This piece by Mountains of the Moon President/Designer Melissa Baswell was originally featured on Green By Design, an amazing blog with an amazing mission: to harness our collective intelligence, creativity, and integrity to help protect the planet.
My beginnings as a designer in my tiny college apartment consisted mainly of reworking gently used thrift store clothing into one-of-a-kind designs, utilizing every possible scrap of excess fabric and spare button to its fullest. While interning at an environmental nonprofit, I gained an awareness of the negative environmental impact that certain aspects of the fashion industry had (mainly pesticide use and water waste in conventional fabrics), but it was difficult to find chic sustainable textiles at the time.
As the eco-fashion movement slowly began to gain momentum and cross genre boundaries, new fabrics became available, and my focus shifted from reworking used clothing into creating full collections from sustainable textiles. It was at this time that I began to work more with patterning and manufacturers, and was introduced to the incredible amount of fabric waste being generated by the fashion industry.
I quickly realized that true sustainable fashion is multi-faceted, and made a vow to always include four important elements in all of my collections:
(1) sustainable fabrics,
(2) timeless designs that would allow my clothing to be worn for years,
(3) sweatshop-free labor, and
(4) as little fabric waste as possible.
So how does a designer find imaginative ways to be less wasteful when it comes to fabric?
1. Be conscious when creating patterns and markers. Design them to utilize the fabric in a way that minimizes wasted space and edges.
2. Be original and reuse scraps within your designs. I love turning fabric scraps into embellishments or detailing on my designs, especially when it transforms a piece from my collection into an instant one-of-a-kind garment.
3. Be creative and reuse scraps for other projects. I create my hangtags from 100% recycled stock designed to be bookmarks (rather than a regular hangtag, which would ultimately be pulled off the garment and tossed), and use leftover fabric to create the bookmark ribbons.
4. Be resourceful and use salvaged fabric from others. Visit a local cut and sew factory and ask if they will sell (or even give) you leftover fabric that would be otherwise dumpster bound.
5. Be aware in your design work of how to transition from season to season without being distracted by fads. Find ways to carry certain fabrics over from collection to collection so the problem of excess fabric becomes a solution (too much slate organic cotton jersey from spring becomes less slate organic cotton jersey needed for fall).
It is reassuring to see many designers finally beginning to incorporate sustainability into their lines, but ultimately, the fashion industry needs a major shift in its thinking in order to help put an end to the destruction of the planet. Hopefully in the near future issues like fabric waste will be a thing of the past, and the eco-fashion label will no longer be a genre, it will be a given.