Zero Waste: Fashion’s Ethical Future

Can you be fashionable with zero waste clothing?

According to zero-waste heroine Lauren Singer and fashion designer Daniel Silverstein, the answer is a resounding Yes! You might remember Singer as the woman who lives a zero waste lifestyle in New York City. She’s also a fashionista, merging personal style with eco-friendly values.

Understanding ethical fashion is tricky business: a label might pass itself off as sustainable–but, in reality, it wastes heaps of fabric: “Apparel industry professionals say that about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in the nation’s landfills because it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them.”

To make fashion more sustainable, the industry’s underlying structure and supply lines need a major makeover. Yet, despite these obstacles, a few designers–alongside fashion muses like Singer–are taking zero waste fashion from fiction into the real world.

New York-based designer Daniel Silverstein has based his entire practice on the concept of zero waste fashion. He uses special pattern-cutting and pinning methods, and refuses to let any bits of fabric go to waste. The Piece Project, for which Singer is model and muse, sees Silverstein saving every leftover scrap and turning them into separate garments. He explains:

“After wrapping production on an amazing season, I noticed that, although each design was zero waste, I was left with ends of rolls and pieces of fabric that didn’t get used. Being of a zero-waste mind, I saw all of these beautiful un-used materials as an opportunity. This inspired me to create zero waste designs for this season using only what I had already in the studio.”

More visible steps are being taken to redesign the industry: New York’s Parsons Design School now has a zero waste fashion course (headed by zero waste design champion Timo Rissanen); there are more books and articles being published about the movement; and designers like Silverstein are proving that zero waste fashion can look great on anyone. Those inside the scene say it’s just a matter of time before zero waste fashion becomes the norm. So stay tuned, and keep scouring those second-hand stores–the planet will thank you.

Kimberly Bryant
Image: David Silverstein/Piece Project