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New Old Shoes

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.

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My version of sketching.

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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

Commune@RMIT Brunswick

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:
*Paris ‘99
*Pedal Pushers
*RMIT Bookshop
*Student cake stalls
*The Greens
*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

My first article for EcoSalon!

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!

Void 2012 Patterns

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These are the patterns that make all the garments shown in the Void video below. Some make a single garment, some make  2.

Void 2012. A zero waste collection for Evergreen

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.

RISK Dress

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.

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