It's time all designers took creative use of so-called 'waste' materials more seriously.
Conscious creatives are redirecting scrap material to inventive and beautiful designs.
Even if consumers and utilities did better at capturing our recyclables, we’re missing vast amounts of waste material that was thrown out in the factory earlier in the material lifecycle.
Fashion has a bad rep for waste—and it deserves it. About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor—an accepted industry practice for too long. Every day, Hong Kong’s manufacturing center sends 253 tons of textiles to landfill. But there are brands holding themselves to a higher standard, creatively. The makers that have really taken it to heart are going one step further, changing our definition of waste, or better yet, giving it a useful life.
U.S. clothing designers Ace and Jig’s zero-waste ethos has resulted in a line of unique #nowaste pieces such as napkins, flags, kids’ clothing and quilts made from fabric scraps rescued from the cutting process. They also host community pop-ups across the country where they stitch and repair well-worn Ace & Jig items. Their savviest innovation might be in designing patterns which produce fewer scraps to begin with.
The industry manufactures an awful lot of T-shirts, generating lots of scraps that might be too small for clothing. Business card maker Moo’s cotton line intercepts real T-shirt off-cuts and turns them into archival quality cotton business cards that are bright white, durable and a conversation starter; Who wouldn’t want to see your “tree-free paper” after all?
Reclaimed wood and palettes have become staple looks in hip shops in recent years, but now that ethic is reaching the high-end. Spanish furniture brand B.D. Barcelona says it takes inspiration from grandmothers’ inventive use of leftovers and disco music for its Remix series. B.D. takes discontinued old items and parts discovered in its warehouses and turns them into limited edition elegant design and art pieces—candle holders in polished varnished brass and oak cabinets with brass accessories. They too are pulling value from otherwise landfill-bound items.
One powerful materials reclamation project makes something beautiful and useful out of potential trash and carries a past life story into the future. No brand has done this quite so well as Freitag. The Swiss company makes useful messenger bags and accessories from roughed-up truck tarpaulins, seat belts and bicycle inner tubes. The unique bags are almost miraculously handsome, featuring industrial pop art of numbers and letters. The bags tell a story in their tough-as-nails material and road rash that’s deeper than a typical off the rack experience.
It’s time all designers took creative use of so-called “waste” materials more seriously.
This article was originally published in Issue 15 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here.
Here’s a formula for you. (MOO + Mohawk) + T-Shirts + Papermaking = NEW Cotton Business Cards made from T-Shirt scraps. That’s right; business cards made from the material we all know and love.