a lot to me to be a part of producing a line of clothing that I know would last and is made with so much intent and purpose, which I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have working on this with the team.
Q: What would you both say is your favourite piece in the collection and why?
Wykidd: We don’t produce many styles in each collection, only 8 looks, so they’re all my favourites. But if I am forced to pick then it’s the racer-back pinafore dress that we call the Everywear dress.
Inch: The childlike pinafore is comfortable. Easy to match with a lot of things. You could rock any occasion with; a meeting, a concert, a buffet and still look pretty cute. It also echoes with my upcoming album that’s titled, ‘Childish’.
Q: What does sustainability mean to both of you?
Wykidd: We clicked immediately when we met for the first time. My take on sustainability before has been a journey of guilt and not doing enough but in recent years I have somehow mellowed and not beat myself up so much. Inch definitely has her perspective on sustainability aligned with me, in that we do what we can to do our bit, to recycle, to not waste, to educate, and to contribute.
Inch: Radical change is but a dream. What’s materially possible requires much patience, diligence, and a deeper understanding of the circumstance. Being extreme hasn’t ever been a sustainable option, it’s easy to burn out. Being sustainable is about being painfully aware of what needs to be done and actively shifting the needle of influence wherever we can without losing focus. It’s about being reminded constantly of what’s precious and what’s regrettable. It’s about connecting and challenging oneself and each other.
Q: The collection looks not only at the fabrics used but also the design in order to create pieces that are ‘sustainable’ in their timeless silhouette, quality, and longevity. How do you define timelessness?
Wykidd: A design that does not have too many details that will date it or do not look out of place in whatever period in modern times; for example, Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar de la Renta’s black dress. The moments of pride when I have someone come up to me and tell me they’re wearing a hand-me-down from their mums and they look great – that is a true test of time.
Inch: Timeless happens when utility, versatility, and comfort intersect. Designs are meant to be solutions, and the best designs are aspirational solutions. I believe Wykkid has outdone himself in creating something timeless.
Q: This collection represents how a myriad of art forms combine to put out a message of sustainability. Why do you think it’s important to talk about environmentalism in art?
Wykidd: Any platform that one can be heard is vital to the cause of saving the earth. We can only do our bit and try and educate whoever wants to listen and that is good enough for us.
Inch: I believe the first step to controlling the world’s future is to control our culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world we demand to live in. To write the books, to make the music, to shoot the films, paint the art. Why wouldn’t I want to talk about the environment that has sustained us?
An enlightening conversation about the relationship between creativity and change, Inch’s last words, in particular, stuck with us. “Why wouldn’t I want to talk about the environment that has sustained us?” This seems to perfectly sum up the artist’s philosophy towards environmentalism, combined with a childlike rebelliousness that impassions her to continue speaking and acting to protect our planet.
And in sunny Singapore, I can certainly appreciate the significance of AKINN’s step towards combatting fast fashion. In a society where Taobao and Alibaba reign kings and the use of sustainable materials are not always cost-effective nor on-trend, Wykidd is a pioneer; both in the way he incorporates sustainability into his timeless designs and in the effort he and the label have put towards creating an eco-friendly collection, inspired by the effort and finesse Inch has put into her music and her craft.
In the fight for a more sustainable society, we are often stuck in place; taking two steps forward before being plunged backward by this that or the other. But the significance of projects like these is the timeless message that will now be transcended both through generations who may inherit these pieces AND through the conversations that music ignites. Two heads are better than one, no?
AKINN 2.4: “Kind Earth” is available for purchase from the AKINN’s online store, the AKINN Showroom, Design Orchard, and Trixilini now. Check out Inch’s new single trees on all streaming platforms as well.