This student has IT in her jeans

Wintec student Eunji Min is upcycling jeans into backpacks that connect the owners.

Wintec student Eunji Min is upcycling jeans into backpacks that connect the owners.

Buy one of Eunji Min’s backpacks and you can track the recycled denim back to its source in New Zealand, thanks to technology developed by Wintec students.

Eunji Min is in the third year of her fashion design degree at Wintec School of Media Arts and she was looking at ways to upcycle denim jeans into bags, connect the ‘owners’ and encourage sustainable living. The result is the Contrisumer project.

Eunji says ‘Contrisumer’ is a combination of the words 'contributor' and 'consumer' and the project’s aim was to develop an app for the consumer to connect them to the contributor, or at least source the denim for her Cheong Ba. G, brand bags.

“Cheong means clean, blue, denim in Korean. Cheong ba ji also means jeans in Korean so I named my brand Cheong Ba. G.”

 Cheong Ba. G products are made with recycled denim sourced from friends and second-hand shops.

Her tutor, Rebekah Harman challenged the class to explore collaborations with other classes and students. Eunji’s Contrisumer project is a collaboration between the design student and a tutor and students from Wintec’s Centre for Information Technology who have designed the Ba-G app.

Every Cheong Ba. G bag features a QR code that links to Ba. G – the Contrisumer app. The bag owner can track the denim source on a map and discover the story behind it. The app also has the potential to connect the donor and the end user (that’s optional).

“This project is a great example of a design degree student working across schools and utilising different disciplines to achieve something really great,” says Julie Ashby, Spatial Design Manager at Wintec School of Media Arts.

“Making it in a complex world has better possibilities when we don’t stick to our knitting. We need to ask what is possible and how do we get there.

“Collaborations bring different skillsets together and they result in new thinking and innovation. Tech and design are often combined but our design students are also looking at how things are made. So, collaborations with trades, engineering or business, marketing and communication make sense too.”

Eunji is an international student from South Korea and she’s no stranger to the world of tech.

After majoring in business administration, she worked in an IT company and was also a junior teacher in Korea before going to Ireland to study fashion in Dublin.

“It all helped me to be here,” she says. “I enjoyed studying in Ireland but New Zealand’s beautiful nature and environment inspires upcycling, which is good for the world and the people in the fashion industry which is generating too much waste.

“Fashion and pop music are very trendy in South Korea and I want to let people know that upcycling is an important thing to do nowadays, and that it is possible to enjoy fashion and protect the environment.”

“I see upcycled denim as a potential tool for communicating with people and encouraging sustainable living. For example, through a workshop - where people can gather and make upcycled denim grocery bags.

 “My tutors have guided my fashion knowledge but they have also helped me to understand New Zealand culture. I also like their approach. Especially suggesting project collaborations!

“I feel very lucky to have done this collaboration with the IT team who took my tracking system idea and made it a reality.”

In 2018, Wintec academic Joe Citizen brought students from trades, design and IT disciplines together to produce Tōia Mai, the innovative tech-driven sculpture that tells the Matariki story. The sculpture was gifted to Hamilton City and is now at the Ferrybank Landing. It’s an ongoing project for Wintec IT students who will continue to develop and refine its technology.

Wintec students are also collaborating through Design Factory NZ on Wintec’s campus where interdisciplinary students work to solve industry and community problems using design thinking.

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