On the Cutting Edge of Eco-Fashion: ULTRA

Goodlifer: ULTRA

Ever since I added the word “eco-fashion” to my vocabulary, I have wished for a brand like ULTRA to come along. One that is as cutting edge and inspired as it is sexy and badass. Organic cotton and muted colors are great, but sometimes a girl just wants to feel like a vixen. There’s a tech nerd factor in the innovative use of materials and cuts that mixes very well with a sexy coolness that could be compared to Alexander Wang or Celine.

Goodlifer: ULTRA

Lead by Tengku Jamidah and Anita Hawkins, We Are Ultra is a creative collective based in Malaysia. They started in 2009, with a blog where the group shared ideas about innovation that got them all excited. From the start they have been driven by sustainable design and now collaborate with artists, designers, companies and organisations “to create meaningful products, experiences and workshops from our own innovation-minded point of view.”

ULTRA Co-Founders Tengku Jamidah & Anita Hawkins

ULTRA Co-Founders Tengku Jamidah & Anita Hawkins

The collective currently also includes Malaysian designers Jonathan Liang and Tengku Syahmi. ULTRA is just one of their projects. “ULTRA started of as a blog on all things sustainably related,” says Co-Founder Tengku Jamidah. “Blogging about it kept us inspired and informed, then Anita (the other Co-Founder) and I felt a little brave and decided to launch our little organic Bathcare range and sell a selection of eco-friendly lifestyle products that we felt was lacking in the market. It then evolved into a fashion line with Jonathan and Syahmi joining the team. ULTRA was always about passionate people doing their bit for the future, keeping it fun, happy and hip!”

Goodlifer: ULTRA

When it comes to creativity, it’s sometimes good to surround yourself with like-minded, equally driven creative thinkers. “I feel that working as a creative collective gives us more room to explore and experiment with sustainability in a way that no one else has,” says Jamidah. “Anita and I always like to say that we work on projects that are fun and capture our interest. We do whatever we love. Without defining ourselves and being multi-disciplinary it attracts collaborators and gives us room to grow.”

Now in their third season, ULTRA uses innovative materials like tencel, recycled PET, recycled polyester, organic wool, discarded tuxedos and salmon skin to create high fashion with a sustainable core. They also work with local tailors and support ethical production standards.

Goodlifer: ULTRA

So where do the people behind ULTRA look for inspiration? ”Everywhere,” says Jamidah. “Life experiences, my travels… usually coming from immersing ourselves into different cultures and keeping it an adventure. The arts has had a major impact on ULTRA from Antioni films, Wang Qingsong photos, our ULTRA music contributors to She-Ra — princess of power.”

The brand successfully funded its Fall 2011 collection through Kickstarter and has already showcased at major fashion weeks in Paris, London and Asia. In October of this year they won the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Innovation in Design and Sourcing Award.

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When visiting We Are Ultra’s website, it’s easy to be confused, because these creative minds have many irons in the fire. Instead of going with the regular seasonal collection schedule, they work on specific projects. A recent one that stands out is ULTRA 10, a capsule collection containing ten highly versatile, modular pieces that can be combined infinitely. For example, there’s the 4-1 coat that can be worn as a shirt, a dress, or a skirt, and the 2-1 jacket that changes into a waist coat.

Goodlifer: Ultra 10Goodlifer: Ultra 10Goodlifer: Ultra 10

The idea is that these are all the pieces of clothing you need to create enough unique looks for a whole year. Pieces can be sent in any time for mending, and after those 365 days have passed, you can even return your ten garments to be recycled in exchange for a discount on new wardrobe pieces. ULTRA has encouraged fans of their clothing to take the challenge of not wearing anything (except accessories) that is not from the ULTRA 10 collection. Photos of challengers and their outfits can be seen on ULTRA’s Flickr page.

Goodlifer: Ultra 10Goodlifer: Ultra 10Goodlifer: Ultra 10Goodlifer: Ultra 10

As Kuala Lumpur Design Week came to a close, ULTRA and their extended collective decided to get a group of friends together — designers, musicians, entrepreneurs and stylists — deck them out in top to toe ULTRA wan take them it out onto the streets of Changkat Bukit Bintang for an ULTRA Flashmob, another We Are ULTRA project. The mobbers stayed out Into the wee hours of the morning. “It was such a joy to see the happy people enjoying the ULTRA work,” says the team.

At Kuala Lumpur Design Week, ULTRA gathered a group of friends, decked them out in top to toe ULTRA and took it to the streets for a flashmob.

At Kuala Lumpur Design Week, ULTRA gathered a group of friends, decked them out in top to toe ULTRA and took it to the streets for a flashmob.

ULTRA’s designs would look right at home in the closet of even the most painfully trendy fashionista. They’re very now. But what about the future of eco-fashion? “I’d like to see it grow in a way that it becomes more affordable and accessible to people.” says Jamidah. “Also I’m interested to see technology develop based on this movement, there’s pineapple fiber and milk fabric, how amazing is that? Also, the use of more ethical practices by bigger manufacturers. Garments without guilt is a good model, one that the corporations should emulate.”

 

 

 

 

The idea behind the ULTRA 10 collection is that these are all the pieces of clothing you need to create enough unique looks for a whole year.

The idea behind the ULTRA 10 collection is that these are all the pieces of clothing you need to create enough unique looks for a whole year.

In order to produce less waste, ULTRA produces everything on a made-to-order basis. They are looking into exploring alternate applications such as 3D-printing tailoring, kinetic harvesting and modular open-sourced designs, and are also currently working with UNHCR to provide production opportunities to refugees.

Assuming you don’t have an aversion to the colors black or white, what’s not to love about this brand? We’re not sure, but we do know that you will be seeing a lot more of ULTRA in the upcoming year.

weareultra.com

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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