Just for fun the other day I played around with a one piece pattern idea i saw here to see if i could make a successful zero waste version that was in keeping with the general concept of the original. I really like the original pattern and design, its simple but interesting. I had some crisp heavy cotton from a previous project laying about in my office and its 150cm wide so based my pattern interpretation within those constraints. The design would work well with a knit or softer woven also i think. I also lengthened the skirt as I prefer a slightly longer length on me.
What I did:
1: I aligned the centre back with the centre straight grain of the fabric which created a front extension/collar, akin to the kimono (which i feel is in keeping with the overall style). To accommodate the front twist it is necessary to slash into this new front extension/collar area at the waist
2: The collar follows around the back of the neck and is taken from the upper shoulder/neck area (so as the final design will reveal and frame the nape of the neck – again similar to kimono and is a lovely sensual design detail.
3: To save fabric i divided the back skirt off from the top, rotated and nested it along side the front skirt. To do this i straighten the side and centre back seams and so had to put the shaping into two darts one close to the back side seam and the other in the more usual place for a back dart. The overall placement of the skirt area allows a range of sizes to potentially fit in the basic layout by making the gather/twist or front extension larger or smaller. Also it means the length of the skirt is easily adjusted longer and shorter depending on the preference of the maker/user and potentially the width or length of the fabric you have.
4: To further allow for sizing changes i ensured the key areas of fit were placed alongside areas where exact shape/size were not as important, in this case the ‘negative space’ is the facing for the front opening, so small changes to the main garment body will not negatively impact of the function of the facing.
5: The piece generated from the back kimono sleeve/body is used to make an inseam pocket (as I hate dresses without pockets, it makes me feel too formal). This piece could also be used to extend the facing for the front if you really didn’t want pockets. Alternatively to remove the “pocket” you could make the sleeve wider and come out form the waist. This would also change the shape of the facing but as i said this isn’t a big deal and will not alter the function of it.
You can download my pattern for free here if you want to try it – Its a PDF. Be aware it is at 50% so if you’re printing it off you’ll need to scale it by 200%. Its currently about a womens size 10/12. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If your fabric is a woven and is 140cm wide you could either narrow the twist and/or extension or (if your fabric allows it) simply rotate the pattern 90 degrees. Other fabric widths can be accommodated by changing the width of the extension and/or amount of twist. You could change the size the pattern makes doing a similar thing, by widening or narrowing the waist line by moving where the twist ‘hooks’ with the other side. And widening/narrowing the corresponding hip/side seam.
I sewed the garment up primarily using a very narrow rolled hem edge and a lap seaming process because i like the look of it, however you could use any process you like. It has a centre back zipper but if you made it in a knit you wouldn’t need it.
Things I could do to improve it further:
If I made the pattern square then altering it to suit different fabric widths is even simpler, you can simply cut a straight section of fabric from selvedge to selvedge, rotate and sew it somewhere on the straight grain (such as the selvedge) of the base fabric to make your fabric the right width. Using this approach the fabric need not even be the same – and you could exploit this approach to create some cool colour/texture blocking effects. It also make widening the pattern for different sizes of bodies easier as while fabric width is determined by the fabric you chose its length is theoretically infinite.
So how does it look?
Pretty slick I think. Here is a photo i took of me wearing the one i made last night (it was at 11:30pm so the lighting is rather poor). You can wear it a couple of ways – with the front extensions overlapping like i wore it here or more open like the original. It depends on how much leg/décolletage you’re wanting to show off.
MAKEUSE is a research project exploring user modifiable zero waste fashion garments. Developed as part of Local Wisdom, this project provides stages of intervention accessible to both Makers and Users of fashion. All too often users are merely passive consumers, purchasing and discarding the garments that build their wardrobe with little opportunity to engage with a richer understanding of the garments role in their lives. Website to come.
I had my old desert boots re-soled last week. They are made by McKinlays of Dunedin in the South Island, New Zealand. I’ve owned them since about 2009 and wore them almost daily since I got them. I got them because they are made in NZ, the design is timeless and they are easily repaired. When I bought them, the sales woman said that the gum sole would last forever, and that the upper would perish before the soles. She was wrong, but they still lasted for many cold and wet Wellington winters and the hot tarmac of quite a few summers (I don’t really do sandals… So roast my way through NZ summer in the same shoes I wear in winter…). By the end of last winter the gum sole had wore right through to the midsole on the right shoe and almost through on the left. The leather upper toe box was crushed and worn out quite a bit due to my (now remedied) behaviour of pattern cutting on the floor on my knees (which also leads to holes in the knees of my jeans). In wet weather I got wet feet, so after a few weeks enduring this I pulled out an old pair of knee high boots, cut the calves off them and voila! Ankle boots! My desert boots spent some time chilling out at the back of my wardrobe, waiting for the motivation to re sole them, and last week I found it.
I took them to the Dixon St shoe repair and key cutters and the guy assured me he could repair them, but it would cost me $120. New desert boots (the same ones) I could get for $120 on sale maybe, or $220 full price. I momentarily tossed up the choice I had and then selected a new sole, super hard wearing, black, and was told I’d get a txt from them when they were done (it seems even shoe repairers have gone hi tech! Who knew?!). On Monday I went and got them back. They are almost like new. Better in some ways, the sole is much more hard wearing, and the shoe repair guy had rebuilt the toe box, polished the leather to a proud shine, and so these new feeling shoes looked tougher, aged, they have a life scratched into the leather. I know where they’ve been. They have a patina. I wear them knowing I’ve supported a local small business, these shoes get me from A to B, with dry feet, and in style but more than that, I walk with pride. A new pair of boots would have felt good, something like this, for a few days, the shiny new leather would have gleamed and shouted, “I’m New!”. But like all new things, this fades.
The lustre of skill and a deed well done, takes much longer to fade.
When I design I don’t sketch the finished design – like what you can see on the right side of the page spread, I sketch the pattern roughly first (image on ruled paper), then I cut and sew the garment up, designing on the mannequin and body as I go, and then will sketch the pattern further as it gets more resolved and I might sketch the finished garment afterwards. I do this because otherwise I am limiting myself, shutting down ideas of form and fall before they have even formed. So, for me a pattern is a sketch.
The design in the image above was a bit of an experiment in fast 2D/3D sketching. I wanted a draped knit coat/cardigan and a pair of track-pants for mooching around the house in. The fabric I got was 169cm wide so I had an extra piece about 45cm wide on the side that i could use for something else, so I made a very simple asymmetrical tshirt – really just a rectangle with irregularly placed neck and arm holes. So out of 2m x 1.69m of end of roll, NZ made black merino knit fabric, I got three items I needed, but with the added bonus of being zero waste and much better looking than your average pair of trackies, cardy and tshirt… All for $40 and 4 hours of my time
In July I’ll be be speaking all about Zero Waste Fashion at Commune@RMIT Brunswick! Explore your creativity and celebrate the global world of fashion and textiles at RMIT University’s annual sustainability festival and conference day, It’s going to be exciting! Also speaking are :
*Kate Fletcher. Leading UK academic on sustainability in fashion – Live interactive skype session from UK
*Lyn Stephenson. President, Industrial Hemp Victoria
*Steve Wright. Senior Lecturer Fashion Design, Canberra Institute of Technology
There is a Master Class:
*Linda Jackson . Australian fashion designer, fashion retailer and artist
And stalls by:
*Student cake stalls
*Friends of the Earth
And two exhibitions:
*Textiles Design and Development TAFE students and graduates
*Bachelor of Arts (Textile Design) students and graduates
Check out the events facebook page for more info and I hope to see you there
I’ve been asked to write a column for the wonderful folks at EcoSalon every 2 weeks. Next article will be available this Friday. It will going into a bit more detail regarding a number of Zero Waste fashion designers. Stay tuned!
These are the patterns that make all the garments shown in the Void video below. Some make a single garment, some make 2.
While fashion appears to change constantly, this change is primarily superficial. Forms, lines and details are repeated ad nauseam, only occasionally revealing anything new. As a result consumers are bombarded with choices that all look the same. Boredom and the impulse to buy something new rapidly sets in, only for it to feel old as soon as it is worn. Can re-imagining the fashion design process disrupt this or is ‘Fashion’ all pervasive, infiltrating my hands and influencing every line I draw and every cut I make?
Void questions the conventional fashion design process that values 2D drawing and image over cutting and form, and explores what happens when fashion is designed from a ‘blank slate’. At its core the garment is a pliable space for our bodies to travel through that should fulfill individual needs for movement, modesty and expression. However, contemporary fashion is guided by profitability first, while trend forecasters, media and style-makers vet the choices offered, never showing the public what is really available or revealing the realities of the fashion production process. In Void, the contemporary fashion design process is reversed, dealing first with the whole cloth and corresponding 2D pattern and lastly with the body and 3D form, all with a goal of generating surprising but desirable garments that produce no waste. Each garment begins as a textile Tabula Rasa; drawn on, cut and formed to create a void for the body to inhabit. Referencing tradition within the confines of zero waste enables unexpected and spontaneous forms to emerge, exploring ideas of good design outside of the vagaries of ‘fashion’.
See it in person in the upcoming exhibition Evergreen at Object in Surry Hills, Sydney Australia.
This dress was designed as part of The Cutting Circle project and I’m refining it for an exhibition in Sydney early next year at Object. It is a similar approach to WAR / PEACE but with the letters forming all the lines needed. When I drew the first sketch I didn’t have much of a plan as to what the garment would look like and designed it almost entirely on the dressform and sewing machine. Usually I like to be more certain of the design before I cut. I was apprehensive but excited to see what might appear at the intersection between my hand, typography and chance. In the Cutting Circle demo I started to sew the garment up again from memory in a beautiful black silk tissue (dead stock) from the wonderful Global Fabrics. I’ve since been refining the pattern – the sleeve on one side was uncomfortable to wear and makes the dress twist around the body. Many of the features ‘discovered’ in the design process I really enjoy – such as the fold across the shoulders (done initially to improve the garment balance) and the interior ‘tunnels’ (to alter the skirt length) and draped pocket. The overall shape works well and the dress is fun to wear.
For me the biggest questions the design process of this dress raises is the play between risk/chance/serendipity and the controlling hand of the designer. The cut lines are controlled by the letters forming the work RISK – an approach which is undeniably risky. And i didn’t know what the garment would look like even once I had cut it out – what I didn’t know was that it would work. So what is my role as a deisgner? The decisions I made at every point; what shape the work took, which of the lines to cut and which to leave, where on the body I placed each piece, the fabric I used, the way I sewed the garment together, all lead to the final design – something that is both calculated and intuitive. And as such, a different person would come up with a different design from the same pieces.
The phrase “Go back to the drawing board” is something I rarely use. And its not because I don’t draw in the traditional sense of the word It’s because I don’t have a finished drawn design to test through a prototype as such. I design as I prototype – the process is conflated and non-linear. I ‘draw’ the pattern for a half conceived prototype, and resolve the pattern as I make the prototype – constantly receiving feedback from the materials I’m working with. It is a one step ‘design’ process with multiple feedback loops.
This is a selection of students graduating from the College of Creative Arts at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand (where I am a lecturer). The work ranges from straight up commercial fashion to sustainable, experimental or historical explorations. If you want to attend the show you can purchase tickets from HERE or learn more by contacting me – Enjoy!
It’s always a slightly painful experience to see your own work be shredded in this way, but a number of the arguments are totally valid and I agree with them whole heartedly – such as why destroy a perfectly functional second-hand garment to make an ugly hybrid. But that is just a matter of personal taste and everyone sees things differently.
I just want to answer a few of the criticisms
You think you invented this? Its been around for centuries!
I didn’t invent Zero Waste Fashion (not even sure where the name came from, its relatively new though). I’ve never claimed to do so. Timo Rissanen has never claimed it either. We both know the full and rich history of making clothes without making waste for the thousands of years that humans have done it – it is after all as old as throwing an animal hide over your shoulder to keep the rain off.
The biggest driver for me is that I strongly believe that the process isn’t refined enough for contemporary consumers yet because people historically didn’t push it forward as a design process. Historically the garments made without waste were made primarily as utilitarian garments. Embellishment may have been used to lift them above this (as is seen with Kimono and many other examples) but the fabric form itself was kept relatively simple. This may well be the best way to use Zero Waste – but we won’t know unless someone tries out the alternatives, and that’s what I’m doing. Additionally zero waste outcomes will only get better the more people do it – we have had 150 years of western style garment design and pattern cutting heading toward what we see and accept as normal these days. Zero Waste was largely forgotten about by western fashion for the last 200 years or so – with a few notable exceptions, Clare McCardell, Zandra Rhodes, Bernard Rudolfski etc. Zero Waste design has not until recently evolved in the same way current western garment design has, teaching people how to get started and showing some of what is possible is going to enable some evolution.
You could use the left-overs for other stuff
Yep that’s true – and I encourage people and companies to do so – Alabama Chanin is an excellent example of this in action, and for this reason Timo Rissanen and myself included Natalie Chanin in Yield: Making Fashion Without Making Waste.
As for me – I use a technique I call “embedding” (it’s just a name I give it to make it easier to talk about – I didn’t invent the process) to give the designer more control of more aspects of the design outcome from the start of the process rather than relying entirely on trial and error to come to the end result – this technique ends with one pattern, cutting multiple garments. The same process could easily be used to make a garment and a bag instead of two garments, or any combination of parts of garments/objects in order to make infinite variations and possibilities of fabric combinations and form.
The problem with using the left over pieces from traditional pattern cutting is that these pieces are randomly shaped, so might not work that well for what they are intended, they are often too small. That being the case with some trial and error it is entirely doable and a great way to use up scraps. Zero Waste pattern cutting designs the positive and negative space to make all pieces usable.
Its only high fashion/exclusive
The outcomes of zero waste fashion are entirely determined by the designer. In much of my work I am trying out a technique or approach to see if it offers anything new or solves a particular issue that I’ve encountered or that someone else has bought to my attention. Zero waste doesn’t need to make ‘high-fashion’ or ‘exclusive’ garments, indeed we already know how to make basic garments using zero waste – after all patterns for these have been around for centuries. Many people are working on variations of these (David Telfer, Julia Lumsden to name a couple), including myself, and I make and wear many versions in my every day life.
I’m trying to raise the profile of this technique, while simultaneously drawing people’s attention to the waste currently created through the standard fashion production process and we all know fashion loves a bit of a spectacle. A criticism I’d make of my work its that it isn’t spectacular enough for this. I think Iris Van Herpen‘s work does a great job of showing us whats possible for the future of the fashion industry through 3D printing. Is it accessible for the average clothing consumer? No. Does it look amazing and inspiring and make people talk about 3D printing? Yes.
The work I do is attempting to find new forms through an old technique. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m trying to satisfy some contemporary fashion consumers with an old process. You manipulate the process to the consumer – so if you don’t like what I come up with, you probably aren’t my target market.
Also while some of my work targets consumers, as a researcher some of it is effectively a test – I’m challenging myself to come up with a different way of doing things within the confines of Zero Waste Patterncutting. So aesthetic is not always the driving force. What you are looking at are probably best described as early 3D sketches – a work in progress.
WTF “Hyperbolic Tessellation”
The “Hyperbolic Tessellation” which was so strongly derided by a number of people in the post was an attempt to make garments that were modifiable – it is entirely experimental – so experimental in fact that it has only ever been pinned onto a half scale mannequin (never sewn up even) and put on the back burner until a number of aspects can be resolved. I stand by the general premise of it however, and will be working on it further in the near future. It is a work in progress. The name derives from the formula used to help generate it.
You use more fabric than is necessary
The garments I design use either less fabric or about the same as a standard garment design of that type. For example I designed a mens two piece suit which uses 140cm wide by 270cm long piece of cloth. Normally this might take at least 300cm of cloth depending on the design. This is true for the vast majority of my designs. Julia Lumsden made 18 mens shirts that use less fabric that a traditionally cut mens shirt for her Master of Design project, and they are all mens shirts which fit into a contemporary work or social environment.
You think it will save the world
Zero waste pattern cutting will not save the world. I’ve never said it would. It is merely one very small tool that can be used when it is necessary and appropriate and it DOES minimise material waste and/or use. Which has to be a good thing. I think we have forgotten that cloth is a finished product by the time we cut into it. Vast amounts of energy, resources and time have gone into its design and production. To thoughtlessly cut and throw it away seems idiotic to me. I do not believe every garment should be made this way – there are different solutions for every problem and a designer should have many solutions to the variety of problems which come up in any given design. Zero Waste is just another tool.
See here for a few more thoughts on related things
I’m very excited to be heading to New York for the first time on the 31st of August. Chris Jackson and me are going thanks to the Textile Arts Center (TAC) to install and open YIELD: Making Fashion Without Making Waste. It opens to the public on the 10th of September and runs until the 2nd of December so if you are in the NY area head to Brooklyn for some zero waste style! There are also two workshops – Timo Rissanen (co-curator and zero waste extraordinaire) and me are running one the weekend of the 10/11th sept and Timo is running another in November at the TAC incase you miss the one in September. I’m also heading to Kent State University in Ohio for a few days to speak with students there about my work that’s in Sustainable Fashion: Exploring the Paradox curated by Noel Palomo-Lovinski, I can’t wait!
In a couple of weeks Julian Roberts and Timo Rissanen are coming to New Zealand for a research project we call The Cutting Circle. We will explore the different approaches to patternmaking and fashion design that we employ and see what kinds of opportunities and collisions of ideas we can come up with. Its going to fabulous and I can’t wait!
As part of this there will also be a symposium with Master-classes, demos and workshops run by Timo, Julian and myself as well as by a few talented staff members from my University, Massey University College of Creative Arts. You can (and should) find out more info at The Cutting Circle Website. You can also Like us on Facebook!
Thought I’d share with you a little thing I’ve been playing with today.
This is a plan for using up the remnants of a piece of fabric (NZ Merino Knit) that I had been using for half scale toiles of zero waste garments. The resulting fabric remnant is irregular in shape so I was trying to work out how to best use it all. The dark grey are the parts of the original fabric that i had used for half scale toiles so are no longer there and I only have the remainder to design the cardigan from.
It is coming into winter so I thought I’d make it into a self lined cardigan with a snuggly collar that is grown on the the back of the cardigan (developed from my mens Embedded suit design that went to Chicago). The plan shows both the cut lines/pattern pieces as well as where they will eventiually go. The darker fill being pattern pieces and the lighter versions of the same shapes are where they will be placed. Once I make it I’ll upload the result – at this stage i am probably 80% sure of how the design will work out.
I am testing out a couple of techniques here (while making myself something to keep me warm) – the grown on collar and nesting the lining and outer in each other – a process that was actually inspired by the zero waste furniture that Chris Jackson and I are testing out. It is really exciting when the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration become apparent when working on your own stuff, it not only generates new knowledge in a different field, but also informs your own design work within your existing practice.
This also demonstrates to me the benefits that new technology might have on my design practice. There is only one piece of this fabric in the world in this shape. My next step is make a paper model of it, which helps but doesn’t answer all my questions. And then I have to cut it out of the fabric – if it is wrong there’s not a lot I can do – I can’t re-cut it – so in essence the resulting garment will only ever be a ‘prototype’ unless it turns out perfectly first go – which rarely happens and is why prototypes are so important. If I had access to CAD software capable of testing my design out then I could do so – and while it certainly doesn’t replace the prototyping process, at least it will give me a good idea what I’m doing before I potentially waste a piece of fabric. I am happy to risk creative design outcomes (I am excited to see what this design will show me in response to my ideas) but i’m not happy to waste materials, and digital modeling would enable me to reduce the risk of material waste.
While I acknowledge that this specific situation is not something that would ever happen in industry – all cloth should be valued as a material with energy, people and raw materials invested in it, regardless of if it is a one off or not – perhaps even more so if it is mass produced.
Julia Lumsden has recently completed her Masters of Design Degree at Massey University Wellington, developing techniques for designing zero waste menswear which she first explored in 2009 for her undergraduate collection. Her research explores pattern making as a design tool for zero waste garment while still maintaining a minimalist tailored design aesthetic. Julia also aims to use a shorter than usual length of fabric in her zero waste designs, eliminating waste and reducing the amount of fabric required to produce the garment.
The jacket seen here explores her zero waste pattern-making – beginning by eliminating/straightening all the curved lines in a classic mens three piece jacket pattern. This was done to test if straight lines made zero waste design easier (as seen is straight cut garments) and also if it lent its own aesthetic to the final design. This was achieved using the ‘Alterations Menu’ in the CAD software Gerber and she continued to use this software to develop the pattern to eliminate waste. Once the pattern was laid out in a marker in gerber, pieces were overlapped in places where removing a section of the jacket would not be detrimental to the fit. The negative spaces were then incorporated into adjacent pieces creating normal shaped pattern piece but with additional ‘tabs’ extending from the pattern piece. Once resolved the garment pieces were cut out and when constructing the tabs were folded to the interior and top stitched down creating subtle detailing, shaping and reinforcement. The resulting Jacket is moth minimalistic and highly detailed in parts – the fit and aesthetic harks back to a classic Dinner Jacket.
The other garment in YIELD is a zero waste mens shirt which was developed as part of a range of mens shirts all using zero waste goals. The shirt once again refers to a formal style similar to the dinner jacket, with a bibbed front and a ‘bow-tie’ effect. It is key to Julia’s design practice that the final garment look like a traditional shirt in many ways – it was important that the garment be ‘approachable’ by not just the fashion forward men out there, but by everyday guys also – something i feel she has succeeded in.
The pattern for this shirt was developed through a complex process of modifying a standard contemporary mens shirt pattern using techniques she identifies as Piecing, Blending, Nesting, Merging and Creating – helpfully giving names to the techniques that many zero waste designers use everyday. Identifying and naming these techniques was a key part of her masters project and gives other zero waste designers a language we can use and add to.
Both the Jacket and the Shirt are exquisitely crafted garments, finished to a very high standard. The pattern making process she uses leads to some complex construction in order to finish her garments to the standard she expects, which she then resolves beautifully. The striking aspect of Julia Lumsden’s garments is the degree of aesthetic refinement apparent in her work when operating within the confines of zero waste pattern design. Achieving results which are contemporary, original and totally wearable.
Julian Lumsden has very kindly made the patterns for both shirt and jacket available for free download here
This is a responce to a comment on a post a collegue wrote about the possibilities of zero waste furniture, and a project that Chris Jackson and I are developing to see how my zero waste fashion practice might positively inform furniture design. I’ve posted the reply here because it was getting stupidly long as a comment… Original article is linked here
Hi Tom. Thanks so much for your comments about zero waste fashion and you bring up many valid points, which both Chris and I have been debating (arguing amicably) about for some time now. The kinds of comments you make are similar to those that Chris make to me, and its great to be challenged in this way.
However, there are a couple of things I’d like you to consider.
FASHION AND CLOTHING
For a start there is a difference between fashion and clothing that might be useful for this discussion – a differentiation that perhaps needs to be made for furniture also (perhaps there is and you can enlighten me!). Clothing is generally considered to be concerned with a garments function (both function and aesthetics are important but function comes first). Fashion is appealing first and functional second, and within fashion it is often argued that function is determined not by ergonomics or even fit, but the function of aesthetics and fashionable use. Despite this, both clothing and fashion still needs to hang on the body correctly, enable you to move through space, you need to be able to get into it – not just sit on it or look at it, all of these things are why fashion is made of soft things. Softness enables flexibility, but it also brings its own set of troubles. It is extremely difficult to control or predict exactly how it will behave and there are an infinite array of possible fabric types (which is part of why clothing has been the most difficult thing to accurately render via computer, and why CAD for fashion is about 10 years behind CAD for architecture or objects). Bodies come in vastly different shapes, meaning you need to be able to translate garments into different sizes while ensuring it remains economical to have to variations (something that is not at all perfected as it is so difficult to do). Soft fabrics are dictated to by gravity, you have limitations to form because of this, you cannot defy gravity with stiffness as easily as for furniture. Additionally as your body moves through space you need to be able to wear the same things from the start of your day to the end – unless you plan on bringing a full change of clothes with you for every possible situation you might encounter during the day. Furniture is quite static in comparison. What I am trying to say is that both Chris and yourself seem to occasionally over simplify the requirements and design of any type of garment. Both furniture and fashion have different limitations and advantages, all of which need to be considered when designing using zero waste as a goal.
MATERIAL YIELD, MEN AND FRIVOLOUS EXCESS
Almost all of the garments in Yield use less than or about equal to, the amount of fabric used to make that ‘type’ of garment under standard condition – so there is no ‘excessive’ use of fabric per se. The other is that while zero waste fashion is as old as clothes it was abandoned by fashion because the old way of doing it didn’t lead to the kind of ‘frivolity, embellishment or excess that people wanted out of a lot of fashion” Zero waste fashion was too minimal and simple, and most commonly used for underwear – the most utilitarian of garments. It has only been recently explored as a way of making clothing that is expressive in nature – yield aimed to show some of those examples (which is in some cases where you get frivolous decorations – people like that in clothing – and I’d argue that many people might like it in furniture as well if given the opportunity to buy it. Furniture is by and large designed by middle aged white men (gasp!). Frivolous decoration can be done extremely well, it isn’t in of itself a negative which you seem to be implying. Men in general don’t like frivolous embellishment so furniture hasn’t been as comfortable with it for many decades, Fashion on the other hand is quite happy to operate in that way when desired. That being said, personally I’m not a fan of embellishments. All the garments I design utilise the fabric as necessary to the final form within the standard material use for that garment type. The relationship between form and material use is intricately intertwined, and not at all ad hoc or an after thought. Additionally as I said originally zero waste fashion didn’t provide the degree of ‘frivolity’ desired by consumers and designers and was primarily used for underwear. Many of the designers in the show are very minimalist with their designs, David Telfer, Julia Lumsden, Yeohlee Teng, Caroline Priebe in particular all respond directly to the proposed markets and their markets desire minimalist garments (interestingly 2 of those are menswear designers, I wonder what that says about the repressed nature of much of contemporary menswear). Additionally Julian Roberts does not do embellishments, there are no left over’s each part is necessary for the final form, a form which is intentionally voluminous as within women’s fashion this is often desired.
VARIATION AND REPETITION
We know how to make a men’s shirt. We can make many of them, very quickly for low cost and they all look the same. Same goes for a hoody, a suit, jeans, t-shirt, just about any items of basic clothing that might fit your idea of pure or functional, the many different iterations of each of these garments types have been played out over hundreds of years many times faster than it has for furniture because simple fashion is simple and cheap to make, . And yet this doesn’t seem to satisfy us. I would argue that part of this is being a covetous human and another part is the sameness of clothing – from a form perspective fashion is often extremely restricted, and those that aren’t are considered ‘frivolous’ by people who look at fashion from the outside. We crave individuality while desiring to fit in, fashion has to deliver this in a format that becomes the first thing you see when you meet a person – you’re not looking at their dining furniture. The goal of zero waste fashion isn’t about making just those items you know and love, tshirt, hoody, jeans what ever – and making them using zero waste (although it is part of it and I’ve done my fair share) it is about discovering new forms, a new aesthetic for fashion, not just generating the same thing over and over again.
Applying this non-strict zero waste principle to furniture design would lead to unnecessarily heavy pieces for example.
I’ve got to say – No it wouldn’t – only if you did it badly, just as badly designed zero waste fashion is still just bad. I can’t help but feel it is an excuse. There are elegant solutions to many of the issues you bring up (IMO) given enough time and energy spent on working out what they might me. Solutions such as embedding multiple items in one sheet of material will minimise the ‘excess’ dramatically, giving greater control toward the final output. These kinds of processes and the ‘how do I do this’ stuff is related closely to your point about time. It only takes so much more time to develop because we aren’t taught how to do it. There isn’t a book or even a wise old man/woman somewhere that gives you ideas about little tricks you might use to interlock pieces on a sheet for maximum yield while enabling your design to work. We don’t have it much for fashion either – Zero waste in this format is in its infancy. The examples in the show are the beginnings of a change – not the end result of one. Any endeavour when you start out is hard.
THE ROLE OF THE DESIGNER
I found your comment about optimisations becoming “an exercise to preserve one’s style against the forces of the algorithm” and that this is a scary thing for designers really pertinent. Each of the designers in Yield are exercising their designerly prerogative. However there is definitely an element of risk inherent in any process that has boundaries outside of your control. But this can be where the most interesting work emerges.
There is a bunch of other stuff I could mention but this reply is getting far too long as it is. I’m sure that the first time someone attempted to make something using rotational moulding it took them a really friggen long time to work it out and it took ages to produce something that ‘worked’, and now it’s a standard practice. I’m not saying zero waste fashion or furniture will ever necessarily be that straight forward but given the relative amount of energy put into developing solutions for zero waste vs other processes I think we’re doing well so far.
This whole discussion has really got me thinking (and got my hackles up I’m sure you can tell!) – but I think it is such an important conversation for any designer to be having, whether zero waste or not.
Zandra Rhodes studied printed textile design at The Royal College of Art in London. In 1969, she took her collection to New York where it was featured in American Vogue. Zandra was UK Designer of the Year in 1972 and by 1975 founded her own shop in London. Her clothes were soon worn by the rich and famous including Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Diana, Princess of Wales. Awarded nine Honorary Doctorates and a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II, Zandra has been institutional in setting up London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Today, she continues to clothe the rich and famous with collections sold around the world. Zandra also designs sets and costumes for opera as well as licensing her name for various products.
The piece shown in YIELD: Making fashion without making waste is titled Chinese Squares. It is a beautiful example of a textile leading the garment design, with the pattern being cut around the hand painted square motif so as to not disrupt the painted lines and form.
The resulting garment is both simple – being constructed essentially from a series of squares, and complex – with open pleated sleeves and an ornate print. It wraps around the form of the body without side-seams and hangs languidly in silk crepe de chine. The pattern for Chinese Squares is very close to zero waste, however the selvedges appear to have been removed. The design references historical ‘square-cut’ garments in particular the way the sleeve/body is arranged. Pieces removed for fit around the neckline and waist are reinserted to form the wrap-around mechanism at the waist.
The garment looks timeless in person, although it was made in 1980, and is in almost pristine condition. The garment was generously loaned to The Dowse Art Museum by The San Diego History Centre for YIELD and it was donated to them by Lucretia G. Morrow. It is part of the Chinese Collection from Spring/Summer 1980 and other examples of how the same print was used by Zandra can be seen below.
Zandra Rhodes work in YIELD acts as an anchor, as although it is not the earliest example of zero-waste fashion it remains eminently accessible and beautiful despite being made over 30 years ago and the respect for cloth evident in all her work is plain for all to see.
YIELD is opening on this Saturday, the 26th of March 2011 at The Dowse Art Museum. This is the first leg of the tour and after it closes in Wellington will travel first to the Textile Art Center in Brooklyn, New York. Designers involved in the show are Zandra Rhodes, Yeohlee Teng, Natalie Chanin (of Alabama Chanin), Tara St James, Caroline Priebe, Timo Rissanen, Holly McQuillan, Carla Fernandez, Samual Formo, Julia Lumsden, Jennifer Whitty, David Telfer and Julian Roberts! All of the work show in YIELD either eliminates/reduces waste at the design/pattern cutting stage or adopts another approach to minimize or eliminate the waste generated when making clothes.
Over the next 12 weeks I’ll be profiling one of the designers in the show on my blog, starting next week with Zandra Rhodes
http://yieldexhibition.com/ for more info on the designers and work in the show!
Thomas and me spent the weekend photographing the work for Yield (front, back, two sides and a 3/4 view) in the studio. Check out some behind-the-scenes photos below – you’ll have to wait till Yield opens to see the real deal.
It can be difficult photographing a range of garments with different markets and aesthetics. As soon as you use a model it shifts the way a garment is read so we decided to keep it simple: on a mannequin – neutral grey background etc. The time it took to change the garments over was much more than we planned for although once set up the actual shoot is straight forward enough.
Here is a video of ZERO Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned exhibition with a short glimpse of my (un-ironed) work during the set up of the exhibition. See from 1:24 to 1:29 and you’ll see the menswear pieces. Also if you want to download a PDF of the Catalogue – click HERE. Designers and artists include Maison Martin Margiela, Timo Rissanen, A Magazine, Nick Cave, Padmaja Krishnan, Derick Melander, Refinity + Berber Soepboer and myself. I have loved Derek Melanders work since I first encountered it and his installation in the window of the A+D Gallery is particularly lovely.
Keep up to date with the latest happenings for the Yield Exhibition opening to the public on the 26th March 2011. Timo Rissanen and I are co-curating this international traveling exhibition on Zero waste fashion design. First in Wellington NEw Zealand at The Dowse Art Museum and then traveling to Textile Art Center (TAC) in Brooklyn New York in September 2011. And then.. who knows!
We have a new facebook page you can ‘like’ and stay informed with up to the minute info on whats happening and when the openings are!
Zero waste Embedded Design for Menswear and Womenswear. Modeled by Thomas (who when not modeling is a brilliant photographer) and the beautiful Monica Buchan-Ng. Shot at Red Rocks, Wellington by Holly McQuillan, edited by Thomas McQuillan.
The menswear garments are from two zero-waste patterns: Tshirt and Hoody, Pant and Jacket. The womesnwear is from a single pattern and includes slim pants, dress and vest.
For more info on the exhibition – Click Here!
I was a student of the curator Arti Sandhu (who is also an amazing photographer and illustrator/artist) and then we were colleagues for a short time before she headed over to teach at ColumbiaCollege in Chicago (lucky them!).
With this article, this exhibition, this one just opening at Parsons the other day as a result of this course last year and of course the YIELD exhibition opening in late March – it looks like Zero-waste Fashion might be taking over the world for a while. Enjoy the ride!
Coming to a good bookshop near you – Shaping Sustainable Fashion! Edited by the wonderful Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen this book promises to be a great resource for industry, students and generally interested folk. I am also in it – one chapter on Zero-waste Fashion Practice – a bit of a “why” and “how-to” of zero-waste fashion in the “Make” section. The book is divided into 4 sections – Source, Make, Use and Last – very logical and its good to remind ourselves that there isn’t only one road to a sustainable fashion future. I can’t wait to get my copy.