Upcycled African Textiles – Global Eco Chic Finalist Noella Tapasu Koy Is The Future Of Fashion

Mark our words, Noella Tapasu Koy is going to change the face of sustainable fashion. We were left in awe of her incredible talent whilst attending the Eco Chic Awards 2014/15 earlier this year. Her finalist collection blew us away and we found it to be the most wearable of all the collections that were shown. But forget telling, we wanted to show you instead so behold, the gorgeous creations of this inspiring eco designer, as well as her story, as told to Green Queen.

great outfit

Noella was chosen as a finalist in the global sustainable fashion competition Eco Chic Design Awards 2014/15 held in Hong Kong this past January. She found out about the contest on a student site for budding fashion designers days before the application was due. She worked day and night to put together the entire collection in three days and made the deadline. Needless to say, she was very surprised and honored to learn that she had been chosen as a finalist. This is the fourth contest she has participated in. She enjoys and welcomes judgement. Participating in competitions gives her a clear idea of where she is at.

Eco Fashion

Whilst this was the first contest she participated in that was dedicated to eco fashion, her approach has always been one of upcycling. She is from Kinchasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and she loves working with and sourcing traditional African prints. She regularly scoures the city’s fabric markets for inspiration. The way Africa dress outfits are made, the fabric reams always end up with leftovers, which are tragically thrown away. She has been saving these fabric ream ends for years and creating collections with this principle ever since she was in fashion school. She got her eco start out of necessity-  she needed to put collections together on a budget and since she often got the African fabric ends at a deep discount, sometimes for free, she got creative. During her fashion school years, she also had a few internships in Paris and was shocked and saddened by the incredible textile waste that is a daily reality in the fashion world. So disgusted was she that she took the extra fabric home and vowed to herself to think differently as a designer once she graduated. The only issue is supply. It is difficult to mass produce with waste textiles. But she is clear about her mission: to give these discarded fabrics a new life.

norst collection 2

Her first thought when she arrived in Hong Kong was WOW. It is totally different from anything she had ever seen before. She connected right away with the city’s energy and bustle. She loved the people and the tall buildings (especially the Murray building) and how animated everything felt. She was struck by the 24hour-ness of the city, so different from her own hometown- Paris definitely shuts down at night. It was only the second place in Asia she has been to, she had previously visited South Korea a few times. Her friends and family had a lot of misconceptions about Asia in general and Hong Kong in particular but she got on the plane and wasn’t disappointed. She wished she could have stayed for months.

Upcycled Coat

Her Hong Kong trip flew by: she spent most of her time with her co-finalists in workshops and media sessions on top of preparing for the fashion show. She believes that this year’s group of finalist designers particularly raised the bar in terms of talent. Even though everyone is from a different world and from different countries, she felt they all really connected and came together. She loved to see their fashion point of view and came away very inspired by them. She was also able to spend time with Christina Dean (founder of Redress & the Eco Chic Awards), whom she found her to be incredibly motivating and impressive- simple and down to earth whilst also extremely driven. It was interesting to see Christina’s vision for the fashion world as a non-insider and learn more about the concept of zero waste, which was new to Noella. She also loved the Redress team and is grateful for their support and welcome. 

Noella Collection

Her mother is a huge driver in her life. She is very close to her and confides in her about everything, especially the direction of her career. Both of her parents are academics with a strong intellectual streak. Her father is a lauded gynecologist and her mother was the DRC’s first female psychiatrist. There is a lot of pressure to succeed in her family and whilst everyone was always supportive, no one really took her fashion dreams too seriously, thinking this was nothing more than a hobby. She earned her BTS Design de Mode et de l’Environnement at L’Ecole de Conde in Nancy, France after which she freelanced for as a designer for brands in womenswear, menswear and childrenswear as well as in a more behind the scenes capacity in production. After that, she became the creative designer of streetwear brand Noire et Fiere, something she has been doing for the past year. She works on her own collections and on contests in her spare time. 

 norst collection

What she loves most about fashion is that it creates connections in people’s minds that weren’t there before. She knows that the big fashion brands are focused on budget and not on matters of the earth but she thinks there is a space opening up for designers with a conscious point of view. She believe in the power of eco-business to change a country’s future and help its social and economic development, something she hopes to accomplish for her birth country, the DRC. She hopes her work can demonstrate the potential of sustainable fashion and show the average person that it can be a world full of bright color and beautifully executed construction rather than the burlap sack view that persists today. Her dream is to have her own shop and her own brand. She is also committed to wearability- for her, there is no point creating designs that no one wants to wear.  Be comfortable, be stylish, be eco- that’s her motto. At heart, she is a creator and an important goal for her is to get her collection directly into the consumer’s hands, ideally by building an online presence. She is working on it…

Eco Chic

View Noella’s full portfolio here and check out her Facebook Page NORST for all her latest news, updates and collections.