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THE NATURE OF ZERO-WASTE
IN FASHION

Photography by Thurstan Redding for Burberry

THE LINEAR MODEL OF THE MAINSTREAM FASHION INDUSTRY HAS LED TO A NUMBER OF SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC ISSUES GLOBALLY. WASTE ACCUMULATION IN PARTICULAR HAS DRASTICALLY INCREASED DUE TO THE INDUSTRY’S ADAPTATION OF FASHION FASHION. THIS ARTICLE STEPS BACK, LOOKING TO NATURE FOR INSPIRATION ON HOW TO COMBAT THESE ISSUES THGOUGH ZERO-WASTE PRACTICES. 

Words By Tyler Richmond

Nature is zero-waste

Zero-waste in its purest form exists only in nature.

The Earth’s systems are in perfect balance with one another, and everything serves a contributing purpose to this state of equilibrium. Waste accumulation simply does not exist. Take a tree for example; a tree creates waste in the form of oxygen, which is necessary for life on Earth. Say you breathe in that air and as you exhale, you release waste in the form of carbon dioxide. As you may already know, trees absorb that ‘waste’ to continue the cycle, creating a perfect balance to sustain life on Earth.

The natural balance of the planet, however, has been drastically altered since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This shift in manufacturing processes paved the way for a linear economy, as the mass production of fuel-consuming products were designed with monetary profits in mind. This has thrown off nature’s balance, and led to the exponential amount of waste in the form of emissions, plastics, chemicals – the list goes on – that we are now trying to combat.

The zero-waste movement

In recent years, entrepreneurs, YouTubers, social media influencers, activists, and journalists have all played a contributing role in the zero-waste movement’s surge in widespread popularity. From offering tips on how to live sustainably and waste-free to promoting aesthetically pleasing sustainable products and brands, the movement covers a huge range of topics and has therefore resonated with millions. Interestingly, the original concept of zero-waste was not actually meant for the consumer, but rather for corporations to adapt and restructure their supply chains to eliminate waste.

The zero-waste movement has been particularly successful in exposing the unethical and unsustainable practices of the mainstream fashion industry. This has paved the way for new and emerging brands and companies alike to restructure the industry from the inside out. Ditching the outdated structures and unjust monetary values of the industry altogether, sustainable companies and brands often place strong value in the ethical treatment of workers, sustainability and transparency in their supply chains, and creating high-quality apparel that is produced at a more gradual pace and is meant to last.

reuse clothes

“Concept” by Photographer and Art Director Carlota Guerrero

 

The need for zero-waste in fashion

To get an understanding of the need to adapt zero-waste approaches in the fashion industry, we need to take a brief look at the issues at hand caused predominantly by popular and mainstream fashion brands.

In an era of hyper-consumerism where value and worth are increasingly defined by quantity over quality, instant gratification over lasting appreciation, and degradation over regeneration, the mainstream fashion industry has taken full advantage of this. The industry’s consumerist ideals have seeped into the very structures of our modern lives, altering the natural balance and causing devastating outcomes on the global community and the planet.

Research has shown that roughly 80% of a product’s impact is embedded within the design process and is in direct link to the designers’ choice of textiles.

Designers who opt for resource and chemical-intensive fibres, material blends and non-textile components within each garment, make it nearly impossible for current textile recycling technology to properly sort, blend, and reprocess fibres into new yarns. On the other hand, research highlights that while nearly 95% of fashion textiles are suitable for recycling and reuse, the recycling processes of off-cuts and unused deadstock materials are far less complex than that of post-manufactured apparel.

Current recycling methods for synthetic fibres include – in technical terms – mechanical polymer recycling, chemical polymer recycling and chemical monomer recycling. Both mechanical and chemical recycling ensures that the chemical structures of synthetic fibres are upheld during the textile shredding process, while chemical monomer recycling separates the chemical structures for use in the production of polymers with virgin characteristics. These processes diminish the quality of virgin fibres, but textile recycling is still a highly relevant technology that salvages and extends the utilization of resource-intensive textile fibres. As a vast majority of clothing produced consists partially or completely of synthetic textiles, these three methods are crucial to enforcing a more circular and zero-waste industry.

“Research has shown that roughly 80% of a product’s impact is embedded within the design process and is in direct link to the designers’ choice of textiles.”

travel fashion

Ports 1961

AATISE 

Aatise Eco Fashion Activist is a French clothing brand that stands for better fashion. With a strong focus on eco design, the principles of zero-waste and sustainable development, the brand aims to tackle issues such as the greenhouse effect, unnecessary waste, resource depletion, shipping distances and pollution arising in water, air and soil. In doing so, Aatise abides by three guiding rules in their overall design processes. This includes using only natural and sustainable materials such as European Tencel Refibra and viscose, as well as French Linen, to extend the apparel’s life. Designing with its post-consumer life in mind is key to the brand, which diminishes the environmental impact by producing locally, having short supply chains, and practicing cradle to cradle methodology to eliminate waste.

Zero-waste apparel at Aatise

Aatise offers customisable apparel that is made by demand, aimed toward eliminating any waste associated with mass production. Aatise’s linen T-shirts are designed to be 100% compostable, while their recycled trousers are made from EcoVeroTM and recycled cotton. Additionally, their flawless dresses are made from EcoVeroTM material with prints that are Ökotex certified.

Ready to feel light in your new garments?

Picture from Aatise

eco friendly bags

Picture from Mimycri

Mimycri

Mimycri is a registered non-profit organization in Germany offering high quality handcrafted bags, made from upcycled broken refugee rubber boats. The idea for Mimycri arose after multiple volunteer trips welcoming refugees to the island of Chios, Greece, where co-founders Vera and Nora discovered a unique opportunity that sets out to alter perspectives, preserve history, and transform challenges into opportunities. To further Mimycri’s objectives and message, their values of collaboration, communication, regenerative action, and diversity reinforce their socially and environmentally sustainable approach.

Zero-waste at Mimycri

“With everything we do, we not only strive to be environmentally sustainable, but to actually be regenerative.”

The nature of zero-waste at Mimicry is easily recognisable. The bags are made from what would otherwise be rejected material waste stranded on the beaches of Chios. By using this material, no additional demand for resource-intensive virgin materials is necessary. Furthermore, Mimycri’s recent partnership with the Athens-based organization ANKAA, aims to further reduce their environmental impact, expand their scope of impact, and create quality jobs and opportunities for refugees in the area.

Mimycri bags are more than average accessories, they each encompass their “[…] own unique story of hope and courage. A story that you preserve and shape by wearing.”

sustainable outfit

Picture from IAIOS

IAIOS

IAIOS is a brand located in Barcelona, Spain working toward closing their own loop through textile recycling. Manufacturing all of their products in small, family-owned factories in Barcelona stimulates the local economy and promotes transparency in the supply chain, while reducing the environmental impact associated with production and transportation.

Zero-waste at IAIOS

To combat waste, IAIOS designs each garment to last and with the goal of never ending up in the trash. This is reinforced through the implementation of zero-waste and circular design techniques, including using only recycled thread for their knit sweaters, avoiding material mixes for easy recyclability, and offering customers the ability to return their clothing at its end of usability to be recycled. Additionally, IAIOS collaborates with over 20 social and cultural entities in and near Barcelona to strengthen their commitments of protecting people and the planet.

Picture from Zero Waste Daniel

ZERO WASTE DANIEL

Zero Waste Daniel is a New York based fashion designer and zero-waste pioneer. His unique designs have been worn by celebrities and influencers and have been featured in multiple news and social media outlets, as well as in magazines, and on red carpet events. Apart from creating a more inclusive line of clothing and accessories that transcend the gender binary, Zero Waste Daniel’s philosophy is to send nothing to landfill.

Zero Waste Daniel is the first company making 100% zero-waste clothing. All clothing and accessories are made entirely of pre-consumer fabric offcuts from New York City’s garment industry. These materials would otherwise be discarded, as they serve no purpose in mainstream fashion. The majority of Zero Waste Daniel’s clothing is produced in his Brooklyn based Zero Waste Daniel Make/Shop, where interested passer-byes have the opportunity to peer in and see the magic in action.

Zero waste techniques at Zero Waste Daniel

Mainstream fashion is based on designing first and sourcing or creating the desired materials after. Zero Waste Daniel uses a different method of approach in his designs, being that he sources fabric waste first and designs based on what he receives. The sourced material offcuts and hard to recycle materials are inconsistent in size, color, shape, and fibers, therefore Daniel incorporates unique pattern making approaches, like Daniel’s ReRoll technique, appliqués, tiled mosaics, and embellishments in his designs. This allows for full utilization of each scrap of material and eliminates waste.

Zero Waste Daniel is a revolutionary designer pushing the boundaries of normalcy to create unique designs that challenge the very social and environmental issues created by the mainstream fashion industry. He, like his work, is truly one of a kind.

Shop Zero-waste Pieces

AA GOLD

Zero Waste Sweatshirt

AA GOLD

Zero Waste Culotte

IAIOS

“Lindgren” Sweater

IAIOS

“Truth” Sweater