Make/Use explores what might occur if we consider not only the aesthetic of the garments we wear, but also the way we use them and the waste we create when we make them. This ongoing research-through-design project questions conventions of the clothing industry in relation to knowledge-keeping, production practices and material use. Through developing open-source, user-modifiable, zero waste designs, Make/Use aims to empower everyday users of clothing, and challenges them to question the relationships they have with their present and future garments.
Make/Use at Objectspace
The Objectspace exhibition presented the current stage of the research into development of the Make/Use user-centred system, illustrated through a collection of seven garment designs. Each garment has a few simple variables embedded into the one pattern, which can combine to create numerous permutations of the design. The level of complexity of the garment construction can be set by the maker, making the system accessible for beginners while also offering more challenging modifications for experts. Over 4 weeks the Make/Use design team will be working in the gallery designing and making zero waste garments and leading weekend workshops that engage participants with the practical application of the zero waste garment concept. Through encouraging visitors and participants, including novice sewers, to make their own simple but experimental garments, Make/Use hopes to assist others to re-evaluate their understanding of making, wearing, modifying and designing clothing.
The fashion and textiles industry is the second largest generator of pollution and waste in the world. From textile manufacture through to retail and end-of-life, clothing has a massive impact on both natural and human resources. Make/Use attempts to address waste generation at three stages in the garment life cycle – production, retail, and (dis)use.
In conventional garment production, an average of 15% of the fabric is unused. In 2015 alone, it is estimated that this will add up to around 60 billion square meters of discarded cloth worldwide, from the making of around 80 billion garments. Embodied in each scrap of wasted cloth is the resources used in its own production – when you consider that the amount of water used to make a single tshirt could sustain one person for three years, the accumulative impact is staggering. This understanding of the true value of materials underpins the zero waste philosophy.
Building on current leading research in zero waste design and production strategies, this research also addresses the postproduction part of the garment life cycle. Postproduction waste is generated when garments themselves are discarded, through the disposal of unsold stock, unworn purchases or items that are no longer wanted – the average consumer regularly uses only 30% of the garments in their wardrobe. Research around maker and user practices has informed the development of the Make/Use system, which aims to turn passive consumers into active, informed and emotionally engaged makers and users.
The Big Challenges
Make/Use seeks to build a community of early adopters around a new wave of garment/product design strategies that empower users to make, use, remake and reuse. The project centres around the development and testing of an embedded navigational system by which users can formulate a functional understanding of the construction of a garment and its opportunities for manipulation. It explores how the encoding of navigational clues and markers into a garment or product might aid in its facility for creation and modification by the user, thereby enhancing emotional investment and connection, and extending its functional and desirable lifespan. In addition to further reducing material waste, Make/Use seeks to slow the demand for the production of new consumer goods and materials, to the benefit of global ecologies.
Since its beginnings in 2012, the Make/Use project has been testing a simple premise: that zero waste practice might combine with use practice to create clothing that better serves both the user and the environment. Initially conceived as part of Dr Kate Fletcher’s international research project “Local Wisdom”www.localwisdom.info, Make/Use is now in its third iteration. While each iteration of the project offers outcomes that are complete in themselves, the overall project continues to develop and push the boundaries of what might be possible.
All patterns and templates for the creation of the garments in the Make/Use collection are available for download from www.makeuse.nz. The Make/Use team will also be offering three workshops at Objectspace gallery, where you can test out the system and garments for yourself, and learn how to Make/Use.