Fashion student wins innovation challenge by re-using Scottish textile industry waste

Maria was chosen for her idea to 'up cycle' textile waste from mills in Scotland, particularly heritage textiles such as wool, tweed and cashmere.

A fashion and textiles student from Heriot-Watt's Borders Campus is one of the final winners of an innovation competition and will now take part in a residential 'boot camp' for young entrepreneurs.

27 year old Maria Silies, on the MA Fashion and Textiles Design course at Heriot-Watt's School of Textiles and Design, is one of 33 winners of the Young Innovator's Challenge 2014.

The Challenge

Run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), the challenge encourages students to submit creative, innovative ideas for solving sticky problems on one of three themes: 'Healthcare and wellbeing', 'Green and sustainable energy resources' and 'Smarter communities and infrastructure'.

This challenge dovetails perfectly with our approach at the University, focusing as we do on developing solutions to critical global issues, through science, technology, engineering, business and design

Alison Harley, Creative Director  Heriot-Watt's School of Textiles and Design

Students were asked to think specifically about issues that affect people in Scotland, although the competition categories encompass major global themes.

There were more than 300 entries in total and each of the 33 winners received £1,000.

'Up cycle' Scottish heritage textile waste

Maria was chosen for her idea to 'up cycle' textile waste from mills in Scotland, particularly heritage textiles such as wool, tweed and cashmere.

She sources the remnants from a local finisher and dyer in Galashiels, knitting, weaving or needle punching the strips, to create larger pieces of fabric.

Her idea came from her Master's dissertation, which explores the opportunities in designing with Scottish heritage textile surplus and transforming it into desirable and unique fabrics, suitable for accessories and fashion.

Maria who is originally from Germany, graduated in Hannover in 2012, with a BA degree in fashion design before moving to Scotland to take up her postgraduate place.

Speaking about the Young Innovators Challenge, Maria said how pleased she was to have got through to the final exclusive 'boot camp' where winners will get a chance to workshop their ideas with input from experts and mentors.

"The Challenge seemed to be perfect opportunity to 'think big'. I'm looking forward to presenting my idea to the public and pushing the potential of my project. Being one of the winners is a fantastic opportunity to work intensively on my idea with business experts and advisors from SIE."

Alison Harley, Creative Director at Heriot-Watt's School of Textiles and Design, said, "This innovation challenge was an exceptional opportunity for students to show how they could really make a difference by designing a creative solution to a previously 'sticky' problem. It dovetails perfectly with our approach at the University, focusing as we do on developing solutions to critical global issues, through science, technology, engineering, business and design."