Zero-waste is a pattern design technique that eliminates fabric waste at the design stage. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of textiles are wasted during a garments’ design and manufacturing stages, largely due to inconsiderate pattern making. Adopting the zero-waste sustainable design techniques is good for the environment and your pocket.



“Zero-waste design changes the way we use textiles and produces effective environmental results.”

I take a common sense approach to sustainability. The zero-waste design technique is good for the environment, as it eliminates waste going to landfill, and it is economically smart by giving you the most mileage from your dollars. Today, around 15 to 20 percent of a textile is wasted during garment production due mainly to standardized textile lengths and unconsidered pattern making. This waste can be avoided by applying the zero-waste design technique, where designers carefully plan the design so that they utilize the entire textile to cut waste out of the equation.

The concept of utilizing the entire length of the textile is not a new phenomenon. It has long been used in the making of Japanese kimonos and Indian saris because it makes sense not to waste valuable textiles. However, it became less popular after the industrialization of fashion and the emergence of mass-produced fast fashion.

Today, there are many different approaches to zero-waste design, including draping, knitting and smart pattern making. I use a variety of waste reducing techniques to create sculptural, elegant and desirable sustainable fashion garments. For example, I used zero-waste geometric cutting for the origami-inspired Hera dress. For this, I took two squares and cut a line through them, and then joined the lines together and finally used buttons to fix the points of the dress into folds. This design also incorporates the amount of textile needed for seam allowance and hemming. I also have a zero-waste policy in my studio where all textile residues are kept and reused or donated to local recycling programs.

Elsewhere in this field, I think the most influential designer is Mark Liu who fits the pieces of his designs together like a jigsaw puzzle onto the textile. Looking beyond individual designers and into the mass market, the commercialization of zero-waste would be a huge step towards sustainability for the entire fashion industry.

Since I debuted my sustainable label in 2009, my collections have been showcased internationally in London, Paris, Shanghai, Zagreb and Kiev and my designs are currently stocked in high-end boutiques in the United Kingdom, Europe, America and Asia. My success has built on my over-arching belief that businesses should treat the planet, people and profit with equal importance.

My Top Tips to zero-waste design

1. Think before you cut and be inventive and experimental

2. Construct a zero-waste pattern or drape the textile

3. Sew or heat-seal the textile together

4. Knit and you will only ever use the necessary amount of material

5. Be inspired by origami


Top tips from the pros

Watch our zero-waste design tutorial with Timo Rissanen here.


Zero-waste fashion designers

Ada Zanditon
David Telfer
Holly McQuillan
Issey Miyake
Julia Lumsden
Julian Roberts
Mark Liu 
Timo Rissanen