3. Circular fashion
📆 2020 - October 6th to 13th
What I made this week
Open-source modular patchwork blocks:
How did I get there?
Around 100 years after the industrial revolution, mass manufacturing in the fashion industry produces around 80 billion of garments annually. The industry accounts for 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental and social issues are an inherent part of it (water usage & pollution, working conditions & wages around the world...).
Fashion does not have a culture of openness, but of secrecy and authority, mostly based on the history of craft guilds. For example it is very rare to see fashion houses sharing their patterns, even though the shape of a garment is not patented (it is considered utilitarian; in fashion, only trademarks are protected).
"Society is now about exchange and working together, which happens in a lot of disciplines, yet not in fashion" - Li Edlekoort
What does innovation mean in the fashion world right now? Can we go from something driven by a growth logic (producing faster, selling more), to an innovation that focuses on sustainability? How can we hack the fashion industry?
We need new perspectives on how to organize fashion businesses. Some companies and projects already entered this paradigm, and have a different and innovative approach on this topic.
- Make/Use: providing a toolset to make customizable, zero-waste garments
- Paynter: reversing the production-selling organisation, by selling first and producing only what is needed
- AnOtherShoe, sharing knowledge to produce shoes locally and in a small scale
Modular fashion is an approach that uses vector design and laser cutting to produce seamless clothing:
- they are ideally zero waste, using tessellation to fill the material
- the created modules are interlocked together, instead of sewn
Here are some examples from artists and designers:
And of course, there is also the the Open Source Circular Fashion platform, which is filled with open-source modular designs from Fabricademy alumni:
A lot of different ideas came to my mind when thinking about modular designs:
I decided to focus on patchwork, for a few different reasons:
- Historically, the principle of patchwork is to reuse scraps of fabric to create something new. When quilted, they become a long-lasting object that is sometimes passed down from one generation to another;
- The geometric shapes and way they are assembled make them easily translated to modularity. These shapes are also widely shared among patchwork communities, who sometimes create big pieces by working together;
- Patchwork is very dear to my heart, as it is my mother's main hobby. She sometimes spends hours arranging the shapes and colors to create them. I have one that she made out of clothes I used to wear as a child.
Here are some very geometric basic blocks that I like:
I decided to try out the following two, because they can be arranged in so many different ways:
Designing with paper
I first tried to recreate a Log Cabin:
Here the modular shapes are very simple, rectangles with long tabs inserted, and there is a lot of overlay between the pieces. It does hold together pretty well on its own, but i did not like it enough to go on with it and design side joints to link two of them together.
This first version also has an overlay: the circle is attached over the square, on the tab that interlocks two squares together. Following Pauline's advice, my next version had these two modular parts: a quarter circle and the corresponding hollowed out square:
I really wanted to be able to assemble any two sides together, so I spent a lot of time trying to find closures that could work for that. I got inspired by last year's following projects:
I finally went with the tabs all along the sides, like Valentine's diamonds, as it allowed for less waste when cutting. It does allow assembling on all sides... if I use both sides of the modules.
The bigger tabs on the back are there only because cutting them wastes more material. I might end up cutting them anyway if they are too bulky... But now let's try it on fabric!
I first designed the plan in Rhino, by creating simple geometric shapes and then cutting and limiting them as I wanted:
But when I imported it in Voxelizer, our laser-cutting machine software, I got these weird lines, and my curves were distorted:
I probably had some points left somewhere in the lines, but I couldn't find them. I did not manage to solve this problem, so I designed the plan in another software, Affinity, and then imported it back in Rhino to duplicate it and divide the layers:
I did not use a specific tool to optimize the nesting, as it was quite simple here: I only have squares. The only important thing I had to do was make sure there were no duplicate lines on the border of the squares. I did this by decomposing the lines and joining them as one.
Testing the cut
I first tested with wool and felt:
Back to digital design
I realized the tabs were too long and thin, so I went back to Rhino to make them shorter and wider:
Cutting and assembling
I decided I wanted to use only left-over material:
- Black thick wool I had from a coat I made a few years ago
- Fabric available at the Textile Lab (Pauline's fabric from last year, polyamide that she got from a second hand store)
- Furniture fabric samples that my mother had retrieved from a closing furniture shop
I started by cutting the polyamide fabric from last year.
I thought the result looked... okay?, but this fabric is probably not the best for such big modules: the assembly does not hold really well.
Next steps: cutting more out of felt and wool. Maybe on a bigger machine? I might go and buy fabric that would allow me to have a color coherence, letting go of the "only using leftover materials" part...
What I could improve
😞 I'm not super happy with the result. I feel like I spent a lot of time designing, but I still should have spent more... And yet I did not have time to cut nearly enough fabric! There are also so many other ideas I wanted to explore ; I would have liked 3 more weeks for this one. I would have liked to experiment more practically, and go all the way to making a real garment... but the week is already over!
🌈 Not sure I like the colors, but of course by re-using only materials that I could scrape in a few days, I was going to have to compromise on this. Like I was saying above, I might end up buying some fabric for this if I finish it.
🤓 I should optimize the layers so that it takes less time to laser-cut... I had not anticipated the time it would take (20 minutes for 4 modules on the Zmorph we have here.)