The Zero Waste story starts and ends with Nature itself and the world we live in. Over time Nature has devised a system where waste from one organism becomes resources for others, creating cyclical material rows in a state of constant equilibrium and balance. Highly sensitive feedback systems ensure that whenever wastes (used resources) begin to accumulate, the opportunities to utilise them are quickly taken up by other organisms to build more abundance and common wealth. It has taken Nature hundreds of millions of years to perfect Zero Waste and it is a fundamental principle of the natural world (Snow, Dickinson 2003).
The apparel industry produces an extraordinary amount of waste during the design and mass manufacturing of garments. Even the efficiency generated through the use of com- puters to aid the design, patternmaking, grad- ing, marking (pattern layout), and cutting pro- cesses does not eliminate fabric waste. This is largely due to the pattern shapes needed to create the aesthetic and t considered fashionable by Western standards. For years, “ efficient” pattern layout was considered to be the production of no more than 20% waste fabric. With the aid of a computer and a skilled mark- er maker, waste could be reduced to 5% or 10%. This doesn’t sound like much until you multiply it by 100+ styles created in each of as many as 12 seasons a year. That adds up to tons of waste fabric destined for the local landfill (Fletcher 2011).
Certainly, the idea of fully utilizing an entire piece of fabric in a garment (thus producing zero waste) is not new. Many examples of both historic ethnic and Western clothing exist in which the entire fabric piece was utilized in the design. Historically, the process of transforming cotton, wool, or silk fiber into yarn and then to fabric was done entirely by hand and often the resulting fabric was further enhanced by extensive embroidery, hand painting/printing, or other embellishments, again done by hand. When the fabric is this precious, wasting any of it is unthinkable.
In terms of Pattern making, we see a growth of fashion designers who are focusing on the concept of zero-waste and creating new shapes and forms without any waste. I Personally think that it is important for us as fashion designers to challenge ourselves and improve our knowledge in zero-waste pattern making.