Today we have a guest entry from Jasmin Wilkins who lives in Wellington New Zealand -which is fortuitous for us as you’ll see. Jasmin is a long time enthusiast member of our forum who works as a project manager. Like many F-I regulars, she’s no intellectual slouch (a background in physics and math) rounded with a broad appreciation of artistry. I really enjoyed Jasmin’s review and hope you will too.
I’ve been very interested in the conversations around zero or minimum waste, and thought other readers might be interested in my impressions of the Making Fashion Without Making Waste Yield Exhibition I attended at the Dowse Museum in New Zealand. The exhibition consists of thirteen works, displayed in four groups. Each work has a description of the design ethos, an image of the pattern used, and (luckily for you!), linked online content. All the patterns for these garments can be viewed on site. The Dowse kindly provide WiFi and smartphone readable 2D scannable links with each work to enable access to the online content – you can get to the homepage to join in the journey. There is also a facebook page.
As a whole, one of the first things that struck me about the exhibition is the variety of thoughts behind the designs, and how many questions were posed by the way works were juxtaposed.
The first two works as I entered were Julian Roberts, with a red and white cotton dress, and a dress, pants, and vest collaboration between Genevieve Packer (textile design) with Holly McQuillian (pattern). I’m keen on Julian’s ideas (the ‘tube’ for the body, the three dimensional nature of shapes created) but I felt less enthused in person – the red and white together seemed costume, rather than clothing. The fabric seemed too firm, and it would take an amazing person to wear the dress, as opposed to the dress wearing them.
I loved Genevieve and Holly’s collaboration (pattern at right)! There was something about the wonderful fabric with so many patterns, darker versions in the lower half, lighter for the dress bodice and vest, which were very subtle and yet harmonious. The patterns reminded me of Islamic tile work, with apparent simplicity and a geometric form that still appears organic. The outfit was coherent – the wonderful ‘pouf’ of the sleeve reflected in the skirt, and the strong linear flow of the patterns within the curves of the pattern pieces felt enormously satisfying to look at. The repeat of textile patterns in light and dark colourways really drew the elements together. This I could imagine wearing for many years, and although flamboyant in some ways, it seemed fundamentally flattering.
For me, the contrast in the fabrics between these works – soft, complex patterns in gentle colour variants versus firm fabric with strong blocks of colour – underlined the critical importance of the right textile design to realise the pattern.
The next group was Timo Risannen (mens leggings and jacket), Caroline Priebe for Uluru (a shift, with gorgeous back pleating) and Natalie Chanin (a dress and vest).
Timo’s menswear was really interesting – the denim jacket reminded me of Issey Miyake’s Vogue 1328 pants, the geometric form becoming triangular around the limb, almost creating a batwing jacket, featuring the selvedges and stitching as a strong visual design element. The leggings were lovely – the organic forms of the pattern pieces and complex construction, combined with striped fabric, made for a visually satisfying outcome, in which the patterns were broken in a highly intentional way. Timo’s pattern is shown at right below.
Caroline’s shift dress was attractive in person, the level of movement in the fabric and the shape made it feel effortless, and free flowing over the form. The pleating at the back was appealing, and the dress looked really well finished. Interestingly, it could have been one of many flowing shifts, there was no design element that really stood out for me.
Natalie’s dress and vest are simple, well executed, and feature double layered fabric, with hand stitching around cutouts in simple organic forms (crescents, petals, ovoids, leaves) creating the fabric depth and pattern. Each dress is done by a single stitcher, who signs the work. These remind me a little of a Tibetan chupa, the pattern is completely different, but the simplicity of the form, layering, and the use of ties to manage fit somehow seem to echo some elements of Tibetan dress.
This group made me wonder – how far does zero waste need to be different from ‘wasteful’ production? Is it successful if the low/zero waste product is, in many ways, unable to be differentiated from ‘wasteful’ production and stands (or falls) purely on the appeal to wearer?
The next group had the wonderful Zandra Rhodes dress at the centre (shown top right), flanked by David Telfer’s duffel coat, Sam Formo with a tux, a short Carla Fernandez dress, and a male suit from Jennifer Whitty.
The Zandra Rhodes dress is amazing. Thirty plus years old, and stunning. The colours are fabulous, much more alive than they appear online, and you can see where some of Julian’s influences come from (those sleeves, a wonderful tunnel through pleated squares) and also the strong geometric elements from Vionnet in her thirties phase plus a touch of kimono/chupa. The textile print is integral to the design, and the trims (braided button in red for the sleeve when folded, the cord) are impeccably colour matched, and lift the garment from attractive to compelling. An incredible demonstration of how a coherent, well thought out and executed design and fabric can be a powerful statement.
David Telfer had a different focus with his duffel coat (construction and pattern schematic at right) which focuses on minimising seams to reduce production costs as well as maximising yield … theoretically, this is appealing, and the snap-toggles are one of the most unusual I’ve ever seen (duffel toggles that ‘snap’ together). The incredibly utilitarian and square nature of the garment make me feel rather like it is the soviet duffel coat – I can’t help wondering if some bias or another seam or two could lift it from utilitarian and effective to emotionally appealing?
Sam Formo has a highly technical tux–ish jacket – it is attractive, the most exciting and a-hah moment for me is the fastenings are the fabric, threaded through the garment in soft squares. The effective use of these to create a self fastening as a feature, and the reflection of the small square fastenings with a large square collar, with tux tails, gives a light, witty feel to the garment. It feels light, fun, and wearable, and the use of patterned fabric for the fastenings and collar highlights the unique elements.
Carla’s short dress, made of geometric, shaggy woven elements is visually appealing – the corrugations in the skirt and the bare back below the square yoke lift a simple structured form into a more complex and interesting garment, balancing the open edge at the lower back yoke with the open corrugations in the skirt.
Jennifer Whitty’s suit is interesting, yet I get the feeling that ‘using up’ all the material resulted in clutter in the design, and unfinished edges. The trousers are relatively simple, but it feels like the jacket ended up with ‘Klingons’ to use up the left over fabric dangling to decorate the jacket. I would love to see her work if the fabric was used to finish the edges rather than ‘decorate’ the jacket.
Looking at these works reinforced to me the inter-relatedness of the textiles with design, how design is influenced by wanting to ‘use up’ material, and where the magical design space is between utilitarian production and clutter caused by the need to use everything – and whether using a lot of fabric is really zero waste anyway …
The final group was Yeohlee Teng’s skirt, Tara St James flexible jacket, and Julia Lumsden’s mens jacket.
Yeohlee’s skirt seemed rather impractical – the raw edges meant long term ongoing use was unlikely, and it just didn’t seem to be very useful or purposeful. I suspect another fabric would be more functional. Fundamentally, the skirt just made me wonder – if you use all the fabric, but it won’t last, is it worthwhile?
Julia’s jacket was beautifully constructed and finished, in a light butter colour, and somehow, just felt hopeful – and I love the images of the shirt (I couldn’t see it properly under the jacket). The quality of the work made me think that this garment would last, and the effort in the design makes it timeless. I’m going to be interested to see her future work. A photo detailing her shirt’s cuff design is at right.
Tara’s flexible jacket was really appealing – it reminded me of the 1980’s, but transcended the era. The fastenings that provide flexibility also create a feature and focus which helps the jacket transcend the simple geometric pattern, combined with the flowing fabric.
Fabric matters – it needs to be the right movement, colour, and design to work with the pattern, and custom fabric can be amazing.
Pattern structures – organic patterns give rise to curves, geometric patterns are often linear, both elements contribute to successful designs. Too much in either direction often doesn’t work. Either type, done well, end up as a complex jigsaw.
Construction complexity – the price for excess simplicity is lack of appeal, equally, excessive construction results in incoherence … Walk the Line!
Fabric usage – Depends on the lifecycle of use. I’m not sure on this one! Is it OK to use twice as much fabric as long as you use it all?? What if the garment gets worn much more frequently??
Finishing – if all the fabric is to be used, the result needs to be finished to ensure it can continue to be used in my opinion.
Appeal – Fundamentally, someone needs to want to wear the garment, and feel they look, and feel, great. Usability and attractiveness counts.
Several designs caused me to wonder – if you use all the fabric, but the finish means it won’t last … is it worth it? Should zero waste include the life cycle of the garment? If it will be worn often, is it worth using more fabric, customising the fabric, and using complex constructions? If you minimise fabric and seams, is it OK if people just use it when they need it, but don’t chose to wear it? Ultimately, I came away with more questions than answers … which is, I think, a sign of a good exhibition.
Note: Timo, Holly and Julian are regular visitors to Fashion-Incubator. Others may be also I just don’t know of it.
Zero fabric waste fashion design
Reverse Pattern Puzzle: zero waste
Zero Waste Fashion pt.2