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.
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
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.
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!
The pattern is theoretically done – and ill be passing it on to Genevieve Packer in the next few days for the print. I feel like the pattern is over complicated. But the garments themselves are relatively simple – slim pants, dress with baby-doll silhouette and a shirt/top with a bow at the neck and a swing silhouette. All are slightly 60s in aesthetic – and oddly for me, kind of cute. Here is the pattern – color coded for your convenience. Greens = Top/shirt, Blues = Dress and Charcoals = Pants.
Timo Rissanen and me are curating/directing a really exciting exhibition on Zero/Low Waste fashion design – opening in New Zealand (The New Dowse) in March 2011 and New York in August/Sept. I’ll post the confirmed list of exhibitors soon – we are so excited!
Chris Jackson, Gerbrand Van Melle and me had a meeting with The New Dowse today to pitch the ideas for the exhibition design to them – TND were really excited also. Have a look as what we are working on. It’s going to involve some similar translations of 2D to 3D that zero-waste designers (and most 3D designers) need to be pro’s at. And a lovely font by NZ typographer Chris Sowersby called Karbon Slab.
I’ve developed my own design for YIELD along a bit since I last posted on the YIELD blog – check it out through the link below
This is an upcoming book by Sass Brown of FIT in Florence, Italy which myself and fellow zero-waster Mark Lui is featured in. Below is the blurb for it from the publishers website.
One of the strongest trends in fashion is the expression of ecological, social and community consciousness through for-profit fashion design corporations, which most recently have moved upscale from organic cotton T-shirts and hippy-ish drawstring pants to high fashion. There is now a wide range of companies offering well designed merchandise, from one-off art, recycled and redesigned clothing, organic and sustainable textiles and garment production, to a range of community and indigenous support cooperatives bridging the gap between traditional craft and high fashion.
This book shows the range of companies making a difference in the area of sustainable design in fashion, exploding the myth that sustainable design is bad design, or at best basic design, by highlighting the range of companies producing desirable and well-designed apparel and accessories with a conscience. It not only demonstrates the range of products available around the globe, but explains the stories behind them and the communities they support, as well as showing how and where they make a difference.
LINK to more information if you’re interested
Here is a zero-waste singlet I designed the other day with my new years resolution in mind. I aimed to focus the detail on the back and keep the front more “normal”. The pattern is a modification of an earlier design.
About 6 years ago i pretty much stopped buying new clothes. Well almost – i bought the odd merino thermal to protect me from Wellingtons damp and cold winters – and i bought 2 pairs of jeans, a couple of dresses suitable for ‘maternity me’ and… hmm some underwear and 2 pairs of shoes. Apart from those, everything i have worn for about 6 years is either something that i already owned, something i (rarely) made from fabric i already had (quite the stash), or a hand-me-down from friends. This wasn’t the result of a conscious decision to change my behavior – i really just found it increasingly difficult to go through with the action of buying clothes. I would go shopping with the intention of buying something i genuinely needed but come back empty handed. The moment of exchanging money for goods became loaded with meaning – such as “I am exchanging money to pay for something i am able but unwilling to do myself, and the persom who did labor over this garment was paid far far less than I would be happy to accept for the same job. So I regularly peruse the magical interweb drooling over beautiful garments i LOVE but couldn’t justify buying because of ethical or financial reasons. And the garments i found that fit both budget and ethics were.. um… not my thing. I have a job that requires me to be at least semi-respectably dressed. So I think i need to do something aside from treading fashionable water…
I will mend. Conspicuously.
I own clothing with so many holes etc that it is getting a bit silly. The two Merino thermals i mentioned earlier have holes in the elbows so large that i often accidentally put my forearms through there instead of where they are supposed to go… I tell myself that these garments are never seen so it doesn’t matter – they still keep me warm. Maybe my students think I’m going for a hobo-chic kind of look? I haven’t mended much yet even though I know how. I’ve fixed hems and resewn buttons (though some buttons are held on with a sneaky safety pin), but i haven’t attempted to repair worn through elbows etc. So that will be step one.
I will wear my own designs. Zero-waste ones.
It probably seems strange but i don’t wear my designs – primarily because the pieces ive made to perfection and completion seem to have become for display purposes only – my husband tells me off when i wear them, and i take them off before i leave the house. They just hang in my wardrobe taunting me. The Wolf / Sheep one is going to be in an exhibition in a couple of months so i shouldn’t wear that (as much as i want to)… But what use are my ideas if I don’t (or someone else) wear them? So I’m going to make one new design per fortnight for myself until i’ve filled the rather large gaps in my wardrobe. Things i will wear all the time. A sort of field testing of the work I do. So. I will wear my own designs.
So pretty simple to start with really. I can’t help fearing that perhaps i’m only doing this to fit some sort of expectation of acceptable fashionable dress – that my clothes and wardrobe as they are are totally sufficient and all that is occurring is that I’m getting sucked back into the fashion consumption void… Hmm
First mending project below. This WORLD (NZ) Jacket has been part of my ‘uniform’ for many years now. Super holey elbows. Wish me luck.
Inspired by Timo’s explanation of his awesome hoody I thought i would try my hand at a visual explanation of the construction of the checked coat.
Is it enough?
Within the fashion industry the resources and energy invested to manufacture cloth and clothing is extraordinary, from the use of non-renewable resources to produce synthetic fibres to the 8000 litres of water used to produce only 1 kilogram of cotton fibre (Fletcher, 2008). And yet today, at a time when clothing has never been so cheap, cloth has become a readily disposable commodity with little value. Indicative of this is the fact that on average 15 – 20% of cloth needed to produce a garment is unused and the useless remnants are destined for the incinerator, landfill or occasionally as mattress filler (Abernathy et al. 1999; Cooklin, 1997; Feyerabend, 2004). China, one of the world’s largest exporters of textiles and clothing produced 31.8 billion metres of fabric in January to July 2008 alone (Tingting, 2008). You could reasonably estimate that 5 billion metres of that fabric were wasted. This astonishing wastefulness is caused by the entrenched traditions of the fashion industry, which separate the stages of garment design and production into hierarchies where the designers often work isolated from production and the accountant is God. It is a system that fails to acknowledge that textiles are a finished product with energy invested into their design and manufacture, relies on the conviction that we can take from and dump on our planet infinitely, and which seems blind to the reality that the fashion world (and the human world) is part of a natural world.
As a child I could see a panther living in the trees lining the road we drove down every day, leaping from tree top to branch, stealthily following our car, but never making that fateful leap. I saw that wolves with yellows eyes lived in the rugged bush on our farm. There was a monster that lived in the lake, ready to pull under any child foolish enough to wander near its dark waters. This mythical natural world was all around me, menacing, and yet somehow also a warning – protective. I was not separate from nature, I was nature and on any given day I could be prey, protector or predator. In the urbanized western world we have come to view Natural as Other – it is easier for us to consume nature if we are not natural ourselves. By viewing ourselves in this way we avoid acknowledging our vulnerability as part of the fragile natural world. The environmental philosopher Val Plumwood in Being Prey (cited in Rothenberg & Ulvaeus. 1999) wrote
“in the human supremacist culture of the West there is a strong effort to deny that we humans are also animals positioned in the food chain”,
she argues that it is this concept of human identity which distances us from our natural world and places humans as “external manipulators and masters”. This illusion of other-ness enables us to exploit at our peril the world we rely on to survive but every facet of our existence relies at some point on the natural world because we are natural.
Wolf/Sheep is a fashion product developed through a zero-waste design process, where all parts that are removed for fit or aesthetics are reincorporated back into the garment. Surplus is resource, not to be used for another product at some time in the future but as a resource for it’s own creation. Designed around the form of the wolf/sheep head and constrained by the dimensions of the textile, while requiring the goal of fashionable dress; nature, industry and design each play their own part to make the whole. Thematically Wolf/Sheep seeks to explore the precariousness of our self-titled position as masters of nature. In it I explore the shallow deception and denial that revolves around the design, production and consumption of clothing. Wolf /Sheep borrows the allegory of folklore to become a watchful and predatory guardian that deceives both viewer and wearer. We seem to have a choice to make on wearing the garment to become either wolf or sheep, but the position of clothing on our bodies as a communicator and protector of the fragile self throws our understanding of the wolf / sheep dichotomy into disarray and the reality is we become both.
These are two links to the development of my latest work. Both are made using Zero-waste pattern cutting processes. Click on these links to see the process i used.
The finished work is shown below
Photos by Thomas McQuillan
Digital Textile Printing services provided by Digitex