Zero waste fashion and furniture – In Response to Tom and Chris

This is a responce to a comment on a post a collegue wrote about the possibilities of zero waste furniture, and a project that Chris Jackson and I are developing to see how my zero waste fashion practice might positively inform furniture design. I’ve posted the reply here because it was getting stupidly long as a comment… Original article is linked here

Hi Tom. Thanks so much for your comments about zero waste fashion and you bring up many valid points, which both Chris and I have been debating (arguing amicably) about for some time now. The kinds of comments you make are similar to those that Chris make to me, and its great to be challenged in this way.

However, there are a couple of things I’d like you to consider.

FASHION AND CLOTHING

For a start there is a difference between fashion and clothing that might be useful for this discussion – a differentiation that perhaps needs to be made for furniture also (perhaps there is and you can enlighten me!). Clothing is generally considered to be concerned with a garments function (both function and aesthetics are important but function comes first). Fashion is appealing first and functional second, and within fashion it is often argued that function is determined not by ergonomics or even fit, but the function of aesthetics and fashionable use. Despite this, both clothing and fashion still needs to hang on the body correctly, enable you to move through space, you need to be able to get into it – not just sit on it or look at it, all of these things are why fashion is made of soft things. Softness enables flexibility, but it also brings its own set of troubles. It is extremely difficult to control or predict exactly how it will behave and there are an infinite array of possible fabric types (which is part of why clothing has been the most difficult thing to accurately render via computer, and why CAD for fashion is about 10 years behind CAD for architecture or objects). Bodies come in vastly different shapes, meaning you need to be able to translate garments into different sizes while ensuring it remains economical to have to variations (something that is not at all perfected as it is so difficult to do). Soft fabrics are dictated to by gravity, you have limitations to form because of this, you cannot defy gravity with stiffness as easily as for furniture. Additionally as your body moves through space you need to be able to wear the same things from the start of your day to the end – unless you plan on bringing a full change of clothes with you for every possible situation you might encounter during the day. Furniture is quite static in comparison. What I am trying to say is that both Chris and yourself seem to occasionally over simplify the requirements and design of any type of garment. Both furniture and fashion have different limitations and advantages, all of which need to be considered when designing using zero waste as a goal.

 

MATERIAL YIELD, MEN AND FRIVOLOUS EXCESS

Almost all of the garments in Yield use less than or about equal to, the amount of fabric used to make that ‘type’ of garment under standard condition – so there is no ‘excessive’ use of fabric per se. The other is that while zero waste fashion is as old as clothes it was abandoned by fashion because the old way of doing it didn’t lead to the kind of ‘frivolity, embellishment or excess that people wanted out of a lot of fashion” Zero waste fashion was too minimal and simple, and most commonly used for underwear – the most utilitarian of garments. It has only been recently explored as a way of making clothing that is expressive in nature – yield aimed to show some of those examples (which is in some cases where you get frivolous decorations – people like that in clothing – and I’d argue that many people might like it in furniture as well if given the opportunity to buy it. Furniture is by and large designed by middle aged white men (gasp!). Frivolous decoration can be done extremely well, it isn’t in of itself a negative which you seem to be implying. Men in general don’t like frivolous embellishment so furniture hasn’t been as comfortable with it for many decades, Fashion on the other hand is quite happy to operate in that way when desired. That being said, personally I’m not a fan of embellishments. All the garments I design utilise the fabric as necessary to the final form within the standard material use for that garment type. The relationship between form and material use is intricately intertwined, and not at all ad hoc or an after thought. Additionally as I said originally zero waste fashion didn’t provide the degree of ‘frivolity’ desired by consumers and designers and was primarily used for underwear. Many of the designers in the show are very minimalist with their designs, David Telfer, Julia Lumsden, Yeohlee Teng, Caroline Priebe in particular all respond directly to the proposed markets and their markets desire minimalist garments (interestingly 2 of those are menswear designers, I wonder what that says about the repressed nature of much of contemporary menswear). Additionally Julian Roberts does not do embellishments, there are no left over’s each part is necessary for the final form, a form which is intentionally voluminous as within women’s fashion this is often desired.

 

VARIATION AND REPETITION

We know how to make a men’s shirt. We can make many of them, very quickly for low cost and they all look the same. Same goes for a hoody, a suit, jeans, t-shirt, just about any items of basic clothing that might fit your idea of pure or functional, the many different iterations of each of these garments types have been played out over hundreds of years many times faster than it has for furniture because simple fashion is simple and cheap to make, . And yet this doesn’t seem to satisfy us. I would argue that part of this is being a covetous human and another part is the sameness of clothing – from a form perspective fashion is often extremely restricted, and those that aren’t are considered ‘frivolous’ by people who look at fashion from the outside. We crave individuality while desiring to fit in, fashion has to deliver this in a format that becomes the first thing you see when you meet a person – you’re not looking at their dining furniture. The goal of zero waste fashion isn’t about making just those items you know and love, tshirt, hoody, jeans what ever – and making them using zero waste (although it is part of it and I’ve done my fair share) it is about discovering new forms, a new aesthetic for fashion, not just generating the same thing over and over again.

 

BAD DESIGN

Applying this non-strict zero waste principle to furniture design would lead to unnecessarily heavy pieces for example.

I’ve got to say – No it wouldn’t – only if you did it badly, just as badly designed zero waste fashion is still just bad. I can’t help but feel it is an excuse. There are elegant solutions to many of the issues you bring up (IMO) given enough time and energy spent on working out what they might me. Solutions such as embedding multiple items in one sheet of material will minimise the ‘excess’ dramatically, giving greater control toward the final output. These kinds of processes and the ‘how do I do this’ stuff is related closely to your point about time. It only takes so much more time to develop because we aren’t taught how to do it. There isn’t a book or even a wise old man/woman somewhere that gives you ideas about little tricks you might use to interlock pieces on a sheet for maximum yield while enabling your design to work. We don’t have it much for fashion either – Zero waste in this format is in its infancy. The examples in the show are the beginnings of a change – not the end result of one. Any endeavour when you start out is hard.

 

THE ROLE OF THE DESIGNER

I found your comment about optimisations becoming “an exercise to preserve one’s style against the forces of the algorithm” and that this is a scary thing for designers really pertinent. Each of the designers in Yield are exercising their designerly prerogative. However there is definitely an element of risk inherent in any process that has boundaries outside of your control. But this can be where the most interesting work emerges.

 

There is a bunch of other stuff I could mention but this reply is getting far too long as it is.  I’m sure that the first time someone attempted to make something using rotational moulding it took them a really friggen long time to work it out and it took ages to produce something that ‘worked’, and now it’s a standard practice. I’m not saying zero waste fashion or furniture will ever necessarily be that straight forward but given the relative amount of energy put into developing solutions for zero waste vs other processes I think we’re doing well so far.

This whole discussion has really got me thinking (and got my hackles up I’m sure you can tell!) – but I think it is such an important conversation for any designer to be having, whether zero waste or not.

 

YIELD:Zandra Rhodes – Chinese Squares

Silk Crepe de Chîne Wrap Dress ‘Chinese Squares’, Chinese Collection Spring/Summer, 1980, Collection of the San Diego History Center, Gift of Lucretia G. Morrow, Copyright Zandra Rhodes

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.

‘Chinese Squares’, 1980, Copyright Zandra Rhodes, as shown in YIELD:NZ (photo Thomas McQuillan)

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.

Textile Print and Pattern for ‘Chinese Squares’, Copyright Zandra Rhodes

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.

 

"Chinese Squares" Pattern only. Copyright Zandra Rhodes

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 "Chinese Lantern" sleeve defined and determined by the textile print
Zandra Rhodes Chinese Pagoda Garment, 1979, (Photo by Angela Carone)

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: Making Fashion Without Making Waste opens 26th March 2011

Julian Roberts 2011

 

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!

 

YIELD photoshoot

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.

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ZERO Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned in Chicago.

 

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.

 

 

YIELD exhibition facebook page

Keep up to date with the latest happenings for the Yield Exhibition opening to the public on the 26th March 2011. Timo Rissanen and I are co-curating this international traveling exhibition on Zero waste fashion design. First in Wellington NEw Zealand at The Dowse Art Museum and then traveling to Textile Art Center (TAC) in Brooklyn New York in September 2011. And then.. who knows!

We have a new facebook page you can ‘like’ and stay informed with up to the minute info on whats happening and when the openings are!

LIKE YIELD

Work for ZERØ Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned at A + D Gallery Chicago.

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.

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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!

Developing design for YIELD

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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.

YIELD – making fashion without making waste exhibition

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

YIELD WORK IN PROGRESS!

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