Circular Design Award: About

About the Awards

The Mindful Fashion Circular Design Award aims to inspire creatives to reimagine the fashion system in Aotearoa, using the dual lens of our unique place in the world and the circular economy, to find innovative ways to keep textiles in use.

Launching as an annual programme in 2023, the Circular Design Awards 2024 is in development and will open for entry in March 2024.

Based on the guiding principles of people, place and nature, the Award will create a platform that empowers entrants to explore the principles of the circular economy. Weaving principles of mātauranga Māori and indigenous wisdom with local industry knowledge, skills and resources, the programme will support designers to reimagine creative ways to breathe new life into old textiles while creating shared local value.


Our Mission

At Mindful Fashion our mission is to create an innovative, full-circle and thriving future for fashion and textiles industry in New Zealand. Which means changing the way products are designed, made, used and circulated to keep valuable resources in use and out of landfill. How might we start to redefine fashion systems in Aotearoa New Zealand to be more circular and regenerative?

Textiles are Valuable

Fashion can be at the leading edge of cultural change. How might we redesign products, services and business models so there is no waste? How might we use waste from the current system, and design new products?

Each year millions of tonnes of clothes are produced, worn, and thrown away, with more than 85% not finding their way into any sort of recycling system1. In Aotearoa, an estimated 220,000 tonnes of textile waste goes to landfill every year2, with 70 rubbish trucks of clothing waste going to Auckland’s Redvale landfill alone each week3.

About the Circular Economy

At its core the circular economy is about the interconnectedness of people and the natural world, spiralling together to create cycles of regeneration.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines the three principles of the circular economy:

  • Eliminate waste and pollution
  • Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
  • Regenerate nature

Our Challenge to Designers

With around 80% of a product’s lifecycle determined at the design stage, we challenge designers and creatives to reimagine fashion across its full lifecycle from cradle to cradle, and foster collaboration along the value chain - designers, artists, technicians, retailers, investors, customers and recyclers - to improve the circularity of products.

Supported by a series of educational workshops and resources, our Award programme will create a platform to inspire and enable a new wave of creatives to advance a circular fashion system in Aotearoa.


The Circular Design Award Advisors have helped guide the development of the Award programme.

Jennifer Whitty | Associate Professor of Design

As an educator, designer and researcher Jennifer aims to usher in a new era of deep systemic change for global fashion, that is expansive and diverse, rooted in social and environmental justice. She specialises in reimagining mindsets, models, and systems for fashion through the integration of theory and practice.

Trained at the Royal College of Art, London, Limerick School of Art and Design and the National College of Art, Dublin, she has worked in a key capacity as educator and designer in many leading design programmes and companies across the globe - USA, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Jennifer publishes and exhibits widely on fashion and sustainability in both academic and popular media, working with various global clients including Conde Nast, Future Learn, and the United Nations.

Johnnie Freeland | Ngaati Te Ata Waiohua, Ngai Tūhoe

Johnnie is a wayfinder, systems navigator and whakapapa centred designer.
He brings together more than 30 years’ knowledge and lived experience of serving community and in guiding and navigating a range of Iwi, Māori community and public sector organisations in working to achieve better outcomes with Māori. He utilises mātauranga Māori in designing Oranga Motuhake/well-being pathways, with whānau, hapū, iwi and organisations.

Johnnie has helped navigate a whakapapa centred response to climate change within Tāmaki Makaurau, through the Tāmaki Makaurau Mana Whenua Forum. In partnering with the Auckland Council, together they worked to harness the benefits of drawing on mātauranga Māori knowledge and western science to navigate a way forward for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland through the co-development of Te Tāruke-a-Tawhiri – Auckland’s Climate Plan.

Christina Dean | Redress

Christina Dean is the Founder of non-profit Redress and Co-Founder of upcycled fashion brand The R Collective.

Founded in 2007, Redress is a pioneering Hong Kong based NGO working to reduce textile waste and promote environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. It runs a variety of dynamic programmes which work to minimise the negative impacts of fashion, whilst promoting innovative new models and driving growth towards a more sustainable industry via the circular economy. Working directly with a wide range of stakeholders, including designers, manufacturers, brands, educational bodies, government and consumers, Redress aims to create lasting environmental change in fashion.
Through its work Redress educates and inspires the next wave of designers coming through with the global Redress Design Awards.

Design Brief 2023

Entrants are challenged to design and make a circular outfit using textile waste.


Entrants are challenged to embed circular design principles and holistic life-cycle thinking into their creation, consider the circular system that their garments move in, and their role as a product or service.


Outfits need to be wearable, and the overall design aesthetic needs to be appealing and desirable for the intended market.

Textile waste*

Entrants are challenged to explore their own region to source a textile waste stream, along with the skills, knowledge and resources needed to bring their creation to life.

Tell the story of creation

Sharing the story of the creation of the circular outfit, its whakapapa and its journey, including those who have contributed is an important part of the entry requirements.

Inclusions: Design must show evidence of:

  1. Outfit must be made from at least 80% waste textiles*, sourced within Aotearoa, where possible from a local or regional** waste stream.
  2. Consideration of place – drawing on skills, resources and knowledge from the region where the entrant and/or waste stream originates where possible.
  3. Consideration of the full life cycle of your outfit from cradle to cradle, through use of the four circular design strategies:
    1. Design for Low Waste
    2. Design for Low-impact Materials and Processes
    3. Design for Longevity
    4. Design for Recyclability

Award Programme 2023

This Award challenges entrants to think differently about the way garments are created and used.

During July and August all entrants can attend a range of workshops hosted by Mindful Fashion, alongside Industry and knowledge partners. The workshops will encourage the exploration of new ways of thinking and working, and support entrants to explore the principles of the circular economy. Entrants will be notified of dates when they are available.

Workshops will cover:

  1. Place: The guiding principles of circular and regenerative thinking, of being a good ancestor, starting the provenance journey and connecting to place, people and nature.
  2. Working with waste: Lessons from the experts in using textile waste, what works, the challenges and how to access waste streams.
  3. Circular design principles: Creative and technical tools and strategies to design for the circular economy, inspiration to drive innovation.

Judging Criteria 2023

Outfits will be judged on:

  • How well they meet the brief, as noted by the three Inclusions (listed with the Design Brief);
  • Creativity and Innovative problem solving of a textile waste challenge;
  • Telling the story of your outfit’s whakapapa, its provenance, including the story of the circular ecosystem created;
  • Applicability for each Award.
    • Award for Creative Excellence
    • Award for Innovation that shows exciting Commercial Potential
    • Award for Excellence from an Emerging Talent
    • Editorial Feature Award

Awards and Prize Pack 2023

The Award has a $45,000+ prize pool.


Up to 10 overall Finalists will be selected from all entries by the Judging Panel, and will be invited to attend the Award presentation.

Each Finalist will receive a Finalist Prize Pack up to the value of $2,500 which includes media exposure, mentorship and display of their entry to industry and media.


There are 4 major prizes. Awards will be presented to finalists in these categories:

  • Award for Creative Excellence
    • $7,500+ package, including $2,500+ cash, a paid internship, and more.
  • Award for Innovation that shows exciting Commercial Potential
    • $7,500+ package including $2,500+ cash, an opportunity to explore taking your product to market and more.
  • Award for Excellence from a Rising Talent
    • $7,500+ package, including $2,500+ cash, a paid 2 week internship, and more.
  • VIVA Editorial Award
    • $7,500+ package, including an editorial profile feature in print and across digital.

Timeline 2023

Award Programme Timeline


Applications are open between Monday June 26th and Friday July 21st. To enter the Award, complete the Entry Form and send it to us. Designers must apply during this period to be able to submit a garment to be considered for the enter the Award.

Download the Entry Form on the Apply tab.

Learn & Source

During July and August designers can sign up to attend workshops hosted by Mindful Fashion, alongside Industry and knowledge partners to explore the principles of the circular economy, and learn about how to work with and source textile waste.

Sign up for our workshops when they go live!


From July to October, designers and creatives create their outfit using textile waste. It's important to capture the story of bringing your entry to life, as well as any available information on the waste stream you are accessing, so you can share this with the judges in your submission.

Read the Submission Requirements on the Apply tab.


Entrants submit their finished outfit between 1-10th November 2023. All submitted entries must include all items in the list of Submission Requirements to be considered for the Awards. Delivery details will be shared with Entrants directly.

Finalists Selected

Our esteemed Judging panel will select up to 10 finalists to go through to the final phase of the Award programme. Finalists will each receive a prize pack and an invitation for themselves and a friend to attend the final Award Presentation, where their entry will be showcased.

Award Presentation

The culmination of our inaugural Circular Design Award is an exciting Award Presentation event where finalists entries are showcased, Awards are presented and finalists can mingle with judges, industry and business leaders.

What is Textile Waste

Designs must use textile waste.

For the purpose of the award, we categorise textile waste as:

  • Textile Waste: pre- or post-consumer textile waste from across the value chain; textile swatches; cut-and-sew textile waste; damaged or faulty textiles; damaged or faulty clothing or textile products; end-of-life or unwearable clothing; unusable textile products; and proprietary clothing or textile products that are no longer able to be worn. Clothes that are still in good working order are not considered textile waste for this award, unless for proprietary reasons they can no longer be worn. All waste must be sourced from within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Sourcing Waste Textiles

Entrants are challenged to source waste from their local region where possible. When sourcing, consider the scale of the waste problem you are addressing and how your solution might be able to provide a viable pathway for this waste. Ideally, include data on the scale of your waste stream in your entry so we can understand the scale of impact potential.

Mindful Fashion can connect entrants with waste textiles. We will be hosting an education session where industry experts share sourcing advice and their experience from working with waste textiles. See our Learn section for more on this.

Regional Ecosystem

This Award is place-based, challenging entrants to create regional ecosystems to solve a local waste challenge. Entrants should explore their region to (where possible) source waste materials, along with the skills, knowledge and resources needed to bring their creation to life. A region could be defined as one of the sixteen local government regions4, however there is flexibility for the entrant to define their own regional boundary (larger or smaller) as long as this is outlined in their entry.


  1. Outfit must be made from at least 80% waste textiles, and sourced within Aotearoa, from a local or regional waste stream where possible. Documented evidence of textile waste is required as part of supporting documentation.
  2. Entries can be submitted by a collective or an individual. There is no limit to the number of people within a collective. Entries from collectives must name all members of the collective on the final submission form. Collectives that reach the finalist stage of the Award are responsible for managing the distribution of the prize pack themselves.
  3. Each Finished Entry must be received by 5pm on the end closing date, and accompanied by a completed Entry Form and Final Submission requirements, in order to be considered.
  4. Garments shown at university graduation shows are allowed. Any garment that has been entered and placed in the top three in any other competition is ineligible to enter.
  5. Garments that are made under licence or that are currently produced by a commercial label in New Zealand are not eligible to be entered.
  6. Garments entered into this award cannot subsequently be commercially manufactured or sold without the written permission of the Award organisers.
  7. Individuals or collectives who are employed by Mindful Fashion member businesses are encouraged to enter, but it is not a requirement.
  8. Mindful Fashion Board members cannot enter nor can any sponsors or partners of the Award. Individuals who are employed by Mindful Fashion Board member companies, sponsors or partners of this Award can enter, as long as they are doing so in their own personal capacity and this is declared in their entry form.
  9. Prizes are not transferrable for cash. Where are collective entry wins a prize, the collective must decide how they would like to manage the distribution of prizes within their collective.

For any queries email [email protected]