Zero-waste fashion design seeks to eliminate the textile waste generated during garment production. It provides new perspectives for fashion design practice in the context of sustainability as a design method within a larger philosophy of zero-waste fashion, a fashion system that produces no waste.

The Need of Zero Waste Fashion Design

Because of the current practice of designing garments in short, trend-driven cycles through mass manufacturing, as well as the size of the industry, the amount of textiles used in the clothing industry today is remarkable. Aside from the large number of resources required for such large-scale production, another significant issue is the volume of pre-consumer textile waste produced, particularly fabric off-cuts.

According to some studies, traditional garment production using “cut and sew” techniques (cutting garment pieces from fabric according to patterns and sewing them together into a garment) yields approximately 15% fabric waste; the estimated percentage of waste varies between 10–20% depending on the garment style. In general, wasting fabric during the manufacturing process means wasting all of the resources used in the production of the raw fabric, such as fibres, dyes, chemicals, water, and energy. Granted, the leftover fabric can be used in other products or as scraps, but it can be argued that this is insufficient. It is also simple to agree that it is preferable to avoid waste rather than to overburden the planet with waste-derived products.

What is the Zero-waste Fashion Design?

What is the Zero-waste Fashion Design?

Zero-waste fashion design is a method of producing garments without generating fabric waste. This method allows you to use a single piece of fabric for a specific purpose, such as cutting out one or more garments. The possibility of eliminating fabric waste from garment production exists during the pattern-making and fashion design stages. To be more specific, pattern making must be considered an integral part of the design process in order to achieve zero-fabric waste garments.

Currently, the term “zero waste” implies a particular emphasis on not producing waste, whereas previously, the main concern was to fully utilise the expensive fabrics. Both issues are relevant in the context of increased clothing production, consumption, and resource use. Within the context of sustainability, zero-waste fashion design can be a tool for reducing fabric waste, specifically off-cuts, and increasing fabric efficiency in garment production.

Zero-waste fashion design refers to methods that, through design, aim to eliminate fabric waste from garment production. In contrast to traditional practice, where pattern making typically follows a predetermined design, the integration of pattern making and fashion design processes is critical to this approach. Garments created using zero-waste fashion design methods contain all of the fabric required for that garment, resulting in zero fabric waste. In a broader sense, zero-waste fashion refers to a fashion system in which waste is eliminated at all stages of garment design, production, and use.

The methods of zero-waste pattern cutting differ from traditional pattern making; in fact, traditional pattern making knowledge is not required in this method of designing. This can be liberating for many people.
Leaving the common rules of pattern making behind allows for experimental and creative design processes. Learning zero-waste pattern cutting can be difficult for the same reason. In zero-waste fashion design, the common method of designing through sketching and draping, in which pattern making is primarily a subsequent, technical step after creating the form of a garment, is not feasible. Conversely, it is the simultaneous processes of pattern making and fashion design that allow for the full utilization of the fabric: design decisions are made throughout the pattern-making process.

The Borw Team