Often, when someone finds out that I studied and work with textiles they mistake me for an aspiring fashion designer. (All of you fibers people out there have probably encountered this.) While I sometimes make my own clothing (like my favorite dress), fashion is not my primary focus. A big part of the reason I don’t pursue involvement in that world is that I am troubled by how much waste is created and, ultimately, how disposable most things are.

So much is thrown away between the point of design and the point of sale. Between loom waste and dye waste in the production of fabrics, and waste in the production of clothing (not to mention rampant human rights violations) it makes me uneasy. While I ‘m not innocent of consuming these same garments/ products, I try to limit my involvement in that chain. (Mostly through not buying much, using what I have until I can’t, using thrift stores and using left over materials for other projects.) If I’m honest, I can confess that I don’t have the energy to lead the sweeping changes that are needed. I just do what I can.

But, there are designers and institutions out there who do have that energy, and I respect that very, very much. This article from the New York Times talks about how Timo Rissanen and Parsons the New School for Design are among those leading the charge. They’re reexamining the way we design and make things with a new generation of design students.

This isn’t a new idea. During the 1930’s Constructivist artist-designers made utilitarian garments based on the rectangle – the natural shape of woven fabric. Andrea Zittel similarly has explored what it means to create garments using less waste.

The difference I see here is that Rissanen and Parsons are interested in bringing the zero waste philosophy to a new -commercial-  scale. After the production lines change (maybe it’s a different fabric width and/ or jigsaw puzzle style clothing patterns) companies will probably save a ton of money, too. After all, they wont be simply throwing away 15% of their profits. That must sound attractive to them, right?

For most of the public, no-waste design may be expensive (and therefore somewhat exclusive) at first, but the potential for these ideals to trickle down and produce mass change is really encouraging.