Zero-waste fashion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zero-waste fashion is defined as a fashion design strategy that aims to reduce or eliminate textile waste during the garment production process, particularly focusing on the pattern making and cutting stages.[1] Zero-waste fashion can be divided into two general approaches: pre-consumer zero-waste fashion, which eliminates waste during manufacture, and post-consumer zero-waste fashion, which generates clothing from garments such as second-hand clothing. Historically, zero-waste models have been utilised in folk clothing, including the kimono, sari, and chiton, among others.[2]

Pre-consumer zero-waste design[edit]

In zero-waste pattern design, the designer creates a garment through the pattern-cutting process, working only within the space allotted by the fabric width.[3] This approach directly influences the design of the final garment, as the pattern-cutting process is a primary design step. Alternatively, zero-waste manufacturing is an approach that aims to eliminate textile waste without modifying garment patterns. This approach allows garments and fabric to be fully used with no fabric wasted.[4]

Gradable zero-waste apparel design[edit]

The Carrico Zero-waste Banded Grading technique is one proposed solution that utilizes bands to cut patterns without wasting textiles. In this technique, carefully planned seam placements grow or shrink allowing sizing of the clothing item up or down to create three different sizes of a garment. After conducting the study, they found that the technique was successful at creating one- or two-piece items. Some issues with this practice include the proportion of the differently sized garments and inconsistencies in seam allowances.[5]

Differences from standard fashion production[edit]

A standard garment production process may begin with a drawing of the desired garment, a pattern is then generated to achieve this design, a marker is made to most efficiently use the fabric, and the pattern pieces are then cut from the cloth, sewn, packed, and distributed to retailers. Standard garment production generates an average of 15% textile waste.[6]

Waste elimination hierarchy[edit]

The waste hierarchy consists of the three 'R's' - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - in order of impact. Zero-waste fashion design reduces or even eliminates pre-consumer textile waste. However, it does not necessarily address waste created during the use life and disposal phase of the garment's life cycle.

During textile production, many pollutants are emitted into the environment. The textile and apparel industry are some of the most polluting, and both have a low recycling rate of about 15%. Zero-waste fashion design could significantly reduce gaseous emissions during the production process and help to reuse material waste.[7]

Notable contributions[edit]

  • Dorothy Burnham: Cut My Cote from 1973 was a seminal text that summarized decades of Burnham's research into cuts of traditional dress.
  • Madeleine Vionnet's design approach aligns well with zero-waste fashion design; many of her garments had minimal waste.


  1. ^ Rissanen, T. I. (2013). Zero-waste fashion design : a study at the intersection of cloth, fashion design and pattern cutting (Thesis thesis).
  2. ^ Rissanen, Timo. "From 15% to 0: Investigating the creation of fashion without the creation of fabric waste" (PDF). BUGIstudio. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2006.
  3. ^ Gwilt, Alison, and Timo Rissanen. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Earthscan Publications Ltd., 2011.
  4. ^ Gupta, Lotika; Kaur Saini, Harminder (2020-06-22). "Achieving Sustainability through Zero Waste Fashion-A Review". Current World Environment. 15 (2): 154–162. doi:10.12944/CWE.15.2.02.
  5. ^ Carrico, Melanie; Dragoo, Sheri L.; McKinney, Ellen; Stannard, Casey; Moretz, Colleen; Rougeaux-Burnes, Ashley (1 January 2022). "An inquiry into Gradable Zero-Waste Apparel Design". Sustainability. 14 (1): 452. doi:10.3390/su14010452. hdl:2346/92575.
  6. ^ ABERNATHY, F. H., DUNLOP, J. T., HAMMOND, J. H. & WEIL, D. (1999) A stitch in time. Lean retailing and the transformation of manufacturing - Lessons from the apparel and textile industries, New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ Stanescu, Michaela (2021). "State of the art of post-consumer textile waste upcycling to reach the zero waste milestone". Environmental Science and Pollution Research International. 28 (12): 14253–14270. doi:10.1007/s11356-021-12416-9. PMID 33515405. S2CID 231746977.