Zero Waste Garment Designing for Your Projects

The fashion industry has always longed towards achieving higher fabric consumption and Zero waste apparel design might be the key to that. This article describes what the zero waste garment is and how is it different from traditional apparel designing.

What is Zero Waste Apparel Designing?

According to Redress, it is a design technique which is aimed to eliminate textile waste at the design stage itself. 
In a traditional design, approximately 15-20% of the textiles for the garment are intended to be thrown on the cutting room floor. While all the manufacturers are looking for solutions to decrease this percentage, the limit comes from the pattern of the garments itself. 
Traditional garments are made of components of different shapes with curved seams, hems, borders which hardly matches with any other components of any shape and are very strict towards grain line.
This leads to spaces in between the components on the marker which scarcely get covered by smaller components leaving it for wastage. This wastage in fabric not only symbolises the loss in money but also resources like natural and human labour which was endowed in making of the textile.

Thus it makes only sense to minimize the wastage as much as possible and Zero waste design takes this approach to aim at zero wastage in making apparel. The idea for Zero-waste design is not something new as we have been practising this since ever with the use of sarees back in Indus Valley Civilization at around 2800-1800 BCE along with other dresses like Japanese Kimono, Greek‘s Dorian Chiton and Chlamys etc. Back then textiles were considered a valuable product but with the advent of Industrial revolution and at present fast-fashion, the value of textiles had decreased so much that it is considered the least of importance in the entire design process of a garment and it became justifiable.

Related Post: Making Zero Waste Garments - The Latest Approach to Sustainable Fashion

Techniques of Zero-waste design

Zero waste apparel designing can be achieved by two different types of techniques. The first is achieved by manipulating the 2D fabric to cover the wearer and the second is achieved by designing garment components which fits the length of the fabric with zero wastage in between.

The first process uses a series of fabric manipulation such as origami, draping, pleats, folds etc. to cover a portion of the body or to hide excess fabrics. These may also include attachment at certain places with preferably fusing or sewing for easier placement. These garments should have a minimum of seams or cuts as they can lead to fabric wastage.

Fig: Ferrando Chan, created this cape by making a zero-waste design pattern

For the second process, garment components have to be made so that the patterns, on laying flat cover the entire length of the fabric with a minimum of space left for wastage. Traditional marker plans always aspire towards maximum efficiency in layout of pattern pieces but due to uneven shapes of the pattern, there is wastage. This process of Zero waste design works to design the garment and its components such that all the components arranged together like a huge jigsaw puzzle on laying.

This design process for Zero-Waste is very intricate as the designers have to consider the final silhouette, patterns and fabric consumption of the garment in mind at the same time. It requires proper planning of these factors for the full utilization of the fabric. The width of the fabric also plays a crucial role as pattern placements can vary accordingly and must be considered throughout the design process. To achieve such efficiency leftover fabrics can also be used to make bias tapes, added embellishments, incorporating selvedge etc.

Zero-Waste apparel designs

The design process needs an open-minded approach with the possibility of having unnatural garment components, aesthetics and silhouette but it’s always up to the designer to make it appealing to the crowd. This challenge has since been taken internationally by various designers such as Timo Rissanen, Dr Mark Lui, Farah Floyd, Ferrando Chan, only counting a few and their work has been recognised throughout the fashion industry.

marker for zero waste shirt
Fig: Timo Rissanen’s popular Endurance Shirt pattern incorporating Zero-Waste Design from Fashion Projects

Fig: Farah Floyd’s Collection

Duffel coat patterns

Fig: Duffel Coat by Devid Telfer

The consequence in the Fashion Industry

The advantages of this technique shadow the traditional cutting and pattern making as it can eliminate the fabric waste to a much greater extent keeping it away from the landfill. This also results in a level of fabric consumption which is imaginary to the traditional method. But as of now these products have only been introduced and is limited to with the designers themselves. Bringing it to the mass market would be a huge challenge with problems like limited designs at the beginning, change of patterns with grading, longer design process, complicated assembly etc. but a shift of this idea towards commercialization would be a huge advancement towards sustainability for the entire fashion industry.

The purpose of this technique is to eliminate 100% of the waste in the manufacturing process which may not be possible at the beginning. But any improvement from the traditional process is going to be a big deal in sustainability. To start with design techniques of zero-waste can be incorporated into modern designs to increase fabric consumption. This will symbolize the commitment towards pursuing 100% textile waste elimination which will be of much importance in the coming future.


Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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