Ethical design concept an antidote to fast fashion

Wednesday 30 November 2016

The Design for Disassembly Spore collection was shown at Massey University's end of year fashion show held in Wellington . From left: Hannah Mora, Sophia Balfoort, Jaguar Ewart, Konan Snow and fashion designer Olivia Chitty

Young fashion designer, Olivia Chitty has developed a garment design system that could offer people affordable ethical clothing options by creating new looks from existing clothes.

She developed her  Design for Disassembly system for her fourth year project for Massey University's Bachelor of Design (fashion) degree. "It's a design process that provides flexibility while deconstructing, up-cycling, or making alterations to garments.

"The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry worldwide, billions of tonnes of textile waste are sent to the landfill each year but almost 100 per cent  of this could have been reused or recycled. However most garments aren't designed to be remade. The way they are constructed makes it very difficult and time consuming to take apart and recycle," she says.

Ms Chitty's business concept involves designing a primary garment in such a way that it can be returned to the manufacturer and professionally recreated into another look. It can then be sold back to the original customer, or as a secondary piece to another buyer.  She would like the garments to be made from quality sustainable fabrics such as hemp, wool, silk and lotus flower fabric.

"I had to make sure my original garments had bigger surface areas with less panel lines and seams. All of my design details and fastenings are carefully applied to the garment so they can easily be separated from the fabric during deconstruction. I diverted from the traditional methods of clothing construction and developed my own system using the chain stitch machine, which creates a durable stitch, yet can be unraveled very easily, saving a lot of deconstruction time," she says.

Ms Chitty surveyed people about their views on ethical fashion before she began developing her design concept.  "Most people said they would like to know where their clothes come from and would like them to come via ethical production.  My idea is that the swing tags on the garments would say whether the clothes are primary or secondary pieces and people could track the history of the garment. I hope this allows like-minded people to connect and create a bit of an online community, while adding value to the garments and experience.    

"This is a concept for people who care about the environment and the impacts of fast fashion. I would like to buy ethical clothing but can't afford it.  By maximising material use and reducing waste, Design for Disassembly should make it more affordable and accessible for people who want to shop ethically," Ms Chitty says.

The Aucklander is a recent graduate of Massey University's College of creative Arts and plans to return to Auckland to look for work. She would like to develop her idea into a sustainable business aimed at reducing the amount of fast fashion thrown away for the next new look.