Wednesday, February 27, 2008

collection fabrication

For a long time, I've been torn in regards to the fabrics for the collection. Of course I would like to use solely 'sustainable' fabrics, whether they be organically grown, recycled/reclaimed, local, etc. There are two problems I need to deal with: lack of diversity and lack of money. For example, if I were to use only locally produced (Australian) fabrics, my choices as a designer would be very limited, also posing problems for the quality of the research (see below). Even if I expanded beyond local, the emphasis in hemp and organic cotton fabrics tends to be on basic canvasses, lawns, poplins and jersey. And the quality is often... well, not as high as I'd like; the coffee sack look is still worryingly popular. And don't get me started on the strange woven plaids and stripes that I regularly come across. As for the latter (finance), I think it's a disadvantage that can be turned into an opportunity; lack of money is only as restrictive as you allow it to be, I think.

I do believe that bought, old, fabrics already in existence are better used than not. So, I will use some of the fabrics I've had lying around for four or more years, since I walked away from the label (including some 100 metres of cotton jersey). If I were to mass produce the garments, I would substitute the conventional cotton jersey with an organic alternative, if I were able to find one of the same quality. Two weeks ago a friend donated ten metres of a double wool she'd had for ten years, with good intentions but no outcomes. Anyway, arguably the fabric to date has been passively wasted, and so for me to use it is to make the most of the effort and resources that went into producing it, just like with the fabrics I've had collecting dust.

I will use some fabrics and trims that I've bought in second-hand stores. This would pose a challenge if I were to mass produce but I have no plans to do so; nevertheless, I will discuss later how I would tackle the particular challenges - various options do exist.

Finally, some fabrics will be bought new, and it's here I will make the effort to find the most sustainable option, as long as the compromise to quality isn't too great. So, denim will most likely come in a hemp/cotton mix (organic cotton if possible) and hemp canvas may provide the canvas for some hand-painted pieces. (Painted how? Let me read Fletcher's book, fresh out of the box, and I will get back on that.) I've also seen a hemp-silk mix that might work for some of the shirts.

But, I do aim for the collection to be at the high-end of things in terms of quality and level of finish and some painful compromises may come my way. And of course, I will try to educate myself as thoroughly as possible, every step of the way. For example, in her book Fletcher questions the antibacterial claims made about bamboo fabrics (ppp. 32-34) although TreeHugger has discussed some studies done in the area. There are also some research requirements for the fabrics that I need to meet, for example, using stripes and/or checks, and one-way prints, to see the implications for a no-waste approach. At the end of the day, my project is about not wasting fabric, and to keep it firmly focussed within the time frame I have, some high ideals may need temporary ignoring.

Synthetics: some still take a zero-tolerance approach to anything synthetic (a verbal attack against a carpet manufacturer by an audience member at one of the d factory talks on sustainability last year comes to mind), but to me the infinite recyclability appeals. Kate Goldsworthy's research in particular is worth looking into. To me, the problem with synthetics is more to do with comfort and wearability - I wear them little myself (an old nylon Miyake jacket notwithstanding) so I do have trouble proposing others to wear them.

Then there are the trims and notions... Many will be reclaimed (e.g. buttons from second-hand shops) and I will avoid creating natural/synthetic mixes with trims - for example, applying a polyester braid to a hemp pant. Overall, I find this a problematic area and will discuss further as things progress.

A short post on a complex topic but life beckons. I will return to this, no doubt.

Oh and next week I'll be attending the IFFTI conference in Melbourne. Some very interesting papers though not much on sustainability.

No comments: