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Invent Oregon: Igniting Change with Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship

Creative minds and innovative solutions are the key to solving environmental issues across the world. The 2023 Invent Oregon competition brought together a creative set of student innovators who are not just dreaming of a better world, but actively working to create it. These young visionaries showcased projects with a focus on sustainability that are set to transform the fashion industry's impact on our planet.

A new wave of change-makers is emerging, determined to revolutionize the way we produce, consume, and perceive fashion and textiles. The Invent Oregon competition this year featured projects tackling this urgent mission, that aim to address the colossal waste generated by the fashion sector. According to information provided by, “In America alone, an estimated 11.3 million tons of textile waste – equivalent to 85% of all textiles – end up in landfills on a yearly basis. That’s equivalent to approximately 81.5 pounds (37 kilograms) per person per year and around 2,150 pieces per second countrywide.”

Team ‘Bucha: Brewing a Sustainable Fabric Future

A notable project of the 2023 competition is Team ‘Bucha from Portland State University. Meet Pablo V. Cazares and Ava Zavala; both recent graduates from the Fine Arts program. They began thier journey in the spring of 2023, taking first place at the PSU Cleantech Challenge with an idea to harness the power of kombucha to create sustainable textiles for clothing.

“There are a lot of sustainable options that are out there for apparel, but none of them really solve the problem. Cotton and organic cotton seem great because they're natural, but they use the most water of any agricultural crop. Polyester's polluting the oceans. Bamboo takes a tremendous amount of water and processing.” says Caazarez. Tackling the problem of limited eco-friendly materials in apparel manufacturing, Team ‘Bucha is utilizing kombucha scoby, a cellulose-rich layer formed during the fermentation process, to develop a groundbreaking system for producing sustainable textiles. By upcycling this waste product from kombucha production, they are not only reducing its environmental impact but also paving the way for a more sustainable future in fashion.

Team Bucha’ was awarded the Visionary Award and took fourth place overall at the 2023 Invent Oregon finals.

Rhino Revive: Fashion with a Purpose

Another remarkable project that caught the judges' attention is Rhino Revive, founded by Hieu Lam, a recent graduate from University of Oregon with a degree in Business science. With a dual mission of sustainable fashion and wildlife conservation, Rhino Revive is committed to producing every garment in a responsible manner while allocating a portion of their profits to support and restore populations of endangered animals. According to Lam, this idea was inspired by learning that one single t-shirt wastes about 730 gallons of water, and also the fact that they are 771 million people on our planet, who don't have access to clean water.

This innovative approach not only tackles the waste problem inherent in fashion but also addresses the urgent need for biodiversity conservation. Through its incredible efforts, Rhino Revive is turning fashion into a force for positive change on a global scale.

Drop Skate Shoes: Stepping towards Sustainability

In the world of sportswear, Drop Skate Shoes is taking center stage by designing the next generation of skate shoes that prioritize longevity, functionality, and performance—all while being made from sustainable materials. Established by Steven Minnic, a digital cinema major from Southern Oregon University, Drop Skate Shoes acknowledges the disposable nature of many skate shoes on the market and seeks to shift this paradigm. “At Drop, we're creating the next generation of skate shoes designed to last longer, improve function and performance ,made from sustainable materials. We aim to be a three pillar closed loop brand with a goal of building the best possible skate shoe.” says Minninc.

By creating durable, high-quality footwear that reduces the need for frequent replacements, Drop Skate Shoes is not only reducing waste but also enhancing the experience for athletes and enthusiasts.

Invent Oregon's Impact on the Future of Fashion

The projects showcased in the 2023 Invent Oregon competition underscore a hopeful reality: the next generation of entrepreneurs is committed to reshaping industries for the better. With a strong focus on sustainable practices, waste reduction, and ethical production, these students are setting a new standard for the fashion industry—one that embraces innovation and responsibility. Innovation can come from anywhere and inspiration is sometimes in your own closet.

As the world battles with the environmental challenges posed by the fashion sector, initiatives like Invent Oregon offer a glimmer of hope. These young entrepreneurs remind us that change is possible, and that through creative thinking and dedication, we can transform even the most wasteful industries into forces for positive change. The Sustainable Fashion Revolution is no longer a distant dream, but becoming a reality, through one innovation at a time.

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