Wednesday, August 18, 2010


YOU wear organic T-shirts. You hang your clothes to dry. You recycle your unloved suits and dresses.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Simon Collins, far left, of Parsons, Scott Mackinlay Hahn and Fiona Dieffenbacher with a five-pocket jean pattern.
But frankly, that’s just the tip of the green iceberg.
Today’s truly fashion-forward have a more radical ambition: zero waste.
That may sound more like an indie band than an environmental aspiration, but it’s a new focus of top fashion schools.
Zero-waste design strives to create clothing patterns that leave not so much as a scrap of fabric on the cutting room floor. This is not some wacky avant-garde exercise; it’s a way to eliminate millions of tons of garbage a year. 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.
A small but impassioned coterie of designers has spent the last few years quietly experimenting with innovative design techniques, and some of their ideas are starting to penetrate the mainstream.
Next month, Parsons the New School for Design — which inspired a generation of would-be designers through the television series “Project Runway” — will offer one of the world’s first fashion courses in zero waste. The book “Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes,” by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen, zero-waste pioneers, will be published in February by Earthscan. And an exhibition of zero-waste fashions, curated by Mr. Rissanen and another zero-waste designer, Holly McQuillan, will be held in New Zealand next spring and in New York the following fall. Also in March, an exhibition, “No Waste/Zero Waste” will open at the Averill and Bernard Leviton A + D Gallery in Chicago, part of Columbia College Chicago.