Americans Play Catch Up to Zero Waste Pioneers


In an overly consumptive American society, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out why we’re so far behind other countries when it comes to zero waste. We consume so much, that we never take inventory of what we already have.

So it should be no surprise that according to a recent New York Times article about Fashion Tries On Zero Waste Design, “Nearly every leading zero-waste or less-waste designer hails from another country, including Mark Liu, Julian Roberts and Zandra Rhodes in England; Susan Dimasi and Chantal Kirby in Australia, Ms. McQuillan in New Zealand; and Yeohlee Teng, who is working in New York but was born in Malaysia.”

The article brings up some really great questions about how fashion is interpreted and at the most basic, the pattern.

While many in the fashion industry are starting to stand tall on their green toes – implementing organic fabrics, using less energy, and making significant changes when it comes to their carbon footprint – excess fabric, which translates to tons of waste over a design career, is often overlooked. While all these strategies are optimistic and good, creating well thought out patterns that use less waste may be a better option.

Next month, Timo Rissanen, a Finnish designer whose blog promotes  “Fashion creation without fabric waste creation through design practice,” will be Parsons the New School For Design’s first-ever assistant professor of fashion design and sustainability offering one of the world’s first fashion courses in zero waste. (Rissanen might want to bring his soon to debut book “Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes,” co-written by Alison Gwilt along for the ride).

The class will be co-taught with Scott Mackinlay Hahn, a founder of the organic fashion label Loomstate.

The duo hopes to inspire in budding student designer’s minds that zero waste is possible and can be achieved with the end product being something of beauty. They plan to start with an iconic American wardrobe staple, a pair of jeans.

The New York Times says the “Students in the class will explore how to change the way jeans are made and cared for, from sourcing fibers that have not been exposed to pesticides or fertilizers, to how frequently consumers wash their denim. The top design will be manufactured at Loomstate’s California factory and sold next spring at Barneys New York.”

Inspiration enough for students to work harder than they ever have.

Image: Timo Rissanen (New York Times)

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.