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.