seeking & creating : researching & discovering : applying & practicing

sustainability in design = changing mindsets + deeds

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.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Under the Gum Trees

Last year I tried to explore solar dyeing, with limited success. I really liked the results however they were not at all what I expected. This year I want to go back and explore the use of solar dyeing further and be able to achieve prints rather than a consistent colour across fabric. These photos are from my 2010 collection entitled "Under the Gum Trees". The collection features fabrics that have been solar dyed for up to 9 weeks with eucalyptus.

For those of you unfamiliar with solar dyeing I will do my best to explain it. Essentially it involves using the heat of the sun to transfer dye from natural materials (in this case eucalyptus) from the material to cloth.

This means you don't have to spend endless hours and energy boiling material and can use the sun to do all your hard work. However you need time and patience. Solar dying takes many weeks and is a slow process.

I used silk fabric, bundled it with gum leaves (of many varieties, gathered from fallen branches), and put the fabric in large glass jars with a small amount of water. The jars then must be sealed to prevent air from allowing bacteria to grow. These jars are then left for at least 6 weeks in the sun.

See my results for yourself!! I will upload more of my work from last year showing the process soon.
Model:Sarah Ranken
Photographer: Jessica Maybus


For the last year I have been exploring the use of natural dyes. What have I learnt so far on this journey you may ask... I would have to say the answer would be that nothing is predictable. One dye bath produces one result while a similar dye bath produces something totally different. I will be using this blog to document my discoveries and hopefully convince a few of you out there to give natural dyes a go. Dying your own clothes can be really fun especially when you pull your garment/fabric out of a dye bath and see the final results.

Inspirational people & places: Julia Faye, Marty Dillon, we're not-so-secretly admiring you

We follow this great blog by London College of Fashion (LCoF) MA candidate Julia Faye (her links and research are pretty darn good to click-through on too). Gushing here, but her work is really directive and visionary, yet her approach is so relatable and down-to-earth.

At our meeting with Marty we had a discussion on how it seems lots of initiative within the sustainability movement is stemming from the UK, notably the Ethical Fashion Forum and LCof's Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which organises some really cool competitions as well...who wouldn't be excited about Fashioning the Future? (RMIT kids take note!)

We have realised that currently the concept "sustainability in fashion business practice" is a complex mix (or, as the inner cynic grunts: "a huge-ass can of worms") of multiple elements, including
  • socio-economic development, (we need to stand back and look at the big picture, post-recession)
  • supply chain management, 
  • logistics (and the resulting carbon footprint), 
  • labour (and ethically sourced manufacturing service providers), 
  • materials and fabrication (we had some heated discussion on bamboo and the greenwashing it has undergone despite it being hyped up rayon), 
  • marketing (how do you tell if it's greenwashing or not?), and of course, 
  • how altered design can lead to better waste management and longer product life cycle. 
And of course, sometimes the inner cynics manifested themselves in questioning whether people are even interested in changing their lifestyles, mindsets and perspectives for positive change...

Does it cost too much? Is it too much trouble? Do people even care?

The Restructors are petting this elephant in the room and wrestling these issues intellectually and hope to find resolution through this and related projects...In the meantime, spread the word and join us! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Currently reading: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

I think this book gives a whole new perspective on the perception and management of Intellectual Property; also gives great insight into ideas on co-creation in communities of active consumers. Got to get me the new edition! (Hint, hint, friends!)

“Project Runway” Alum Leanne Marshall Unveils Eco-Chic Spring ‘10 Line

Author: Jill Fehrenbacher, 03/23/10
From Ecouterre:

Leanne Marshall, Spring/Summer 2010, Leanimal, Project Runway, 
eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, 
organic fashion, organic clothing, eco-clothing

We’ve been enamored with eco-fashion visionary Leanne Marshall since she debuted on Project Runway back in 2008. (Marshall, of course, went on to win the season’s grand prize with her highly original sculptural designs.) So imagine our excitement when we caught wind of her sustainable Spring/Summer 2010 collection, “Basic Math.” In true “Leanimal” style, Marshall’s latest collection features fun, flirty garments (in organic cotton, silk, and hemp) that she embellished with accordion-style pleating and multidimensional origami folds.
Leanne Marshall, Spring/Summer 2010, Leanimal, Project Runway, 
eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, 
organic fashion, organic clothing, eco-clothing


“Basic Math” is not only mathematically inspired, but it’s also based on a Whitelabel’s font of the same name. The architectural shaping of the garments more than echo the font’s typography—Marshall cut out the letters in fabric, then folded, pleated, and manipulated them to create her unconventional silhouettes.

“Basic Math,” inspired by Whitelabel’s font of the same name, echoes its typography.

Only four or five designs from “Basic Math” will be produced as ready-to-wear on April 25. The other pieces will be available for custom orders from Marshall’s Etsy store. (She’ll make them herself!) Prices will range from $140 to $525.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

10 Ways Crafting Reduces Stress



In today’s bustling world, taking the time for deliberate relaxation has become a modern day necessity.  Between work, family life, and other responsibilities, the average person spends his day going from difficult situation to even more difficult situation. Crafting provides a great way to break out from this routine and de-stress for a little while.
Here are 10 reasons crafting is good for your mental health:

1. Crafting focuses our minds on a productive activity.

2. Crafting allows our stressful energy to be released through our hands in creative ways.

3. Crafting provides an outlet for creative problem solving, which creates the  flexibility that is an essential element of stress reduction

4. Crafting, like any focused activity, creates a mild trance state which is highly conducive to relaxation and letting go of stress.

5. Crafting gives us time in our busy lives in which we can reconnect with ourselves.

6. Crafting is fun; and fun things reduce stress.

7. Crafting creates a time in which we are free from worries (about time, money, relationships, and the many other things we tend to worry about).

8. Crafting keeps us productive and when we’re productive we stress less.

9. Crafting is a great get-a-way without having to go anywhere.

10. Crafting is something we can do for ourselves (a self-care activity), and doing for ourselves (self-care activities) reduces stress.

So, the next time the stress becomes overwhelming, consider skipping the beer and chocolate, and reaching for the knitting instead!

Ben Klempner, LMSW, founder and  editor of Effective Family Communication,  is a trained social worker. Please visit  his blog at:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stylish DIYs: Lingerie, ’40s Scarf Tying Tips, and More « Off the Rack: Fashion Style

Posted using ShareThis

-Craftstew has a round-up of over 70 free lingerie patterns, including bras, camisoles, skivvies, and slips.  If you’re into the whole innerwear as outerwear thing (a la Ms. Susie Bubble of late), you could craft your your own custom (and incredible) bra tops and corsets! (via whip up)

-Love scarves but have run out of ideas on how to style them?  Take a cue from the past and check out these super inspiring scarf [tying] tricks from 1944, via Casey’s Elegant Musings.  The gigantic bow-tied scarf shown on the second page is incredibly dramatic and, really, so very now…

-Oversized necklaces and neckpieces made of yarn seem to be having a big moment right now, no?  Bleubird Vintage offers up the details on how to craft your own Pom Pom Necklace…and even offers up a plethora of styling suggestions/ways to wear it once you’re done.  Sweet!

-Like to sew your own dresses?  I just heard that indie sweetheart designer Wendy Mullin has a new book out, Built By Wendy Dresses. According to the cover, it’s got patterns for making over 25 frocks inside…so many possibilities!
image via:

Make Glass Beads From Broken Bottles

woohoo constructively playin' with fire!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Julian Roberts: Subtraction Cutting

Absolutely amazing stuff!!! 

Julian Roberts is the inventor of a garment pattern cutting method called 'Subtraction Cutting', which he demonstrates live in front of large audiences in many different countries, teaching people of all ages and levels of expertise how to construct creative clothing.

‘Subtraction Cutting’ is an approach to garment pattern making that incorporates chance discovery, distance, gods-eye views, and the ability to cut fast & inaccurately without too much reference to numbers, fractions or mathematics.

Pattern cutting and design are physical activities, they extend from the hand and eye, from rotations of the wrist, elbow & shoulder, but they also flow from the mind and its perception of spatial awareness, from the psychological processes of transferring ideas & concepts into 2 Dimentional patterns, which then construct in 3D.

The basic premise of Subtraction Cutting is that the patterns cut do not represent the garments outward shape, but rather the negative spaces within the garment that make them hollow. Simply put, shaped holes cut from huge sheets of cloth through which the body moves.

Subtraction Cutting is DESIGNING WITH PATTERNS, rather than creating patterns for designs.

When you explore new techniques and methods of making, you deal with chance, luck & hope.

Sometimes you completely mess up; sometimes the mistakes are really much better than what you were hoping for; and sometimes you discover something about cloth you didn’t realize was possible.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to Live a Creative Life and Succeed

Author: Chris Collins


Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.

Stop complaining. Don’t complain about your life, your art, or anybody else. The most impressive people I have ever met are the most self-assured and accepting people.
“I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”Wash, Serenity
The less you complain about circumstances and people, the less people will complain about you. If you are an artist (of any kind) you know how much criticism can hurt. React to this by simply not participating in it. People tell me I sucks all the time! For a while I tried to argue back, but it never made me feel good. You will find that by letting go, you feel great (and other people will see you as great).
“I will speak ill of no man… and speak all the good I know of everybody.”Benjamin Franklin


Become genuinely interested in other people.

“Every man is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”R. W. Emerson
Everywhere I go, I talk to people. I try and learn from them. I genuinely care about what they have to say and what they do. Don’t run around trying to be the best (and therefore thinking you are the best). Next time you need inspiration, go out and find someone who makes you say wow! You have so much to gain from other people. Start appreciating them. Better yet, go tell them how much you appreciate them.
Disclaimer: The word “genuine” is of utmost importance here. If you approach someone with selfish intentions they will see right through you.


Give honest and sincere appreciation.

Who inspires you? Go tell them! I have achieved to much through appreciating other people. When I started the Nonsense Society, I wanted to bring all the creative people I knew together. I loved their creativity so much! I wanted to do whatever I could to promote them. After I did that, I began to write to everyone else I admired. They ALL gave me a response. Every single one. I wrote to band managers. I wrote to incredible artists. I wrote to famous people asking for advice. They ALL gave me whatever I wanted. You want to know why they gave me what I wanted? I appreciated them. Now incredible people find me, and I don’t have to ask anymore.
“For example, many years ago a boy of ten was working in a factory in Naples. He longed to be a singer but his first teacher discouraged him. ‘You can’t sing,’ he said, ‘You haven’t any voice at all. It sounds like the wind in the shutters.’ But his mother, a poor peasant woman, put her arms about him and praised him and told him she knew he could sing, she could already see an improvement, and she went barefoot in order to save money to pay for his music lessons. that peasant mother’s praise and encouragement changed that boy’s life. His name was Enrico Caruso, and he became the greatest and most famous opera singer of his age.” (Carnegie, p.228)


Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately

When I read this chapter title in How to Win Friends & Influence People, I immediately felt invigorated. Just thinking about saying “yes, yes” gets me all worked up. I’ve met so many creative people who inspire me with their ideas. When you meet someone interesting. Think about what makes them interesting. What are they passionate about? When you figure that out, talk to them about it. Find a similar interest and go nuts. This person will respect you, get involved in your projects, and help you in whatever way they can. I’ve had people give me more than I could have ever dreamed of. I didn’t even have to ask. How? I found a connection between their passion and mine.


Let the other person do a great deal of the talking

I don’t understand people who talk constantly. I rarely argue or debate. Why do you need to know my opinion? Does it make you like me more? Does it help me learn anything? Not really.
Rather than blabbing on and on about how great my latest film is, I’d rather hear what you have to say. I already know why I made the choices I made. I’d much rather hear about what you would have done. I’d much rather hear about what you think about film as an art form. You can learn so much from listening.
I tell people all the time, “Shut up and let everyone else talk.” People like to talk. I challenge you to stop being a good talker and start being a good listener. It will do wonders for you! The more I get people talking, the more they like me! It works every time. Talk less. Constantly ask questions. You will notice people calling you a “good conversationalist” and just smile.