There's a new trend in eco-fashion design called zero waste. Basically it entails cutting designs so that less scraps are produced. This is a big issue for fashion lines which create fashion using large manufacturers. New designers are being taught to create using this idea to utilize fabric more effectively to help the environment. Textile waste is a big environmental concern.
Cutting this way comes naturally to me, since I've always created for maximum utilization. When I first started and each piece of fabric was so expensive, I cut this way to get the most of my fabric. (This isn't so long ago in my case.) Also, if one reads old sewing texts, this technique was merely wise use of resources. Factory cutting techniques are different - ease in cutting and speed are the main concerns, leading to greater waste fabric. This is because factories cut patterns that will be used to 'punch out' many pieces through multiple layers of fabric.
The main difference between my method and that of a factory is that I actually start out with the idea of utilizing scrap and reclaimed fabrics in each design and work this into the mix from the beginning. I still utilize the old fashioned method of scissors to cut a single or doubled layer with my designs. I also lay out each design to best utilize the fabric, like a jigsaw puzzle in cloth. That said, even the best layout can have a bit of waste, since pieces need to be cut 'on the grain' to hang properly. Bias cut designs particularly lend themselves to wasted fabric. They hang wonderfully though and are worth it. I make bias cut designs and use up all the scraps that result on other garments.
Some of my strategies to utilize fabric waste include cutting wisely for each design, using scraps for bits of other designs, like a facing or sleeve, etc. and making every scrap count. I have a huge pile of scraps on my table that I use in each design for trim and decorative purposes. I love the rough cut, frayed look of fabric scraps and love mixing bits and pieces in different fabrics and colors into a rosette, peplum, frill or part of a train. I don't just do this to save scraps from being wasted, but because I love the feel of worn and crumpled fabrics in designs. I love the 'undone' look and use it often in my designs.
It's an extremely rare instance when I actually throw away a scrap of fabric, and usually the tiniest bits make it into my pieces. I do throw away fabric that I am not able to remove smells from, such as a musty smell or other odor. Fabrics with bits of discoloration are used for scraps with the discolored areas cut out and thrown away.
I also use reclaimed fabrics in my designs as much as possible. I gather these from a multitude of sources using vintage linens and fashion, laces and trim along with new fabric remnants, bits from lightly worn clothing and textiles and factory waste or scraps. I seldom create with used wedding dresses as raw materials, since I like to save those for young brides seeking an inexpensive gown.
So how do I recommend being an eco-chic designer ? It's summed up in a few words - "Be mindful".
As you create, be mindful of fabric sources, waste, the wise utilization of resources. Use reclaimed and ethically sourced whenever possible and make the most of fabric that is already created.