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Redress Design Award 2020 Menswear Winner, Le Ngoc Ha Thu’s collaboration with VF’s Timberland has just hit stores! Celebrating the Year of the Tiger, Thu’s limited edition 3-in-1 waterproof jacket, joins a CNY collection inspired by natural camouflage. We caught up with Thu to hear about her experience working with the VF and Timberland teams.

TimberlandⓇ has been an official partner of the Redress Design Award since 2020, and is committed to nurturing the next generation of sustainable designers. This competition cycle, the Redress Design Award First Prize winner will once again have the opportunity to join the Timberland team in collaborating on a design project. They will also have the opportunity to work closely with the VF Corporation Sustainability & Responsibility team to ensure that materials and design strategies maximise sustainability, and will gain exciting insights from across the supply chain from sourcing to product development, while deepening their skills and understanding around sustainable production and marketing.

  1. What was it like working with the Timberland team?

    I felt immediately welcomed and included as a member of experienced specialists in the field. Meeting weekly by video call, during the concept development and sketching stages, the Timberland team allowed me the highest degree of creative liberty, challenging me to push against conventional ideas and practices in sustainable fashion. Whenever I felt uncertain or unsatisfied with my work, we would come together as a team to devise concrete solutions.

  2. Has the experience affected your own design process?

    Each aspect of the collaboration has been formative to my career, providing me with lessons that I have incorporated in my own work. Before this project, much of what I knew about the field was theoretical, and what little of that theory I had been able to put into practice was restricted to smaller scale, personal projects. Besides designing with Timberland, I was involved extensively in the sourcing process and gained valuable insights into sourcing sustainable and low-impact materials on a large scale. I also got the opportunity to visit VF partner factories in Vietnam, which provided me with a more pragmatic approach to sustainable fashion that is applicable on a large scale.

    I was most impressed with Timberland's CLS (Compatible Layering System) which enables designers to mix-and-match different layers of coats and jackets giving the customer garments that are fully versatile across different weather conditions - with interchangeable layers between different garments! I have been inspired to utilise and innovate CLS even further in my own designs.

  3. What are you most proud of in your final Timberland design?

    Working with Timberland to design the ‘pinnacle piece’ for the Lunar New Year 2022 collection has been a great privilege. Despite numerous challenges posed by a global pandemic, this collaboration has provided me with inspiration and invaluable industry knowledge, helped me grow as a designer, and reaffirmed my commitment to sustainability in fashion. My final design is a 3-in-1 parka and accompanying backpack with a bold and dynamic white tiger pattern. Worn as one multi-purpose unit or as practical separates, the parka has endless combinations for diverse activities and living conditions. I’m most proud that I was able to combine Timberland’s heritage with my own touch, upgrading an existing design to create a better product. For example, taking inspiration from the white tiger’s agility, I wanted to increase the mobility of the garment, looking into alterations in the joint areas - elbow, knee, shoulder point. I discovered that in previous versions of Timberland’s military-inspired fishtail parka, the liner usually features half opened armpits, and decided to incorporate this detail in my design.

  4. How did the Redress Design Award ready you for your collaboration with Timberland?

    The experience I gained from taking part in the multiple educational activities was incredibly helpful, particularly through the VF “Made for Change” challenge, which gave me a stepping stone into the brand. Every part of running a business was touched upon, from Sustainability & CSR, to Design, Sourcing and Production, to Marketing and Merchandising. What was also valuable to me was the other finalists’ interpretation of Timberland’s philosophy, and applying that understanding into a new context. During the design collaboration, I often found myself referring back to the materials given to me by Redress & VF for the challenge.

  5. Any key takeaways from the experience?

    My experience with Timberland has given me a pragmatic and optimistic view of sustainability in the fashion industry, and continues to encourage me to experiment with the versatility of applied sustainable materials and practices. Timberland’s philosophy and active involvement with the community have given me invaluable insights in bringing sustainability into the mainstream, such as global brands leveraging their international power while considering local context and histories.

  6. What’s next for you?

    Through the collaboration with Timberland, I have come to appreciate the power and influence of an international corporation in its own supply chain and the global industry. I was also inspired to put what I learned into practice and launched my own brand XAVAN Studio this year - a thought I often entertained but never planned to realise. Our first product, the Denim Type II Jacket, is an updated version of the reconstructed kimono jacket in my collection for the Redress Design Award! Our underlying philosophy is "good things take time" and "doing less but better." All pieces are one of a kind using zero-waste design, high quality deadstock fabrics along with traditional techniques. We are also in talks with local & international artists and fashion brands for future collaborations.

The limited edition 3-in-1 jacket is now available at TimberlandⓇ Specialty stores and online.

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