Nordic Region Design Competition People’s Choice Winner 2022 : Maria Julia Echarte Pascual


Nordic Region Design Competition People’s Choice Winner 2022 : Maria Julia Echarte Pascual

Meet this year’s People’s Choice Category Winner for the inaugural Nordic Region Student Design Competition, Maria Julia Echarte Pascual – with her entry Sukeban

Maria Julia was born and raised in Tenerife before moving to Madrid to study fine arts and fashion design. After a few years of living and working in Spain, she received the opportunity to further her education at VIA University College in Denmark, where she is still currently a student. Her interests lie in history, fashion and the arts- which she attributes to her mother being a highly skilled seamstress and designer herself, as well as an artist. Being surrounded by creative people during her childhood helped shape her own creativity.



Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

Japanese pop-culture and fashion has always sparked my interest ever since my teenage days (I was very interested in Harajuku styles like gyaru, visual-kei and EGL), and this project was an idea I had been planning to use for a university project. As soon as I saw that the theme for the contest was leather, I thought it was the right time to use it (since we perceive leather as something ‘fierce’ just like the girls from my research were).


How do you think winning this competition will impact your career as a designer?

Like everything in life, it was an experience that helped me grow. I think winning this competition shows that I did good research, and I delivered a good product related to it. I think it shows that I have a competitive side and curiosity about certain topics within the fashion industry, I was also given a challenge and was able to achieve my goal.

What are your thoughts on leather and sustainability, and how you think leather can adapt to a fashion industry increasingly focused on sustainability?

This debate surfaced yesterday as I was speaking with my friends on Discord, we all agreed that as long as the meat industry is still present in our society, nothing should be wasted – therefore leather would always exist since it would come from the meat industry. But, that as customers we should be responsible for our own consumption, and that includes how much we shop, what we buy, and what we put on our plate.

We all agreed that there is tons of leather out there that could be re-used instead of letting it collect dust in a thrift store or our own wardrobes – we could use it to create new garments or simply repair them and add a “twist” to them. I think if we want leather to adapt to sustainable fashion, we need to start somewhere, and re-using could be it. We are living “way too fast” and that also reflects on these industries.

The same goes for vegan leather, it is not sustainable if it is plastic. We might think it’s the “correct” thing to do, but we are still destroying the environment, creating fires in dumpsites because it won’t biodegrade, and we are still endangering the life of the workers and polluting the ecosystems where this material is made. We need to demand better alternatives, but if we don’t say anything, a polyester-based garment with PU coating will continue to be used and the new alternatives will remain unknown or too expensive.


How has this competition influenced your view of working with leather in the future? 

 I am a huge fan of leather styles and I believe that the more we work with it and the deeper the research, we can find out how to make it more sustainable, how to respect the environment and the life of the people that work in the factories. This motivates me to work towards fashion that is fair-minded, slower and respectful.

Instagram: @ohmybubbletea

LinkedIn: Julia Echarte 




Discover the shortlisted entries from the Nordic Competition here. 

Discover more on leather and sustainability here.