Love waste-free fashion? These zero waste designers are just killing it!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
You don’t shop fast fashion. You’d 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’s left over should also be recycled into small items like headbands, 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.
Zero Waste Designers Who Are Just Killing It
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.
We love her choices of patterns from the most whimsical of decades. Her floral details that evoke the boisterous liveliness of spring also stand out. But it’s her vintage materials that attest the preservation of previous prestigious couturiers that really define Charlotte Bialas’ magnificent collections.
One of the best zero waste designers for: Parisian chic, with a touch of retro vibes.
Malaika New York is a Zero Waste clothing brand combining Scandinavian minimalism with exquisite techniques making their garments both versatile & unique. Their clothes are made from squares, triangles and rectangles to optimise their fabric use up to 98%. This leaves their customers with unique pieces they can’t find elsewhere.
They also upcycle bike tubes destined for the landfills from local bike shops, and use sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, Tencel, linen. Finally, they use regenerative nylons made from old fishing nets and other nylon waste, too. Their clothing is made locally in New York to ensure fair labor practices, low C02 & high-quality garments.
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. This 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.
One of the best zero waste designers for: Gorgeous fashion with a high tech edge
Based in Berlin, this Euro-chic fashion label is led by designer Bojana Draca. Farrah Floyd uses certified sustainable fabrics mainly produced by companies in Italy and Turkey.
Draca’s zero-waste pattern drafting was developed over many years, 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. The result? No waste is leftover. The ultimate garment boasts a unique, somewhat artistic silhouette. It can be easily customised with accessories and creative styling.
One of the best zero waste designers for: The urban fashionista
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. These are just a few samples of how this designer sources her zero-waste fabrics.
Glass certainly has a unique talent. By stitching bits and pieces together, she creates seasonless, high-fashion clothing that can be worn for a lifetime.
One of the best zero waste designers for: Comfy, everyday style
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. He 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 and Eileen Fisher.
Silverstein’s ‘Re-roll’ technique applies the art of sewing together the scraps that overflow in the fashion industry. He uses this upcycling technique to create unique and imaginative patterns that can result in anything from patchworks to pop culture pastiches.
One of the best zero waste designers for: Making a woke statement
Ok, so these guys are more a (family run) brand than zero waste fashion designers as individuals. But their fab work is still well worth a mention! Rothy’s has long been making vegan shoes from rescued ocean plastic. They’ve combed over 30 miles of seashore to search for PET bottles that can be melted down and made into footwear.
Rothy’s has recently expanded their offerings to include fab vegan bags, too! There’s a wide variety to choose from, including totes, wallets, clutches and even boxy bags.
But that’s not all! There’s the zero waste element, too, of course. The brand makes both their shoes and their bags by using a 3D knitting technique. This ensures none of their recycled threads ever go to waste.
One of the best zero waste designers for: Super stylish vegan bags and shoes
All images courtesy of the designers except image above, by lyndiinthecity.com. Main image: Rothy’s