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Zero Waste Design

By Fiona Clements


I've been designing zero waste clothing and accessories since 2011, I am now starting to expand on those concepts within that design methodology to create a more circular system in our local economy. This framework can be applied to any design system, not just clothing.


Designing zero waste systems means asking questions of current operations, auditing and redesigning where needed to innovate more sustainable solutions. To create this new system flow we have to understand what is currently happening in the local system, finding the gaps and redesigning to enable efficiency and wellbeing for all. In our current system we think about gathering resources, processing them, having ideas for their reuse, but we want to get to a place of designing our way out of that take, make, waste system all together.


Currently we can and need to do more of repairing our stuff, but access to infrastructure for this is limited, we can also adapt already made patterns and use wasted resources to recreate new products - ie manufacturers offcuts or waste, this is relevant for industries from construction to fashion. When companies redevelop and upgrade their uniforms or properties they can create resources that others can use including construction, shop fit outs, end of roll, dead stock, excess purchases, 2nd hand stock, this can be passed onto community members for upcycling and retrofitting into other spaces.


But we really want to be thinking further ahead than that. yes we need to figure out what to do with this stuff that's ready here but not just for one more use then landfill, this approach works for educational purposes, but the longevity of the product is still single use.


Redesigning products using zero waste and circular principals from the outset creates a regenerative approach, products are easy to break down or pull apart for reuse or repair, longevity in mind, or naturally biodegradable and not chemically processed. Papatūānuku is honoured and appreciated. But the big question remains what do we do with that stuff now instead of filling Papatūānuku to the brim? Is that one reuse enough?

fiona headshot 2016.jpg

Fiona Clements


Pakeha, Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha, Clan Gordon, Activist, Zero waste Textile Practitioner - Senorita AweSUMO, Kaiwhakahaere - Res.Awesome Ltd, Founder & Chair of Just Atelier Trust - Stitch Kitchen - 2015, Chair of Sustainable Dunedin City - 2018. Fashion Revolution NZ Advisory Committee.


I grew up in Waitati, Ōtepoti. Connected closely with nature and environmentally minded, my passion for resource recovery came from witnessing the amount of waste created in commercial fashion production. I believe that designers can serve their community by providing solutions to problems. I saw this as an opportunity to create unique garments and educate the community by providing local solutions to a global problem.

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