Zero waste design is nothing new. Native American tribes found a purpose for all parts of the bison they hunted, wearing every inedible part of the animal as clothing. During war times, Americans’ resources were rationed and women made dresses from flour sacks. But these weren’t zero waste design endeavors by choice — these designs were made out of necessity.
Today, designers are creating zero waste garments as part of a movement that’s sweeping the sustainable textiles industry.
The modern apparel industry produces large amounts of waste from unused fabric scraps, much of which ends up in landfills. Instead of contributing to the textile waste stream, designers like Tabitha St. Bernard, creator of fashion line Tabii Just, are rethinking how their patterns are cut from the beginning with beautiful results.
Tabitha, a native of Trinidad & Tobago, now lives and produces her line Tabii Just in NYC following internships with prominent mainstream designers Vivienne Tam and Tahari ASL. After interning with Tahari, Tabitha landed a position on their dressline design team where she found a love for sustainable design, and in 2012, Tabii Just was born.
Most of Tabitha’s garments are created using a single rectangular pane of fabric. Any cuts made to the fabric are strategic, and any fabric cut away from the larger piece is used to make something new like a makeup bag or pocket square.
This unconventional pattern making process may seem limiting, but if it is, Tabii Just’s designs sure don’t show it. Tabitha’s garments don’t embody the boxy paper bag silhouettes you might expect from a giant square of fabric. Her designs are form fitting and elegant, earning them spots at movie premiers and in celebrity’s closets.
Tabitha isn’t the only designer using zero waste principles, but from what I’ve seen so far, she’s doing it best. Sustainable fashion lovers can only hope more young designers follow in her footsteps.