seeking & creating : researching & discovering : applying & practicing

sustainability in design = changing mindsets + deeds

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crazy Christmas Crafting

Seeing Papier d'Amour's old book-page paper wreath in Real Living Magazine has sparked off a wreath making craze especially since the whole world seems to be gearing up for Christmas madness!

I didn't even bother with Googling (though you will find lotsa eye-candy!) for DIY guides or instructions, but went for it instinctively, like the gutsy, impulsive craft-o-maniac I am. But if you like, this shows a how-to...

Basically, you need a circular doughnut-shaped base, strong glue, or strong double-sided or sticky tape, or perhaps stapler/staples, whatever it takes to make the paper attach to the circular base and not come off when the finished product is hung.

I do not have a glue gun (would be interesting to yank one out of my behind or out of my hip holster every time I needed one though!) so it was a pain to find enough super glue to make the rather large wreath I ended up with. (It measures around 60 or 70 cm across in diameter, yet another uncalculated result.) Having masking tape and a large stapler/staples on hand helped A LOT.

I ended up spending around $40 on the whole thing; half of the money went into getting the glue alone. The rest I spent on the tinsel ribbons and a small amount of pretty overpriced matte and metallic wrapping tissues and wrapping paper; also a roll of cellophane which I thought to use to wrap around the whole thing as dirt/weather protection eventually, but maybe not...

It was a good thing that I had ready and free access to heaps and heaps of discarded packing cardboard! And of course my own personal stash of cords, ribbons and trims to use when needed.

You need lots of loose paper pages, which can be twisted into loose or tight cylinders, cones, fans, ribbon shapes, loops, gathered and shredded, cut into cool shapes, made into 3D stars, whatever rocks your boat...but processing the pages can be tedious and repetitive...think of it as a calming therapy. I gathered the pages roughly after folding once diagonally, so no nice coiled cone formations in my wreath...

All I had on hand was an old issue of Marie Claire magazine (with Kristen Stewart on the cover, fancy that) and I knew that glossy magazine pages will have no colour consistency, unlike old book pages, so I was seriously considering getting a can of red or green sparkley spray paint to create a more consistent colour.

What I tried to do was make sure dark and light coloured pages were spread evenly about and mixed well with brightly coloured pages...though come to think of it, perhaps having a gradient of light-to-dark colours might be cool. Hard to achieve though! To create an even fullness, you need to spread the bunches around at intervals and slowly fill in gaps.

So the crazily textured result...

I keep wondering whether it looks too junky. Certainly looks rather insane!

And a couple more...

 From cardboard boxes used to package organic vegetables, and the inner tube of a roll of wrapping paper...

This one was for Sprout, an awesome health food shop and cafe next to where I work...

And a little over one issue of Grazia magazine from/for Tedesco III turns into...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Inspirational Design/Construction


made by SOFTlab:

Watching this fascinating animation of a Paul Poiret dress construction, one cannot help but recall: this designer is arguably one of the primary 20th Century "liberators" of women's bodies from the confines of the corset/girdle.

(And perhaps a thorn among the roses, considering Vionnet, Lanvin and Chanel...which bring to mind the question: how many male designers really know how to dress women without enforcing various unattainable ideals upon them? Then again, does not fashion itself create and propagate unattainable ideals?)

He had his heyday 100 years ago, yet the shapes and designs of his garments are utterly modern, relevant, and present. Don't you also see endless DVF copies in this wrap dress design? True timelessness, in this fashion, seems to be an endless permutation/exploration of simple methods or formulae; once pioneered, reproduced forever.

Poiret_White-Dress from SOFTlab on Vimeo.

It might be a simple formula: design and construction from simplistic geometric shapes, while simultaneously utilising drape and fabrication to allow the body to enjoy comfort and movement, creating a garment that communicates its own beauty while on the body.


Of course, we cannot stay forever in this stagnant spot of endlessly reproducing what previous pioneers have created. Looking at Holly McQuillan's zero-waste work, we can see true innovation and creativity spurring on greater and more sustainable design development, higher efficiency/productivity, and possibly an altered fashion aesthetic.

For what is creativity without deeper discovery?

What is extraordinary is how artistically beautiful the patterns within the pattern lay are, and how poetic it is that this transforms from a 2D art-piece into a 3D wearable art-piece.
This 21st Century pioneer deserves more awards for her work!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Currently reading: Cradle to Cradle

Finally got my paws on this book! 

Or get it from Amazon:

As described in Professor McDonough's personal website:

"William McDonough's book, written with his colleague, the German chemist Michael Braungart, is a manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.

Through historical sketches on the roots of the industrial revolution; commentary on science, nature and society; descriptions of key design principles; and compelling examples of innovative products and business strategies already reshaping the marketplace, McDonough and Braungart make the case that an industrial system that "takes, makes and wastes" can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value.

In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braungart argue that the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design.

The design of products and manufacturing systems growing out of the Industrial Revolution reflected the spirit of the day-and yielded a host of unintended yet tragic consequences.
Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, the authors write, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun's energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.

Cradle to Cradle maps the lineaments of McDonough and Braungart's new design paradigm, offering practical steps on how to innovate within today's economic environment.

Part social history, part green business primer, part design manual, the book makes plain that the re-invention of human industry is not only within our grasp, it is our best hope for a future of sustaining prosperity.

In addition to describing the hopeful, nature-inspired design principles that are making industry both prosperous and sustainable, the book itself is a physical symbol of the changes to come. It is printed on a synthetic 'paper,' made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers, designed to look and feel like top quality paper while also being waterproof and rugged.

And the book can be easily recycled in localities with systems to collect polypropylene, like that in yogurt containers. This 'treeless' book points the way toward the day when synthetic books, like many other products, can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality—in cradle to cradle cycles."

...hmmm, will post thoughts upon finishing the book...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Upcycling idea: Making a book-cover out of a MSFW (Melbourne Spring Fashion Week) show bag

Something I did recently to make myself feel better after losing my sketchbook full of 2010 design ideas and drawings. A nicely covered, relatively weatherproof and 'hard-covered' new sketchbook which I dearly hope will never get lost!

What I had on hand:
Sewing thread
A slightly damaged MSFW 2o10 showbag printed with cute Gorman designed graphics
Masking tape (on hindsight double-sided tape would have worked better)

If you find yourself wondering what the hell to do with those yucky freebie polypropylene 'enviro' bags that keep getting pushed in your face, consider using the material to protect and cover a treasured book. The material is quite you can embroider it or print onto it to create something more aesthetically pleasing. Considering how non-biodegradable the material is, it seems wiser to put the stuff to further use instead of sending it to landfill once the bag's seams come apart (which does happen quite quickly doesn't it?)

On another note, this is such a symbolic object of abuse and green-washing, isn't it? All the big brands are just jumping on the bandwagon and producing them by the millions to use as marketing collateral. Have you ever wondered how much more resources are wasted producing these bags as compared to paper bags? Not to mention the carbon footprint, greenhouse gases produced, toxic chemicals used...

Message from Earth: Organic Matters

When deciding between non-organic versus organic fabrication, this argument makes a lot of sense...and reveals a future of profitable business opportunity integrated with social responsibility, ethics, combined with individual and community well-being.

One wonders when 'organic' will become the mainstream operations model, rather than the unfortunately more expensive exception it is at the moment.

Anvil Knitwear, a leading manufacturer of sustainable apparel, premiered a digital short at Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America Concert at Miller Park in Milwaukee on October 2, as part of its sponsorship of the event. The thought provoking video educates consumers about the impact of pesticide use on the environment and farmers and encourages consumers to support organic farmers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The definition of "edge"

What does it take to be both sustainable and conceptually avant garde?

Every creative wants to maintain some kind of edge over his or her competition, and usually the concept stage is where true differentiation has greatest opportunity to occur.

Ideally, concept drives design strategy and is a continuously morphing/evolving process that is not confined by seasons, trends, or other external forces. It forms an integral part of the brand identity and working practices, and, if well-executed, should never incur unreasonable costs.

Good case-study: the highly respected MATERIALBYPRODUCT(worshipful kudos!!!)

The big question: How much emphasis do you place on concept? Or is it all bullshit that gets lost in the marketing typhoon?

With all the financial struggle (oh that can of worms!!!) and multi-tasking independent designers wrestle with, it's easy to abandon the concept-development route (it can be construed as a waste of time, resources and effort, and, at worst, contrived marketing spin) and simply succumb to the overwhelming demands of commercial viability.

Yes, that sober truth at the cash register: whatever sells helps you survive. And you need to achieve critical volume to receive profit, and volume means mass production, and mass production more or less means monotonous replication of similarity.

Embedded in this confusion are questions of worth, value, and profit, albeit tied in with emotional, monetary, ethical/sustainability and intellectual issues.

How do we measure the worth of conceptual development and how much (or how little) value it adds to the final product?

In the context of mass production, does 'concept' simply become a futile pursuit?

Does the end-user even want to know or care, anyway?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Random Recipe: Bejwelled Infestation of Mutant Baby Doilies

a.k.a. "Glittering Scabs"

Yeah, if it's minute, finicky, labour-intensive, intricate, painstaking, and time-consuming, WE LIKE TO DO IT! *purr*

Allison and Adel have been working on these little babies for quite a while! They're small (ideally fits in your palm) and super fun to make, and can be turned into brooches, pendents, wristlets, and headbands, whatever you like.

Think organic shapes, irregularity, asymmetry, random colour combinations, crazy textures, contrasting hard and soft materials, tiny islands, frankenstein doillies, ammoebas, gore/disease/infestation formations, clustered coral growths, ruined lace, glittering glass/crystal set against soft plushy furry fibrous yarn formations...

Knitting/Crochet Yarn
Scrap Kimono Fabric (or any scrap fabric)
Sewing Thread
Sewing Machine with fancy stitch options and automatic sewing function
Soluble Fabric
Beads/Crystals/Pearls/Semi-precious stones


1. Free-form crochet the yarn into small lacey formations.

2. Depending on the colour of the yarn, select matching or contrasting kimono scrap, cut out shape roughly conforming to crochet 'patch'.

3. Do the same for soluble fabric, but cut larger than the kimono patch shape (leave an excess border of about 2 cm or more if you prefer).

4. Layer crochet patch on top, kimono fabric in the middle, soluble fabric at the bottom, and prep sewing machine with matching-coloured sewing thread, and stay-stitch all 3 layers. (Stay-stitching is optional, you can skip directly to the next step as well).

5. Select a fancy stitch and automate stitching all around the border of the crochet patch, permanently attaching all the layers together and forming a roughly 1 cm-wide 'frame of swirling stitches' around the shape, which extends outside the kimono fabric and onto the soluble fabric.

6. (Optional) If you like, change the thread colour and sew over the first layer to create more contrast, in another fancy stitch.

7. After you finish sewing, wash away the soluble fabric. The thread border should form into 'lace'. Press as much moisture out as possible with towels, lay flat, and let dry completely, overnight.

8. Attach your choice of a range of matching or contrasting beads, crystals, semi-precious stones, and etc, in random formations. Alli prefers to keep the variety within 3 or 4 different kinds of beads but Adel goes nuts and goes for up to 8 or more kinds.

9. To finish, you could glue on a backing layer of felt cut smaller than the patch (leaving the thread 'lace' border free) to cover all the beading stitching. Or do without, as the combination of glue and felt creates a very stiff patch; you might appreciate the flexibility more according to what you envision the final product to be.

10. Attach the patch to a brooch pin, or ribbon, headband, or add to other gear as a decorative feature (perhaps as the focal point of a clutch bag or fascinator?)...and bring your very own Mutant Baby Doily out into the world!

We have made a small collection of 11 Mutant Baby Doilies, and they will soon be exposed to the big bad world!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Conflicts of Interests

Excuse the long rant, but it's been a while, and this blog needs some original content for once!

A phone conversation with our RMIT lecturer, the esteemed Sue Thomas, some time ago, keeps coming back, a brain bug that nags and nags for some kind of release...

I've also just had a pretty sobering conversation with someone who graduated over a decade ago from the same course, and hearing about her experience and opinions has driven me to write this.

As new and struggling designers foraging for work and forging our own identities in industry a.k.a. the real world, we have to document our struggles in order to reflect upon the issues we are facing in an intellectual/rational way, and in doing so, pragmatically find sustainable solutions that we can achieve with our own limited resources. At the very least, we should be asking some big questions.

Reality can make quick cynics of even the most idealistic creative.

In school we had freedom of expression and intellectual pursuit, despite having briefs that we may have felt constrained by. Yes, we had to compete with peers for grades, but there is a support network in place, with teachers and friends (who are in the same boat as yourself) forming a kind of safety net.

There was also, arguably, more room for failure and turnaround. If you failed, you repeated the course or switched modules, even changed course; as long as you were still interested in getting that piece of paper and can afford to keep going until you passed, you kept going.

However, in some ways a structured cookie-cutter education system, in this case to train designers, can fail to deliver genuinely effective qualifications. Not only is the eventual certification suffering from deteriorating value in the marketplace, the education-as-profit-making-business-product is a pretty lousy process in itself. (Not particularly sustainable, given its complete reliance on the financial capabilities of masses of students, who may or may not have parental support.)

Education should constantly evolve to train students to deal with a changing marketplace and working environment, especially considering the post-recession cloud of gloom that has settled onto the collective consciousness worldwide. But let's leave these structural problems with the learning system and its delivery an unopened can of worms for now.

What I am not sure about is whether my education has adequately trained me at all.

Truly, just from my own P.O.V., this 'designer' (I have the degree, but I still hesitate to inform people that I am a designer, strangely) never felt more helpless or inadequately equipped to face the uphill task of finding employment after stepping off the threshold of graduation.

Let's temporarily disregard personality issues, e.g. the innately self-absorbed, diva-ish, fussy anal-retentiveness of what I call the "classic designer's personality".
(It's my way or no way, I have the most exclusive perspective/taste/aesthestic sense, I am especially talented and I want the world to realise that)

All the negative bullshit and attitude coming out of quirky characters which might harm relationships with future boss(es), if that is one's personal barrier to meaningful employment, it's one's own personal struggle...on the flipside, who knows how many psychopathic bosses one might encounter in one's lifetime, anyway?
(Hang on, if you have the classic narcissistic designer's personality, you might end up being one yourself!)

But I digress.

Creative industries are all alike in some ways, aren't they? Creativity presumably accompanies youth and vigour. (We still have to deal with a deeply ageist society, don't we.) Plus all the bonus prejudices on the side, be it ethnicity, gender, marital status, looks, nationality, whatever. Consider this: do the creative industries treat their talent in a sustainable manner?

We all have our own burdens to bear, but here are some over-arching questions with regards to the quest for sustainable personal development, career development, and fulfilling life-work...presuming that sustainability is a way of life designers should be aspiring towards and adapting their practice for.

With sustainability in the back of the mind colouring one's perspective, it's easy to conclude that we are just naive, ignorant, unprepared newbies entering a huge, complex and ruthless business system obsessed with profits, competition, volume, efficiency and image, with blatant disregard or superficial interest in ecological issues tied to waste mismanagement, product life-cycle problems, and etc.

Yet how long do we submit to working for free to gain the experience industry demands just for the basic entry level design positions? What do we do in the meantime? Retail? Hospitality? Pizza Parlour? Bartending? Make teddy bears? Alterations? Working for free is hardly sustainable, nor is it ethical.

Yes, suffering is like the whetstone that sharpens you up and hones your skills, but the crux is, why are graduates from a so-called prestigious fashion design school (I've not checked in/compared statistics with how the Whitehouse/Melbourne School of Fashion/RMIT Fashion & Textiles Brunswick kids are faring, though, so please educate me) having so much trouble finding relevant employment on home ground? What's missing from their training?

Those who have left Australia seem to have found jobs more easily. Is it the same situation in London, Paris, Milan? Are there possibly a ton of Central Saint Martin's graduates milling around jobless in London, and escaping to find jobs elsewhere?

Of course, retail is a great stepping stone into higher level positions in marketing, supply-chain management, buying, merchandising and other business operations, and learning to be a great sales-person is definitely valuable skills development. However, is it possible to eventually end up back in design, and how long is that going to take?

At best, finding work in the other levels of garment production pays a decent wage. At worst, you find yourself, a university graduate, struggling to keep up with people with decades more experience and triple the speed and efficiency, doing CAD, pattern-making, cutting, and machining.

And in school we are repeatedly told:" We are not training you to become machinists..."
Yet it seems that there is more demand for pattern-makers and machinists, the so-called lower-level production positions. Is this our lot, then?

Or do we all start our own practices, not out of readiness, but out of joblessness? And begin yet another round of struggling to find validation in the fashion business system?

Building your life's work is an endless learning curve, and we have to accept that we will never really be ready, whatever it is we are aiming to achieve in the end for ourselves.

The big question is: what do you want to achieve with your creative life? And how are we going to achieve those goals in a sustainable manner?

Is there value in attempting to form a group to share this experience together, sharing resources and costs to collectively create a sustainable fashion business practice? Or is it just too difficult to reconcile all these different designers' personalities? Are designers really meant to work alone?

Notably inspiring, though, has been DISCOUNT, belonging to our seniors Nadia and Cami, whose graduate collections literally drew gasps from the audience last year. It is exciting to see how they will innovate and conceive a new kind of independent fashion label, going against the grain and formulaic approach of "the system" they are fighting.

The Restructors story is far less optimistic. Perhaps we lack faith in the cause and fail to find the motivation we need to commit to making this work, but for now it seems much has stalled and we are mired in this muggy maze of conflicting interests, struggling to find time between school, paid work, unpaid work, internships and personal interests...depressing, but true.

Perhaps after rock bottom the ascent will be sweet.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on


Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences.

"We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says.

It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Secret Life of Things

We're not quite so secretly admiring the work of the lovely Leyla Acaroglu, founder of the awesome and awe-inspiring Eco Innovators, pioneers and providers of eco-design/sustainability education and training.

Check them out at

Watching this finely produced first episode of Eco Innovators' project The Secret Life of Things, all preconceptions of eco-design/sustainability evangelism being all doom, gloom and hectoring pessimism fly out the window. It's even family-friendly, which tells of how much effort Leyla and team have put into making this educational entertainment truly meaningful and digestible...

Good stuff!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Film to Catch: "I Am Love", featuring costumes by Raf Simons


Tilda Swinton looks so luminous in Luca Guadagnino's "I Am Love"

Produced by and starring Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton (who learned to speak Italian for the project), Luca Guadagnino’s epic new film I Am Love tells the story of Emma Recchi, a Russian expat living in Milan as the matriarch of the Recchi textile dynasty.

Increasingly alienated from her pristine existence, she embarks on a love affair that proves both transcendental in its beauty and catastrophic in its ramifications. As the plot unfolds, Guadagnino’s exquisitely daring cinematography—oddly angled and drawn-out shots—captures Emma organizing feasts at the Recchi estate (Milan’s Art Deco masterpiece Villa Necchi), bustling through the Piazza Duomo on a shopping expedition and unleashing her passion in the glorious Sanremo countryside, where the lush wildlife blurrily swoons before the camera with palpable eroticism.

The film’s aesthetic splendor also includes costumes by Silvia Venturini Fendi and Raf Simons for Jil Sander, a series of intricate repasts created by Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco, and a soundtrack by revered minimalist composer John Adams. There is a lot to digest, even beyond the gripping domestic drama at the core of I Am Love. But Guadagnino is a master of synthesis, likening his film to epicurean wizardry: “When you do a consommé, you cook a lot of ingredients slowly for a long time, a complicated culinary process that gets you a cup of clear broth that tastes beautiful. I would say that is what we tried to do. We really got to the essence of things.” I Am Love is released in the UK on April 9 and will hit US shores this June.

See also shots of set and costume:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Knitting/Crocheting with just your Hands

My late-blooming fascination with knitting and crocheting stems from the desire to create fabric from scratch with the absolute freedom of customisation. Making a fully formed garment or accessory/object from just yarn and knitting/crochet needles is a skill I used to take for granted (even thought it was terribly boring!). My grandmother and nanny were both highly-skilled and often made me things I now know are remnants of a luxury I failed to appreciate as a child.

A recent discovery of the ease and speed of crochet, a beautiful book on Pineapple Lace, as well as a nagging need to learn how to knit with just one's fingers (having watched a senior incorporate such motifs into her graduate collection led to a gnawing curiosity) has led to the unearthing of these DIY video gems:

As usual, one finds that the Japanese-originated resources always present innovation and new methods of working your paws and that yarn into new formations:

This lady has her own YouTube channel devoted to teaching different methods; well worth watching even if you do not understand the voice-over instructions.

Of course, just getting a crochet needle is no big leap, though the thought of spending on additional hardware might incur some guilt!

Currently I am obsessed with the idea that random irregularity in the process of making, as well as combination with other crafting methods (e.g. applique, beading, embroidery, heat-process, felting, etc) could create unpredictable objects of beauty.

Let the experimentation begin!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Re-Thinking Re-Working Re-Evaluating

Sometimes you need someone to figuratively slap you on the back of the head to wake you from a haze of confusion, procrastination and distraction.

Someone to see everything for what it really is and what it should be (since your vision is compromised) and then cut through situational/circumstantial crap with mind-blowing advice, the wisdom of experience and the samurai blade of honesty.

That brain-slap hurts. The truth hurts, and attempting to deflect the tension with frivolity seems lame. And then you let the pain sink in, slowly soak the advice up (it's exactly like drinking coffee or soup that's scaldingly hot at first, but then later, after the initial pain you start to really taste it), and start thinking, planning, taking action.

Ambition is great, it creates drive and feeds motivation. But it also causes impatience for achievement and possibly leads to a sense of inflated ability/capability and a lack of perspective when it comes to the proverbial eggs in baskets.

Trying to hatch eggs spread out in too many baskets is not sustainable, and with the limited resources we have, it would be delusional to expect any success coming from all these different ventures. Haste makes Waste. We must stop, re-evaluate, focus.

We need to stop preaching and start doing, cease the theory-mongering and just get down to creating and working. Once again, that empty vessel named "Body of Work" cries out to be filled, and we must no longer ignore that call.

If you do not do/act, you waste away and die.
Knowledge to Application. Theory to Practice. Thoughts to Deeds.
And hopefully Vision to Fruition.

Watch out for what we do next, and you will see what all this means.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Does Fashion Need Copyright Protection?

May 27, 2010, 12:04 pm

Johanna Blakley, of the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, recently gave a TED talk on the “culture of copying” in fashion, and why this industry (in addition to those for some other creative works, like food preparation) has been able to thrive even without copyright protection.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spider-Goat, Spider-Goat, gotta milk the Spider-Goat...

Apparently, this research has been 10 years in the making...if you check the date in the BBC article.

Is there somehow more credibility if the R&D is made by an American university as compared to some private Canadian company? Can the information be packaged in a more 'fun and educational' way? Or is it good PR for the University?

Something in my mind is still grappling with this grumbling ball of uncertainty about this, but the goats in the video sure look happy...

Now, I wonder how I will decide if I am given a choice between this spider-goat-milk-protein silk and your typical/normal mulberry silkworm silk...but then again, the intended purpose of this spider-goat-milk-protein silk (lordy what a mouthful) was probably not to produce fabric for clothing, but it's an intriguing point of curiousity; how would such a fabric feel like against the skin?

If anyone out there has ever touched real milk-protein silk (which I believe is already in existence), please let me know how wonderful it was!

Now, back to singing "Spider-Goat" Homer Simpson-style...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Film to Watch: Handmade Nation

This is one documentary on my personal "Hunt-Down-Soon" list.
It is also somewhat related to this book, which is very region specific:

Our teacher Mick Peel's featured in there too...

I wonder when someone will do a similar doco here Down Under, and whether SG will ever get as crafty as I wish it would be...*sighs*

Overall, inspiring stuff...

Friday, April 30, 2010


Recently I discovered the joy of pompom making. Let’s just say I’m a little obsessed, having made over 60 in under a week. When I first started, I was using old wool from home. This supply quickly ran out, so I needed to find more wool. I did buy a few balls of acrylic wool from a local $2 shop but thought there must be something more sustainable out there. If you want to stick with wool, try your local op shop.

I have a lot of scrap fabric at home, left over from other projects. So I started putting this to good use. I simply tore this fabric into thin strips to replace the wool. The results are rather interesting. I was only working in white, but I can’t wait to try some colour combinations. There are some great online tutorials out there.

This shows a quick way of making pompoms:

This way takes a lot longer, but you don’t need to cut the pompom back and I think it produces a nicer result.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The V&A museum links up with ethical fashion

A great resource of ethical fashion articles, links and interviews from the London's V&A museum.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Arimatsu Shibori: 400 years of history!



Next holiday destination: Arimatsu, anyone?

Spirit of the Black Dress

A while back, Adel and I worked together to produce a black dress for The Spirit of the Black Dress competition. The focus of this was not only to create a dress, but do so in a sustainable manner - sustainability being the theme of this year's competition.

The following are photos of the final product, accompanied with explanations that formed part of our submission. While we weren't selected in the final 10, we did receive some encouraging feedback from the judges, and it was certainly a very worthwhile exercise to undertake!

This dress celebrates both drape and geometry. A collaborative effort between myself and Adel, the dress is a short shift constructed from crepe, and features structured elements derived from up-cycled garments: a diagonally realigned, functional button wrap forms part of the front bodice, and a collar draped over the shoulder creates a long, loose, “kimono-esque” sleeve. Inverted box pleats in the front bodice panels also give the garment form.

The dress was created from sustainably sourced materials, beginning life as a blouse and skirt set (featuring an outsized, ‘80s style blouse in black crepe, along with matching straight skirt), which were then up-cycled to create the final garment.

We were determined to use as much of the original garments as possible, eliminate the use of paper (the nature of up-cycling itself), and for the dress to have a strong emphasis on hand construction.

Amazing Shibori Video

anyone able to translate this?

it's saddening how these handcrafting skills are probably dying out; the experts are all in their 80s or 90s. Is there a new generation to take over?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

dyeing old garments

(Image from

We all have a few pieces of white clothing that we have stained, right? They are still perfectly wearable, apart from the horrendous stain down the front from the sloppy pasta dish a few nights before. Or in my case any meal that requires even the slightest coordination to get from the bowl to my mouth. So if you are like me (an uncoordinated slob when eating), I’m sure you have a few garments that you haven’t been able to remove a stain from.

Instead of throwing these garments away, give them a new life and aesthetic. Here is an example of two garments that I have done just that for. If you don’t like the ‘tie dye’ look, then there are many other looks you can go for… just give it a go.

All you need is a bucket, and dye material. In this case I used eucalyptus (yes, I’m obsessed) with iron filling as a mordant. This only worked because the tops are cotton. If you have a garment made from synthetic fibres that you want to dye then look into commercial synthetic dyes. I recommend gloves as my nails are now black. I left these tops in the dye bath for around a week. See the results for your self!!

Check out YouTube vids from Otis College!

I wonder if fashion schools around the world will all eventually churn out educational videos...when will you get on board RMIT? 

Digital media as a platform...will it be a great levelling ground, perhaps even a prestige-killer? Or is it the one-on-one clash and melding of personalities between tutor(s) and student(s) that which can never be replaced by a virtual teaching scheme?

Isabel & Ruben Toledo Speak with Rose Brantley at Otis

What an inspiring couple! Don't you wish you could meet a life-partner who's also your creative soulmate?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Natural dye colours

This is a great link if you want to work out the colours you can get from different plant dyes. It’s also shows what sort of plants can be used.


For those of you out there who want a better understanding of some of the issues involved in sustainable fashion, I would recommend taking a look at SUSTAINABLE FASHION & TEXTILES: DESIGN JOURNEYS, written by Kate Fletcher. It is well worth a read, and demonstrates the many complexities of trying to achieve something that is truly sustainable. I had the pleasure of being selected to speak at a master class with her last year at RMIT University; it was a great learning experience.

To find out more about her, check out her webpage or pick up a copy of her book at your local library.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ethics Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Author: Geoffry Gertz


"Reduce, Revalue, and Rethink" the 3 major themes that equal the exhibition's solution, builds on the established sustainable practices. Recycled, renewable, and organic fibers with the employment of fair labor have become integrated in fashion, with labels such as Loomstate, Alabama Chanin and John Patrick Organic. Ethics + Aesthetics is the first American exhibition to investigate the work of artists and designers exploring sustainable practices in the fashion system. Not only the ecological mantra, but the knowledge and emotional engagement toward clothing as the Slow Food Movement promotes a richer interaction.
"While the concepts of recycling and using organic materials are quite familiar in fashion, we are seeking to broaden the definition of what constitutes sustainable fashion by exploring ideas such as modularity, minimalism, and memory," explain the curators.
Read more here:

Posted using ShareThis

Also see varying perspectives on the same exhibition:

(The ecouterre site has more comprehensive links to the exhibiting fashion labels, artists and designers)

Perhaps someday we can have a similar exhibition in Oz!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hemp clothing and fabric supplier

Interested in hemp clothing or fabric?

Well you might want to check out Margaret River Hemp Company. I bought some hemp fabric from them last year and was rather impressed. They also sell hemp clothing for women and men and have a children’s line.

Here are a few facts from the Margaret River Hemp Company:
  • Hemp can be grown in most climates and is tolerant of a wide range of conditions including a high degree of salinity in the soil.
  • Hemp requires little or no use of fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides or herbicides to grow successfully.
  • Hemp can be used to make paper without the use of chlorines currently used in the wood pulp industry.
  • When compared with timber, hemp can produce up to 4½ times more paper per acre.
  • When planted as a "break" crop hemp outgrows all weeds and chokes them out leaving the field clean for the next year.
  • Hemp has a deep taproot, which penetrates the soil raising nutrients towards the surface and aerating the soil

You can find out more at

What are your thoughts on hemp as an alternative to the use of conventional cotton?

Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton: Superflat Monogram

Only because I love Takashi Murakami, not LV...This collaboration (or did LV buy Murakami entirely, perhaps?) raises questions on art's authenticity when used in the context of brand rejuvenation/promotion. Does this functional application of art on product add or subtract value from the art and the artist? How is the big brand affected?

Does adding art to the branding mix actually increase sustainability?

Consider that this combination of a great talent and a luxury MNC brand certainly bore fruit (and unimaginable profit)!!! Now so many MNC brands seek out artists to create limited edition/specialty products, from sportswear companies to drinks...truly redefines the concept of the starving artist, perhaps?

Perhaps for art to survive, there will be no such thing as "selling out" anymore, instead, being able to "collaborate" (one wonders about the contractual terms and legalities in this transaction) with a famous brand has become an ideal does this make the resultant (and arguably mass-produced) artwork more or less desirable/valuable?

Download designer patterns & make your own versions...Yohji, Margiela, McQueen and more

I totally regret missing out on the Design_Download Project/Competition run by SHOWstudio not-so-long ago (Did they run it over the course of 6 or 7 years?), and have managed to dig up a complete listing of links to the designer patterns available to download and customise. (And got completely lost in the behemoth that is the SHOWstudio website along the way, which was rather pleasurable.)

Now you can not only own something of the genius of the late McQueen, or the retired Margiela, or Junya, or Yohji, or Galliano, you can also make it your own... (Or you could simply download everything and have a mad pattern-mash-up party with your crazy pattern-making-loving friends)...How incredibly inspirational and great is this?

Thank you Jamie McLaren!
Excerpt from:
Author: Jamie McLaren

Choose from 7 SHOWstudio design_downloads

Designer: Yohji Yamamoto

Pattern: Jacket


Renowned for the simple appearance of his designs, coupled with the sophistication of their construction, Yohji Yamamoto has accrued numerous awards over his distinguished 40-year career. This jacket was the first to feature in SHOWstudio’s design_download project, and the basic block can be added to and re-worked to produce an incredible variety of final garments.

Designer: John Galliano

Pattern: Pirate Jacket (Autumn/Winter 2001)


John Galliano's jacket appeared in his Autumn/Winter 2001 Pirates collection. Within that context, Galliano’s creation referenced historical heroines such as pirate Ann Bonney and Marriane, Delacroix's draped allegorical figure in the painting, 'Liberty Leading the People'. The garment also spoke of the re-cyclical nature of rebel clothing, a constant theme within Galliano’s work since his graduate collection in 1983. Deceptively unconstructed, the jacket appears to be held together by sail rivets, buckles and ties. Galliano’s offering is in fact a complicated garment, and exists as a multifaceted and symbolic piece of corsetry and skilled tailoring.

Designer: Maison Martin Margiela

Pattern: ‘Unfinished Pattern’


Maison Martin Margiela contributed an ‘unfinished pattern’ to the SHOWstudio design_download series. The partially completed simple shift dress plays on ideas of deconstruction, a constant feature of the label since its beginnings in 1988. The ‘unfinished pattern’ is a witty take on the idea of garment patterns – questioning at what point in the design process does a dress actually become a dress.

Designer: Alexander McQueen

Pattern: Kimono Jacket (Autumn/Winter 2003)


Alexander McQueen allowed SHOWstudio viewers to examine this pattern for his kimono-inspired jacket from the Autumn/Winter 2003 collection. The brutally sharp tailoring, for which this label is synonymous, is seen in the jacket’s strong linear construction and carefully layered fabric sections. A collision of Western Victoriana and Eastern traditional dress, this work, like so much of McQueen’s work, references historical detailing, whilst remaining quintessentially modern.

Designer: Antony Price

Pattern: The Macaw Dress (Spring/Summer 1989)


Selected from Antony Price's Spring/Summer 1989 collection and dubbed 'The Macaw' by its creator, due to the shard-like taffeta tail-feathers with which the dress is adorned. Price’s designs are glamorous, dramatic and provocative with a focus on eveningwear and theatrical spectacle.

Designer: Junya Watanabe

Pattern: Dress (Autumn/Winter 2005)


Junya Watanabe is renowned for his avant-garde style, in particular, his exploration of new cutting concepts, his ingenious sourcing of fabrics and innovative draping techniques. Watanabe’s submission, a dress from his Autumn/Winter 2005 collection, played with ideas of Edwardian elegance, minimalist restraint, and 1950s form. This is seen in the woven plaid circle skirt which creates a strong contrast to the tight fitting bodice in red vinyl, showing the designer interpreting a Punk aesthetic. SHOWstudio viewers played with these notions, producing garments that, at one end conveyed gothic-fairytale glam, and at the other, showcased the dress in sweet ‘50s polka dot, both far cries from the Japanese designer’s famous ‘heavy-duty couture’.

Designer: Gareth Pugh

Pattern: Balloon


Rather than submitting a traditional garment pattern to the design_download series, Gareth Pugh chose to contribute a pattern for a balloon which he had previously created. The bold, red and white striped beach-ball fabric balloons are, like much of Pugh’s designs, inspired by shape, proportion and process. There have been various interpretations submitted by SHOWstudio viewers including a giant pin-cushions, lace balloons, and even in a few select instances, items to wear.