What is Zero Waste Fashion? An Overview.

A pile of rolls of white fabric, viewed from the ends.

Zero-waste fashion can be a lot of things: Clothing made from deadstock, fabric that's left over from a fashion line that would ordinarily be discarded. Upcycled clothing. A fashion line that makes accessories from the scraps and uses even tinier scraps to stuff things or make paper. Or clothing designed to use every part of the fabric in the final garment, so it doesn't make scraps to begin with. 

The last option is zero-waste design, and it's what I'm passionate about. 

Conventional pattern cutting wastes about 10-15% of the fabric, due to the gaps between pattern pieces. The leftover scraps are usually just sent to landfill, which means that all of the labour, materials and resources used to make the fabric is trashed before it even gets to the customer. This waste is invisible to anyone outside of the fashion industry. And considering that the fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, this is unacceptable. 

Zero-waste design gets rid of the problem of what to do with scraps by not making them in the first place. It values the fabric, and the work and resources that went into making the fabric. It's also not a new idea. 

People have been draping themselves in lengths of fabric since ancient times. Before the industrialisation of textiles, patterns were designed to use the fabric with as little waste as possible because fabric was expensive. But we forgot about it as fabric got cheaper and cheaper. 

Now designers like Holly McQuillan, Liz Haywood, Birgitta Helmersson, ZWDC, Tonlé, and others are working to bring back the concept of zero-waste design to the fashion industry, home sewists and more. This is where I come in. My hope is to make zero-waste design accessible to Canadians, through ready-to-wear fashion and epatterns, and also to contribute to furthering the field of zero waste design and innovation around the world so that it becomes a normal thing in the fashion industry. Imagine the difference we could make if large brands no longer wasted 10-15% of their fabric in the production process!