An award-winning entrepreneur from Belfast has spoken about her dream of saving the planet by turning food waste and algae into fashion wear.
assie Quinn (28) runs CQ Studio in London, which researches ways to make textiles out of environmentally friendly materials.
She is also on a mission to revive the Irish linen industry by using flax to create faux leather and fur known as ‘inflaxuation’.
Moving to London in 2014, Cassie studied fashion textiles at university, and was one of the first people to graduate with a Masters in biodesign from Central Saint Martins.
Her interest in the environment began when she learned of the harmful impact of fast fashion, giving her a determination to find a better way.
“My work really looks at waste streams and giving more value to them,” she said.
“I’m also really passionate about the linen industry that used to exist in Ireland, so that got me working with flax.
“I thought: that industry is in such decline. How can we show that there’s more we can do with it and show there’s still value in growing flax in Ireland?”
Explaining how she turns food waste into fashion. she added: “With the waste, there’s polymers that I extract. Then I combine that with pigmented waste water that’s usually lost when dying fabrics.”
The two substances then create a material that looks and feels like plastic, but is completely biodegradable.
Cassie is now working with young designers to produce new items with the materials.
“Our food waste sequins were originally developed for (French luxury goods outlet) LVMH,” she said.
“There are quite large brands that are interested in what we’re doing and can afford to take the risk with new materials.
“Right now we’re trying to get the word out.”
Cassie recently received three funding awards worth nearly £40,000 to help grow the project: £20.000 from the London Mayor’s Entrepreneur Awards; £5,000 from the UAL Creative Enterprise Awards in the climate and environment category, and €10,000 (£8,400) from the EU Worth II Partnership Project to encourage producers of high-end eco-friendly products. “The London awards were quite rigorous and included a live pitch in front of a panel of judges,” she explained.
“It’s all about explaining the problem, what the product is, and how you’re going to sell it.
“It was actually my third year applying, so it’s been quite a long journey to get there.”
Cassie’s determination to succeed in the challenging London fashion scene comes from her passion for the environment.
“Everyone experiences fashion whether you’re interested or not — we all wear clothes,” she said.
“So I think it’s a really interesting industry to try and push my ideas through.
“The ultimate goal of reducing our impact on the environment is what helps keep me going.”
CQ Studio is based at Somerset House, an experimental workspace connecting people in the creative industries.
She said: “The support I get there… there’s loads of other incredible innovators.
“There’s always someone else nearby that will know what you’re going through.”
She starts her PhD in September and hopes to deepen her knowledge of flax and Irish linen.
“I really would like to see the manufacturing side of things coming back to Ireland,” she added.
“I’m hoping that what I’m researching will show that there’s value to it as well.”
To find out more about Cassie’s work visit cqstudio.co.uk