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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
You don’t shop fast fashion. You never use a dry cleaner. You wear organic cotton tee-shirts. That’s all great – but it’s just the tip of the sustainable fashion iceberg.
There’s a lot more fashion can do to reduce its environmental impact, and zero waste design is definitely a step forward.
Not sure what that means? Zero-waste designers aim to create clothing patterns that leave less fabric on the cutting room floor. Given that about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in as waste, that’s no easy feat, but with a bit of creativity and innovation, new cutting techniques and fashion silhouettes allow creators to reduce their textile waste.
Of course, what is left over should also be recycled into small items like head bands, jewellery or other accessories, but the fact is that for most designers, it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them.
Luckily, there is a small but passionate handful of zero waste fashion designers who are making a name for themselves by experimenting with innovative design techniques. Here are a few of our favourites.
Paris based designer Charlotte Bialas not only uses vintage textiles from top French maisons, but also employs zero-waste geometrical cutting schemes that drastically reduce fabric waste. Any scraps she does generate are woven into accessories such as necklaces, bags or sashes. Patterns from the most whimsical decades, floral details that evoke the boisterous liveliness of spring and vintage materials that attest the preservation of previous prestigious couturiers all coalesce into Charlotte Bialas’ magnificent collections.
It’s pretty unusual for a fashion designer to have ‘Dr.’ in front of his name, but Dr. Mark Liu actually gained a PhD research at the University of Technology Sydney by applying modern mathematics to traditional fashion pattern making.
Through this technique, he has developed what he calls ‘Non-Euclidean Fashion Pattern Making,’ a unique jigsaw manufacturing procedure that has made him a recognised pioneer in the sustainable fashion movement. The scientific approach applied to couture has brought Liu’s creations to exhibitions everywhere from Asia to the America, and has helped designers to rethink how materials that would have normally gone to waste can indeed be transformed into sculptural pieces of couture.
Based in Berlin, this Euro-chic fashion label led by designer Bojana Draca uses certified sustainable fabrics mainly produced by ethical companies in Italy and Turkey.
Draca’s zero-waste pattern drafting has been developed and devised over many years by designer herself, and is applied to all of her collections. The main concept around this system is to cut textiles into rectangles of different sizes, which all piece together into a grid-like manner across the entire width of the garment so that no waste is leftover. The ultimate result is a unique, somewhat artistic silhouette that can be customised with accessories and creative styling.
The use of upcycled clothing and fabric scraps forms the basis of the innovative zero-waste fashion collections by American based designer Karen Glass.
Her unique aesthetic took years to develop, and to create her collections, she’s always on the hunt for new textiles. Treasures from the Clignancourt flea market in Paris; old, beloved clothing that’s derived from individual clients; scraps from textile art houses, factory samples rooms or cutting room end cuts, are just a few samples of how this designer sources her zero-waste fabrics.
Glass certainly has a unique talent for stitching bits and pieces together into seasonless, high-fashion clothing that can be worn for a lifetime.
Daniel Silverstein has long been an Eluxe favourite, ever since we met him in New York and later fell in love with The Piece Project. Daniel has mastered the art of large and small scale production without textile by-products being sent to incinerators. His process has now caught the attention of several designers from the Big Apple, such as Study NY, Noorism and Eileen Fisher.
Silverstein’s ‘Re-roll’ technique applies the art of sewing together the scraps that overflow in the fashion industry to create unique and imaginative patterns that can result in anything from patchworks to pop culture pastiches.
The designer and photographer newly graduated from Parsons, Qi Wang, has based her brand in New York. Inspired by a diversified approach to the arts and humanistic disciplines, Qi Wang holds zero waste dear to her heart. The thesis collection she designed, plays with geometrical patterned textiles that create mesmeric optical illusions. All the materials that are spared from the landfill are given a new purpose through the subtle technique of zero waste design, thanks to laser cutting techniques intertwined with traditional weaving and embroidery.
All images courtesy of the designers