Zero-waste fashion refers to items of clothing that generate little or no textile waste in their production. It can be considered to be a part of the broader Sustainable fashion movement. It can be divided into two general approaches. Pre-consumer zero-waste fashion eliminates waste during manufacture. Post-consumer zero-waste fashion generates clothing from post-consumer garments such as second-hand clothing, eliminating waste at what would normally be the end of the product use life of a garment. Zero-waste fashion is not a new concept - early examples of zero-waste or near zero-waste garments include Kimono, Sari, Chiton and many other traditional folk costumes.
Pre-consumer zero-waste design
Two general approaches fall under this category, both of which occur during a garment's initial production. In zero-waste fashion design the designer creates a garment through the pattern cutting process, working within the space of the fabric width. This approach directly influences the design of the final garment as the pattern cutting process is a primary design step. It is difficult to design a zero-waste garment solely through sketching, although sketching can be a useful speculative tool. Zero-waste manufacture, of which zero-waste design is a component, is a holistic approach that can eliminate textile waste without modifying the garment patterns.
Zero-waste pattern designers
Designers that have used this approach, or approaches to cutting that have an affinity with zero-waste fashion design, include
- Ernesto Thayaht
- Shreya Upadhyaya
- Bernard Rudofsky
- Claire McCardell
- Zandra Rhodes
- Siddhartha Upadhyaya
- Yeohlee Teng
- Julian Roberts
- Timo Rissanen
- Holly McQuillan
- Tara St James
- Jennifer Whitty
- Samuel Formo
- Mark Liu
- David Telfer
- Julia Lumsden
- Katherine Soucie
- Dusanka Duric
- Daniel Silverstein
- Charlene O'Brien
- Baiba Ladiga
- Natascha von Hirschhausen
Approaches can include the use of technology such as whole garment knitting and the relatively new DPOL a patent by designer Siddhartha Upadhyaya, but often waste is eliminated by reusing the off-cuts in other products. Designers and companies that have used these approaches include:
- Alabama Chanin
- August (Direct Panel on Loom / DPOL) by Siddhartha Upadhyaya
- Pretcastle by Shreya Upadhyaya & Siddhartha Upadhyaya
- Issey Miyake
- Sans Soucie
- Worn Again
- Charlene O'Brien
Differences from standard fashion production
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 (without modifying the pattern shapes), the pattern pieces are then cut from the cloth, sewn, packed and distributed to retailers. Standard garment production generates and average of 15% textile waste due to the stratification or hierarchy of the garment production process.
This design approach utilises the remnants of the fashion cycle to produce new garments from second hand or surplus goods. Practitioners include:
Waste elimination hierarchy
The waste hierarchy consists of the three 'R's' - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, in order of impact. Zero-waste fashion design eliminates pre-consumer textile waste, while not necessarily addressing waste created during the use life and disposal phase of the garment's life cycle.
- Dorothy Burnham: Cut My Cote from 1973 was a seminal text that summarised decades of Burnham's research into cuts of traditional dress.
- Madeleine Vionnet's design approach aligns itself well to zero waste fashion design and many of her garments had minimal waste.
- Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen's book Shaping Sustainable Fashion includes a number of references to zero waste fashion
- DPOL by Siddhartha Upadhyaya exhibited at London Science museum, Antenna Exhibition for its breakthrough in sustainable and zero waste fashion.
- Bad Dogs by Timo Rissanen, UTS 2008.
- ZERO Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned 2011. Curated by Arti Sandhu from Columbia College, Chicago.
- YIELD: Making fashion without making waste 2011. Curated by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan held at The Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand and Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn.
- AUGUST & AIGHT : A commercial show of Zero Waste / DPOL products exhibited by Siddhartha Upadhyaya and Shreya Upadhyaya at Ethical Fashion Show, Paris Fashion week, Sep 1–6, 2011
- "The New York Times". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-04-26.
- Gwilt, Alison, and Timo Rissanen. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Earthscan Publications Ltd., 2011.
- Hethorn, Janet, and Connie Ulasewicz. 2008. Sustainable Fashion: Why Now?: A Conversation Exploring Issues, Practices, and Possibilities. 1st ed. Fairchild Publications
- "Using design practice to negotiate the awkward space between sustainability and fashion consumption". mro.massey.ac.nz. Retrieved 2014-04-26.
- 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.