Zero-waste fashion

Zero-waste fashion refers to items of clothing that generate little or no textile waste in their production.[1][2][3][4] It can be considered to be a part of the broader sustainable fashion movement. Zero-waste fashion can be divided into two general approaches. Pre-consumer zero-waste fashion eliminates waste during manufacture. Post-consumer zero-waste fashion generates clothing from post-consumer garments such as second-hand clothing, eliminating waste at what would normally be the end of the product use life of a garment. Zero-waste fashion is not a new concept[5] - early examples of zero-waste or near zero-waste garments include kimono, sari, chiton and many other traditional folk costumes.

Pre-consumer zero-waste designEdit

Two general approaches fall under this category, both of which occur during a garment's initial production. In zero-waste fashion design, the designer creates a garment through the pattern cutting process, working within the space of the fabric width.[2] This approach directly influences the design of the final garment as the pattern cutting process is a primary design step. It is difficult to design a zero-waste garment solely through sketching, although sketching can be a useful speculative tool. Zero-waste manufacture, of which zero-waste design is a component, is a holistic approach that can eliminate textile waste without modifying the garment patterns. This approach allows garments and fabric to be fully used with no fabric wasted.[6]

Zero-waste pattern designersEdit

Designers that have used this approach, or approaches to cutting that have an affinity with zero-waste fashion design, include

Andrew Williams [7]
Ernesto Thayaht
Shreya Upadhyaya
Bageeya Eco-clothing
Bernard Rudofsky
Claire McCardell
Zandra Rhodes
Siddhartha Upadhyaya[8]
Yeohlee Teng
Julian Roberts
Timo Rissanen[9][10]
Holly McQuillan
Tara St James[11]
Jennifer Whitty[12]
Samuel Formo[13]
Mark Liu[13]
David Telfer[14]
Julia Lumsden[15]
Katherine Soucie[17]
Dusanka Duric[18]
Daniel Silverstein
Charlene O'Brien[19]
Baiba Ladiga[20]
Natascha von Hirschhausen[21]
Shelly Xu [22]
Danielle Elsener [23]
Sookhyun Kim [24]
Marie-Béatrice Boyer [25][26]

Zero-waste manufactureEdit

Approaches can include the use of technology such as whole garment knitting, but often waste is eliminated by reusing the off-cuts in other products. Designers and companies that have used these approaches include:

Alabama Chanin[27]
August (Direct Panel on Loom / DPOL) by Siddhartha Upadhyaya[8]
Pretcastle by Shreya Upadhyaya & Siddhartha Upadhyaya[28]
Issey Miyake
Sans Soucie
Worn Again[29]
Recover Textile Systems[30]
Charlene O'Brien[19]

Gradable Zero-Waste Apparel DesignEdit

Mass-producing garments using a zero-waste approach poses many obstacles. One notable obstacle is how to efficiently create garments of different sizes, sometimes edges of the clothing are not taken into account, and many patterns created to be zero-waste are not designed to be mass-produced or do not have enough directions. A study tested the efficacy of the Carrico Zero-waste Banded Grading technique which uses the strategic placement of bands to cut patterns without wasting textiles. In this technique, to create three different sizes of a garment, there are carefully planned seam placements with varying widths of banded trims to grow or shrink allowing sizing of the clothing item up or down. After conducting the study, they found that the technique was successful at creating one- or two-piece items and was able to achieve showing the body’s contours which are sometimes not seen in other zero-waste garments. Some obstacles observed though were that proportion of the garment components differed among the different grade sizes. Another obstacle observed was the inconsistencies in seam allowances when mass-produced. This would add time and increase costs to train technicians on how to fix this issue.[32]

Differences from standard fashion productionEdit

The life expectancy of a garment has dwindled throughout the years. This has eroded the quality and decision making during the manufacturing of these pieces. Designers are seeking new ways to reuse existing garments to counter the millions of pounds in annual waste.[33]

A standard garment production process may begin with a drawing of the desired garment, a pattern is then generated to achieve this design, a marker is made to most efficiently use the fabric, the pattern pieces are then cut from the cloth, sewn, packed and distributed to retailers. Standard garment production generates an average of 15% textile waste[34]

Waste elimination hierarchyEdit

The waste hierarchy consists of the three 'R's' - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, in order of impact. Zero-waste fashion design eliminates pre-consumer textile waste, while not necessarily addressing waste created during the use life and disposal phase of the garment's life cycle.

During textile production, many pollutants in the form of liquid, solid, and gas are emitted to the environment. The textile and apparel industry is the most polluting and has a low recycling rate of about 15%. The Zero-waste fashion design would significantly eliminate gas emissions during the production process and give any material waste proper use. [35]

Notable contributionsEdit


  • DPOL by Siddhartha Upadhyaya exhibited at London Science museum, Antenna Exhibition for its breakthrough in sustainable and zero waste fashion.
  • Bad Dogs by Timo Rissanen, UTS 2008.
  • ZERO Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned 2011. Curated by Arti Sandhu from Columbia College, Chicago.
  • YIELD: Making fashion without making waste 2011. Curated by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan held at The Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand and Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn.[36]
  • AUGUST & AIGHT : A commercial show of Zero Waste / DPOL products exhibited by Siddhartha Upadhyaya and Shreya Upadhyaya at Ethical Fashion Show, Paris Fashion week, Sep 1–6, 2011


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  36. ^ Rissanen, Timo (2011-09-08). "Yield catalogue now available". Timo Rissanen. Retrieved 2020-02-26.

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