One area in sustainable fashion that is much talked about is zero waste. 15-20% of fabric gets wasted and discarded due the expense of recycling scraps, according to fashion industry experts. Lay-planning systems such as Gerber have been around for a while and use computers to work out the best way to lay the fabrics out on the cloth prior to cutting. This clever optimisation still doesn’t totally eradicate waste however and therefore some fashion designers are now challenging themselves to leave nothing on the cutting room floor.
Although inspiring, designing the whole garment around the idea of zero waste is time consuming and highly skilled so therefore won’t affect mainstream fashion in a big way. This is one reason why I don’t believe that the zero waste initiative should be a focus nor is really achievable or sustainable. Most designers could probably improve on waste reduction, but it doesn’t seem sustainable to use up all the fabric to avoid waste but rather to use less of it in the first place. Any scrap that is left can always be utilised elsewhere anyway, such as shirt waste for pocket bags, or at the very least recycled for insulation or some such. So why waste (sorry, excuse the pun!) so much time on it?
The issue of cutting room scrap fabric really pales into insignificance in comparison to the 600 million garments that fashion giants like H&M sell every year all over the world. This is driving the 2.5 billion pounds of clothing that ends up in landfill every year because customers now see fashion as disposable. Sustainable fashion needs as many champions as possible to try to combat this so any disruption or innovation to the standard models of working is a good thing. But surely prevention is better than cure? So wouldn’t encouraging people to reduce their consumption of clothes and make better choices about what they do buy have a far bigger impact?
The concept of a circular economy does incorporate the idea of waste reduction but also challenges us to rethink our mentality on waste, like Will.i.am says “it’s not waste until you waste it”. The circular concept is what slow fashion is all about and offers real hope for the future of the industry and the planet. It involves designing fashion with longevity, repair, recycling and also biodegradability in mind. Furthermore, by creating a high quality garment to enable multiple users to wear it, via swapping, renting or second hand sales, thereby extending it’s lifecycle as much as possible. Minimal waste in the design process becomes part of using less resources in the whole of the lifecycle and trying to close the circular loop.
What circular fashion ideas inspire you the most? We would love to hear from you.
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