This is the beginning of a good good thing

Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design

If you hadnt seen it already the link above takes you to a really great article on zero-waste fashion in the New York Times of all places. It covers a range of designers working in the field (including myself, Yeohlee Teng, Mark Lui, Zandra Rhodes, Julian Roberts etc) but mostly discusses why its a good idea and the course that Timo has been developing for Parsons. Such a nice feeling to see people I respect and admire getting the recognition they deserve! Timo Rissanen works so hard to further the advancement of zero-waste fashion thinking both through his own work and through encouraging others (myself included). I’m so sure that the Zero-waste Jeans Loomstate/Parsons collaboration will work brilliantly and hopefully more such zero-waste courses and collaborations between industry and education will follow. This is the beginning of a good good thing.

Charlotte Jenny Little – Pickled.

Charlotte was a undergrad and masters student of mine last year and the year before. She’s a clever woman. It was partly inspired by the “Brown Dress project” by Alex Martin – and Charlotte wore a dress she designed for 209 days (video below) throughout her 4th year of study here at Massey University. She designed her graduate collection”Pickled” in response to this experience and says it changed her view on fashion and it’s relationship to consumerism. Pickled was dyed using things she could eat (like tea/coffe and beetroot) and was made without metallic or plastic fastenings. Her masters project developed this further and applied it to the local community – fashion design as a service for longevity and developing relationships with the community.

TWINSET: war/peace

I’m working on a “twinset” for a Biennale I’ve been accepted for in Korea in November. I’m about to make up my first half scale prototype on it to see how its going. I’m aiming for something quite minimalist and graphic as it’s been inspired by typography and Kimono.

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I’ll post up images once I’ve made one up – which shouldn’t be too long, but if it sucks I’ll work on it a bit first! My initial idea was to digitally print the typography on it – to keep it flat and crisp but digital printing doesn’t cope that well with flat colour – but I don’t have a screen big enough to screen print it. Any ideas? I could hand dye it, but i’m not totally sold on my hand painting skills to be honest… and yes – these patterns are printed on 9 sheets of A3 paper and suck together with tape… I’d LOVE a digital textile printer – even just for half scale…

Eco Fashion book by Sass Brown – coming in August (or maybe September?)

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

Free Block Patterns for download.

Nope I wasn’t that organised but they have very usefully been put online by Alison Dahl (cute work by the way). If you don’t know it BurdaStyle has a selection of free (and a number you pay for also) downloadable patterns and now they have basic blocks so you don’t have to digitize them in! You’ll need to register to access them but it is free. Some of the patterns are good and some pretty basic, as they are made by beginners and experts alike. Very nice resource and community however.


Straight Skirt


I use similar blocks in my zero-waste pattern cutting process in Illustrator. You might want to scale them to half size to make it easier if you use them in that way.

Risk, design and beautiful things

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about risk and the design process. In particular how much in fashion design and business the goal is to minimize risk – we often explore and commit only to the sure thing. I wrote about it briefly in a paper i presented last week at the IFFTI 2010 conference on Sustainable Fashion in regards to copying and the fashion cycle. I feel that copying or referencing is a method for minimizing risk and through this copying, design (in particular fashion design) becomes derivative and drives the cycle of novelty – consumption – boredom – novelty which dominates the fashion world. Through the fashion cycle, aesthetics become risk free. Risk requires more of the soul of a designer, it requires more sweat and worry. But risky design and leaps of faith are what create truly exciting and innovative ideas. Risk can change the world not just regurgitate it.

Risk also requires more time, and we need to take more time when we design. We need time to put other things first ahead of aesthetics, and what that first thing might be is up to each designer. For myself i put the environment first, for someone else it might community or fair trade, for others it might be animal cruelty, and for yet another it could be freedom of expression. Putting the aesthetics and trends of fashion first has lead us to an industry which pollutes the environment, exploits communities, workforces and animals and promotes ideals of beauty which for most are unattainable.

That is not to say we should disregard aesthetics, indeed the aesthetics of things cannot be ignored even if we tried. As when people purchase anything they own it with their eyes first. But designing only for the look of something gives nothing back to our world except a beautiful thing that is empty and will eventually reveal it’s empty-ness and make the owner feel empty in their consumption of that beautiful thing. So they go buy another to fill up.

So… Risk… Ignore trends for a bit. Ignore how it looks for a little while. Don’t think about Cool. Design something which puts the important stuff first. Then make it beautiful so we can buy real beautiful things instead of empty beautiful things. It would be a start at least.

The Hand of Man and the March of Civilisation

My Great Grandfather came to New Zealand in the late 1800’s from England via America. He was a single man with family back in England. Like many men of the day he wrote letters to his mother and siblings about his experiences in New Zealand. At the time New Zealand was largely unoccupied. Large areas of New Zealand were still unexplored and there was intermitted outbreaks of war and violence between the colonialists and Maori. In the 1870’s Albert bought an isolated piece of land in what came to be known as the Taranaki Province and he began to clear it of the dense and almost impenetrable ‘bush’ that covered most of New Zealand at the time. In one of his letters to his mother he describes the process used to clear the land of trees and vegetation. A process known as “Slash and Burn” – a process still used today in many parts of the world. Essentially some of the large and useful trees are cut down and used for timber or firewood if needed and what is left is hacked at and then burned off to make way for pasture or crops. He wrote of the sight it left behind.

It is a fearful sight I think.

Great trees blackened and split with the fire, rearing their heads up so gaunt and bare and those that have fallen laying about the ground in such a jumble you cannot conceive.

To look from the clearing to the bush is a contrast, in the bush the tree palms, and all the other things green and beautiful and then the clearing, you can see the hand of man and the march of civilisation.

I will never forget the first time I read his letters, there are hundreds of them, many merely a banal and everyday record of his life in colonial New Zealand. But at times the beautiful isolation of the land and its violent destruction at his hands clearly effected him. I like to think of him as the first environmentalist in my family – although i guess there may have been more before him. He had many children, was widowed and married again, his son (George) was my grandfather and he farmed the land after him, as did my father Ronald after him and now my sister Kama keeps watch. Albert left one piece of bush standing on our farm, it still stands today. My connection to the land is blood deep, bone deep. I am not separate from the land I am of the land. Nature is not another, I am natural.

Fashion and Copyright

I’m going to be presenting a paper at IFFTI 2010 at the end of March on fashion sustainability and copyright issues and the following wee snippet from a public discussion at the 2008 Ready to Share: Fashion and the ownership of creativity event, caught my eye.

Laurie Racine: …how do you think fashion would be different it if had to obey the copyright laws?
Guy Trebay: There’d be no fashion.
Tom Ford: It’s true.
Guy Trebay: There’d be no fashion.
Laurie Racine: Nothing else to say?

Guy Trebay: I don’t know how anyone could expand on that. It just wouldn’t exist.

In terms of developing a sustainable fashion industry one of the main problems the fashion industry has is the speed of change and the subsequent waste generated – While I don’t want there to be “no fashion”, it is possible (and often used as a reason why not) that enforcing stringent copyright law on fashion designs would slow down the fashion industry.

If every designer had to be able to prove if asked where their idea come from – or to clearly reference (like you do when you write an paper) – what would happen? The END OF FASHION!? Or do you think that morally designers are restrained in this way anyway so copyright would have little effect?

Mens Hoodie / T’shirt process.

I was asked to design a hoodie for a friend of mine using zero-waste pattern cutting and as I’ve never attempted menswear before using this process i was a bit apprehensive. Timo does it so well and I’m definitely more of a womenswear designer. After begining the design I found myself with alot of extra fabric which in womenswear can be more easily integrated into the design. My menswear client is a bit of a bloke – skater and wears the usual streetwear styles – so flounces would not be acceptable. So I decided perhaps i could design a hoodie/t’shirt combo on the same pattern to use up the extra bits. Perhaps it’s cheating, but i feel like it’s sensible…

Materialbyproduct have done a similar thing – I think they did a dress in two ways, one was a simple dress with a standard fit and the negative space was draped to become the other dress which was far more experimental looking. In this case I’m trying to design both garments to be acceptable to by regular streetwear wearing bloke friend – therefore I’m designing both at the same time. It’s almost like a twin set for men!

It will be printed digitally also, and ive got a few ideas for how that might look already. I think for fabrics i will use a reasonably heavy weight double knit so it can function well as the fabric for both the hoodie and tshirt.

Anyways, here is my design at planning stage – the colours help me to decode what goes where and is a new technique im trying out – it won’t be those colours.

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