Fashion From the Factory Floor

By Nicole Plonski

Waste is the any part of anything that was not used. It is that piece of denim that was thrown away because with it, those jeans would no longer be considered skinny. It is that sequin sample that had so much potential but ended up being nothing more than a sample. It is that scrap of fabric that the scissors cut around. Pause. Actually, it is ALL those scraps that the designer brushed aside and into the trash. What a waste…no more. Challenging the fundamentals of making clothing for the benefit of our environment, zero waste design is saying no more to the dump-and-go mentality of the garment district.

The process of fashion manufacturing is one of the largest polluters of the world. The fact that approximately 15% of perfectly adequate production fabric finds itself in our nation’s landfills only makes matters worse. For the sake of our world, and one might add for the sake of fashion, designers are thinking smarter.

Zero waste design is not a technique that appears seamless. Such apparel often demonstrates a puzzle-like, rough cutting method of assembly. Another method is draping. In addition, the pattern of a garment is not limited to one but instead a compilation of multiple varying colors, designs, textures, etc. The best part, aside from the fun and unconventional designs that are created, is that the fabric being used was previously a statistic of textile waste.

Many designers have made a name for themselves through design with zero waste. Daniel Silverstein, a New York based clothing designer and former FIT student, is one of them. He started his namesake label, ZWD, standing for Zerowastedaniel, in 2016 and has since then been turning trash into treasure. According to his website,, Silverstein plans on saving 3 tons of pre consumer textile waste in 2017, which is about 6,000 ZWD pieces. He proves that factory scraps do not have to remain wasteful.

Zero waste design has the power to turn anything into something.

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