Designing Zero Waste.
TESS WHITFORT & THE R COLLECTIVE.
Sources estimate that our industry creates some 92 million tons of textile waste annually (set to rise), that we are essentially loosing USD100 billion worth of materials each year, and, that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage. There is a mounting business case for sustainable design and with the current fashion system in crisis, designers who can innovate in this space are more valuable than ever. Local designer and Box Hill Graduate Tess Whitfort is leading the way, catching the attention of the international industry with her zero waste design techniques. Since winning the international Redress award, the designer has released a capsule collection with The R Collective, which has been picked up by none other than Asia’s leading luxury department store Lane Crawford…
The R Collective work with Alumni from the Redress Design Award, providing a creative platform to reduce waste and pollution in fashion, and carry a legacy of pioneering a more sustainable industry. The collaboration with Tess saw her winning collection concept transformed from the catwalk into a commercial capsule of six looks. Entitled Avoidance, the collection is created using rescued textile waste and innovative zero-waste design techniques to catalyse a circular fashion system, demonstrating a strong business case for positive change.
“Working with the Redress Design Award Winner, Tess Whitfort proves the essence of Redress and The R Collective’s beliefs that creativity, collaboration, and a design-driven sustainable and ethical collection deserves its place with the world’s best retailers to inspire shifts in fashion consumption,” said Christina Dean, Redress’ Founder and The R Collective’s Co-Founder.
In partnership with award-winning sustainable manufacturer, TAL Apparel, Tess’ zero-waste pattern techniques brought about groundbreaking fabric utilisation during manufacturing, with several of her styles achieving less than one percent fabric wastage, compared with an industry norm of approximately 15%.
Tess’ collection is formed of upcycled denim, crepe, wool, and cotton, which were rescued from world-leading luxury brands, mills, and manufacturers, thereby avoiding the need to create virgin materials and minimising fashion’s negative environmental impacts.
SOME Q&A WITH TESS.
How did you approach the collaboration?
I wanted to incorporate a bit of attitude and punk edge into this collection, whilst keeping it timeless and within The R Collective’s aesthetic. There are many stereotypes around sustainable fashion and it is often portrayed as natural, feminine, and wholesome. Instead, I create grungy streetwear so that badasses can wear ethical clothing too. Environmental issues are going to affect us all, so sustainability can’t just be for people who love the environment, it can’t be a niche, it needs to be for everyone.
When it comes to zero waste design, who are some leaders in this space that you look to?
Top of the list is Holly McQuillan, she was the first zero waste designer I was aware of and inspired me to try it myself during my degree. Her book Zero Waste Fashion Design was co-authored by Timo Rissanen, who is also a significant influence for me. Their book has served as a guide and reference to me throughout the development of my zero waste collections.
“In an ideal world we would tear down the current system and build a new one that does less harm, but for now we really need to be working on building real solutions to the problems we’re facing that can be implemented now, that are applicable to the current industry, and can be made scalable, marketable, and profitable.”
What are some key takeaways for you from the experience of working with Redress and The R Collective?
Working with Redress and The R Collective really highlighted the scale of the fashion industry and how widespread and systematic the environmental damage it causes is. In an ideal world we would tear down the current system and build a new one that does less harm, but for now we really need to be working on building real solutions to the problems we’re facing that can be implemented now, that are applicable to the current industry, and can be made scalable, marketable, and profitable.
So what's next?
I’m currently planning to launch my own label this year, called Pendulum. It will focus on developing zero waste design methods, limiting environmental impact as much as possible at all stages of production, and upcycling waste materials. The primary aim of the label is to make sustainable fashion that is edgy and cool and delivers modern streetwear vibes that diverge from trends typically seen in sustainable fashion. I’m also planning to help educate students, designers, and consumers through more workshops and public speaking throughout the year.
Head over to The R Collective where you can shop the collaboration!
And head to Tess’s instagram below to follow her story.
And those sources we mentioned? Here are where the stats came from;
(Courtesy of The R Collective)
An estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created annually by the fashion industry and this is estimated to increase by about 60% between 2015 and 2030. Source: Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. (2017), Pulse of the Fashion Industry.
Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. Less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, representing a loss of more than USD100 billion worth of materials each year. Source: New Textiles Economy, 2015, Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
In emerging markets, more than 65% of consumers have been found to actively seek out sustainable fashion, with the highest reported respondents from China. Source: Cotton Lifestyle Monitor (n.d.) as cited in Business of Fashion (2016), The State of Fashion 2017.
It is estimated that around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage. Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting Group 2017.