Australia (Western Sydney University) Fijian fashion designer shares lessons in sustainability

Hupfeld Hoerder is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer whose desire to make a difference is going far beyond the beautiful garments he creates.

Born and raised in Fiji, the self-taught designer has worked in the fashion industry for over twenty-five years.

Commencing a Doctor of Creative Arts (DCA) at Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society, he is returning to study to explore sustainable solutions to help future-proof the Fijian fashion industry.

“My work integrates the old and the new and promotes a strong sense of cultural theme, an identity and heritage that is so important to us in Fiji and the Pacific,” said Hupfeld.

With his designs inspired by fibres and natural resources from the Pacific, an interest in sustainable production led him to apply for the Fashioning Fiji project and scholarship program.

“The environment is a reoccurring theme in my designs. As is climate change and its detrimental effect on the rising sea level,” he said.

“Fiji is at a crossroads where we need to come together and address sustainability as a nation, including in our vibrant and unique fashion industry.”

It is these themes that will be central to Hupfeld’s research where he will explore sustainable options for materials and assess how these can contribute to a responsible and viable manufacturing industry.

Among the recent accolades, his work was recognised at the Pacific Islands Forum with Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and Jacinda Ardern among the leaders from across the region that wore his custom design.

The Fashioning Fiji project, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant, will bring together scholars to focus on the development and growth of the Fijian fashion industry at a national, regional and global level.

Led by Professor Heather Horst, Director of the Institute for Culture and Society, the project will follow Fijian designers to understand the sites of the broader fashion system as well as the diverse consumers of Fijian fashion.

“Connecting with Fijian designers such as Hupfeld is essential to this project which aims to understand how creative industries can be sustained and supported in relation to island nation-states in the Pacific,” said Professor Horst.

The culmination of Hupfeld’s degree will culminate in a practice based sustainable clothing line and an exegesis which reflects upon this process.