How can a Small Fashion Brand Commit to being Zero-Waste?

How can a small fashion brand commit to being zero waste with model wearing best. T shirt and bucket hat
How can a small fashion brand commit to being zero waste with model wearing best. T shirt and bucket hat

Being a Small Fashion Brand we have a lot to commit to as being advocates for the next generation of Fashion. This includes trying to be minimal or zero waste.

“Zero waste design is a set of practices and processes that aims to design as much waste as possible out of the Fashion System.” a quote taken from the Common Threads Podcast.

How much Waste comes from the Fashion Industry?

But why is it so important? According to Episode 25, transforming textile waste with zero waste design from The common Threads podcast.

“Around 35% of all of the materials in the fashion supply chain end up as waste. So much of this waste can shifted through design processes in pattern cutting and digital design”

Which is a crazy number when you consider it. A whole 1/3 of a garment goes to waste when surely it could be repurposed.

In the Podcast they talk to Holly McQuillan author of zero waste fashion design, who is currently completing her PHD. She says that “ 15%-25% of materials becomes waste on the cutting room floor” so surely as small businesses we must be able to implement practices which can minimise this waste?

Our Hints and Tips to becoming a Zero-Waste Fashion Brand.

1. Pattern Pieces are Puzzle Pieces.

“If you think of a garment pattern as a puzzle, it’s fitting together pieces like a puzzle and removing as much negative space as possible. There’s also lots of different pattern cutting techniques you can use to limit your waste.” – from the common threads podcast.

It’s a technique we very commonly used at Daines Atelier when we first cut out our garments. Using Vintage Remnants and Deadstock materials means we get some pretty irregular materials to place our pattern pieces onto.

We ignore the grain line (all seamstresses will hate us right now) why? Because this minimises our waste. In order to do this though you need to be using high quality materials with a closer weave and have some training in sewing together the different panels- they will stretch and move all over the place- so it needs care.

2. Creating new Fabric from Cutting Floor Waste.

We also panel together different tiny sections of material (our cutting floor “waste”) to create larger pieces of material again. Here’s two of different techniques which you can use.

Zigzag Patchwork: by layering the pieces on top of each other so that they’re flat, you can use the zig zag setting on your sewing machine to piece them together.

Over locking: I like this technique as it can create some cool silhouettes on the garment. As well as a clean edge it also looks neat on both sides. However corners can be tricky on an over locker, so be sure to practice.

3. Upcycled Materials minimise our waste.

Using Preloved Textiles from either clothing or vintage remnants is a great way to minimise the fashion industries waste. These textiles are nearing going to landfill.

There’s nothing wrong with these materials! Just because they’re smaller pieces, a jumper with a hole in or something which has faded. It is key as a designer to be able to give them a second life and for them to have that WOW factor again.

It’s all part of being a circular and economy and reusing what’s already in front of us us.

4.Investing in Deadstock Materials or End of Roll Materials.

Even though Deadstock materials are named and shamed for being overproduction at the mill. There is little that can be done to change this. Using materials which are already available to us is important. It’s important to remember they’re dead stock because either a fashion house decided they didn’t want them. Or they needed to create this amount due to their own sources.

End of roll materials are great. They’re smaller pieces (usually an irregular size) but still hold their quality. They’re just less sought for as there isnt enough material to make an entire garment.

I have a few go to places. Including AmorThreads.

5.Digital Design.

After watching a documentary by click on the BBC about digitising the Fashion Industry for Fashion Week. It really showcased the importance of digital design.

Being able to produce a collection online (even just to draw or pattern cut it) means no waste in our materials. Something which I can see us all adjusting to, maybe a made to order system will come light out of this? A great thesis topic there.

6. Creating limited collections/small batch

Over producing garment is a red light for mass consumption. By brands producing more, the quality is likely to suffer. A great example of this is primary. The garments never fit properly and they’re never made from a high quality material.

As well if you buy more, it is also likely that you will throw away more. So how can a small brand stop this circle?

By producing less. Having less stock means that you’re more likely to sell it all. You can also manage returns a lot easier and ensure that your garments are always to a high quality.

7.Using recyclable packaging

So often I see Fashion companies shipping out their beautiful garments in plastic bags. But a box is a much kinder way to ship your clothing. Not only does it protect it more, but It can also be recycled. Some packaging companies even make the boxes from recycled cardboard.

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