Ruby Ross-Hayes is a Year 13 student, born and raised on Waiheke Island. With a passion for environmental and social issues, Ruby is one of Waiheke High School’s sustainability prefects. The Gen Z cohort at Waiheke High School is a very cool, passionate and talented wave of humans, with aims to create positive tangible change using their unique voices. By linking their depth of thought and desire to make genuine connections, these students truly want the world to be a better, more creative and sustainable place for all. 

Ruby activates and manifests her commitment to sustainability through design. As both a Design and Visual Communication and Fashion Design student, Ruby merges her environmental interests with her playful design style, creating meaningful outcomes, with sustainability at the forefront. Inspired by Rothko-esque colour fields, groovy 70s patterns and the mystical natural world, Ruby’s design aesthetic is experimental and reactive to her diverse and alternative environment. 

“I think that my passion and awareness around environmental issues and sustainability kind of influences most of my making and designing. All of the sewing I do for myself is made from fabrics or materials that I find second hand at the op shops or ‘thrift flips’ of clothing items that I find second hand. Not only is it way better for the environment but it's way cheaper and means that I can do many more creative projects than I would otherwise be able to do.” 

This mindset is reflected in all of Ruby’s projects which focus on environmental impact, ensuring her designs use sustainable and ethically sourced materials with sustainable life cycles. Like a lot of us creatives, Ruby dabbles in various crafts like sewing, embroidery and drawing. However, it is sewing that she has a particular soft spot for. Despite describing it as “the most frustrating thing I do”, chatting with Ruby reveals that it is something she truly loves. From the gratification of creating something entirely new to its simple ability to make her feel productive, sewing is a form of making that she is keen to explore and develop further.

In Ruby's current Fashion Design school project, she ponders how clothing can make us feel. Whether we dress for comfort or entertainment, Ruby is interrogating how dressing has the ability to make us feel empowered. Intrigued by the concept of ‘dopamine dressing’, which plays with colour theory and psychology, Ruby embarked on a lockdown mission - enlisting the help of her peers, she set the task for people to explore how their clothing affects their mood during lockdown, in a time when sweat pants seem to be the garment of choice. Ruby gathered her findings and in response is designing a sleek line of clothing tailored to suit individual creatives during times of lockdown. These outfits aim to function as both lounge wear for all the lockdown movie nights, as well as mood boosters to combat fatigue while trying to be creative during the school day. Ruby’s clever use of colour and pattern works to stimulate the wearer's creativity, whilst always considering the most sustainable choices. 

In these strange lockdown times, Ruby misses interactions with her peers and teachers who inspire her. However, the time in solitude has opened up doors for boundless creativity such as picking up a paintbrush for the first time in 6 months, just because or spending six hours at a sewing machine, Ruby is quietly proud of the outcomes (rather cool outcomes might we add, like the pictured halter dress made from an old sheet!). With the excitement of her artistic University endeavours in her future, Ruby intends to continue growing her creativity while staying true to the environmental passions which underpin her approach to making. Ruby, her mahi and her fellow Waiheke High School students are great reminders that good design needs to be good for our planet too.

Project Make challenges you to think about what clothing and adornment means to you, and how sustainability might play a role. Think about how you dress yourself and what connection this might have with your identity, culture or interests. Try rummaging around in your wardrobe and choose something (an outfit or piece of clothing/adornment) that stimulates your creativity. What do you notice? How does it make you feel? Take a photo and post it on your Instagram story or feed. Don't forget to hashtag with #mycreativeclothing and tag us @project_make! 

Ruby Modelling her 70s Halter Dress Creation