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Digital Projects

Zero Waste Design with Tabii Just

The clothing designer Tabitha St. Bernard is part of the growing zero waste design movement. She has a fabulous website, Tabii Just, where you can learn about her and her designs, and even shop her conscientious and stylish collection.

Tabii graciously came to our class to present her philosophy and lead a workshop, bringing us remnants with which to design our own zero waste styles, as well as her formidable sewing machine to support us with the process. Tabii introduced us to the concept of zero waste design through this article in The New York Times Fashion Tries on Zero Waste Design, written in 2010. Here's the gist.

"Zero-waste design strives to create clothing patterns that leave not so much as a scrap of fabric on the cutting room floor."

So, that was our task. We formed small groups and together picked out pieces to use for our designs. My group members, Chy and Wanda, and I picked several pieces of fabric, two of which were similar in size. The long rectangular shapes inspired us to create a reversible scarf, incorporating the blue and white patterned fabric with the solid navy. Though similar in shape, the solid fabric was larger. To avoid leaving as much as a scrap of fabric, we folded over the larger piece at the ends and sides to match the size of the patterned fabric. I admit that my first instinct was to trim the extra fabric, but Tabii reminded us that if we did that we would compromise adhering to the zero waste motto. I pinned and sewed the pieces together, and we were then left with a few extra pieces that we planned to use... somehow. The only extra piece of fabric that we successfully used was the red trim with the ball fringe. We put that at the ends.

It really was a group effort. Not only was our group collaboration important, but we also benefited from input from our classmates. Callem left the zig zag stitch set on the sewing machine when I went to sew the ends and this provided a fortunate result; the red zig zag stiches were a nice accent.

At the end of the second class that Tabii led, we all presented our wares, talked a bit about our process, who our audience was, and how we would price it. The last part was revelatory. Though we didn't use a whole lot of fabric, our design process was labor intensive and that would have to factor into the cost, so would paying seamstresses responsibly. Final price tag to sell our little scarf would be over $300!

This exercise opened my eyes to the amount of waste that comes from the production of clothes. I have also become much more aware of the waste in the production of goods in general. I consider myself a responsible recycler but acknowledge that there is much more that I could be doing.

Credit for all images below go to my classmate Carolyn Cei. Many more can be found here, on the Fabric of Cultures site.