Making Zero Waste Garments - The Latest Approach to Sustainable Fashion

In 2019, many apparel brands have joined the movement for making apparel industry more sustainable. Many different approaches are taken by the whole apparel supply chain partners.  Making Zero Waste garment is another new and innovative way. Zero-waste design, 3D knitting, Made-to-order, Direct to garment printing and 3D printing - combining all these sustainable fashion products can be made.

Making zero waste garments with 3D knitting machines
3D Knitting technology helps to make Zero waste garments

To add value to the sustainable fashion movement, reducing manufacturing waste is an important area. If someone is claiming that they are making garments with Zero Waste, that would be a great achievement in the age of fast fashion and consumers’ irresponsible buying habit. How one can make a garment with Zero Waste?

In traditional garment manufacturing, fabrics waste is generated in the cutting process, which can be up to 12 per cent of fabrics (Stitch World). So, through the cut-to-make manufacturing method, one can't make a garment with zero-waste. Further damaged and rejected garments, unsold garments and overproduced garments are kinds of textile wastes. In this post, a few approaches on Zero Waste garments making are shared.

3D knitting technology: In an article, I read a Danish start-up will be making Zero waste pullovers using 3D knitting technology. As a garment is made directly from yarns, and fabric manufacturing process (either knitting or weaving) is eliminated, no waste will be generated in the garment conversion process. A factory and brands can save yarns by using 3D knitting. If pullovers can be knitted using 3D technology, other knitted products can be also produced with zero textile wastes.

Zero waste design: Product design is another area where fashion designers and fashion brands can work on making sustainable product design. Through this approach sustainable products can be made by introducing zero-waste design and producing a design that does not involve any waste or does not discard any waste by reusing all the waste in product making. Saree, Kimono, and dhoti are few examples of zero waste clothes.

Seamless garment: Making seamless garments in another way of reducing textile waste in the garment conversion process. Seamless garments directly made from yarns. In the seamless garment knitting process, product design is made in a computer and knitting is done as per garment patterns.

On-demand manufacturing: Make the garment as per order. Through on-demand manufacturing, overproduction can be reduced. Designers no more need to place an order to a manufacturer with a minimum order quantity. Sell your design online and get the design manufactured using on-demand manufacturing platforms. Even you don't need to build up inventory. For some products making a single piece at a time is not feasible and cost-effective to the consumer and the manufacturers.

Reverse apparel supply chain: This approach works just opposite to the traditional business model. Traditional apparel supply chain - You procure raw material and make the garment - you ship it to stores - you display the design - consumers buy it and pay you.
In the reverse model, you first sell the design, procure raw material, manufacture it and finally ship it to the consumer. In this new supply chain, no inventory is generated as raw material and finished garment.

The Direct Panel on Loom (DPOL): This is a technique using a computer attached loom that helps weaving made to measure garment sections. The segmented pieces of the clothing are sewn together by hand. No fabric is wasted in the process and moreover, the method is believed to decrease the usage of yarn, dyes, chemicals, and a reduced lead time of fifty per cent (Fibre2fashion).

Printing on garment components: Instead of printing the whole fabric or dyeing fabric rolls, using the textile digital printers now you can print only on the patterns that you need to cut and sew for making the garment. This way you save in printing cost. It also has a huge environmental benefit since it can save seventy to eighty per cent of water in comparison to other garment manufacturing methods used commercially.

You know the negative impact of overproduction and textile wastes on the environment. Let’s join the zero-waste apparel manufacturing movement wherever possible.

The above approaches can’t be applied to manufacturing all kind apparel products. Somehow we can fake the product manufacturing through innovations and match the final look and feel of a product as the original. Like circular denim is denim look fabric but not an original woven denim. Rather than thinking of making Zero Waste apparel products, we can introduce the 5 R in apparel manufacturing business Reduce, Repair, Recycle, Repurpose, and Reinvent to make the fashion industry more sustainable.

I would say, 3D printed garments and Zero-waste garment design can be the ways for reaching the goal.  I read an interesting article 5 New Solutions For The Fashion Industry’s Sustainability Problem on the First Company website. More stories on sustainable clothing have been shared here.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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