Designing a fashion collection using post-consumer garments is anything but conventional...

In our line of fashion we’re not working with flat layers of fabric off the roll. Just like their wearers, these garments have curves and lines, symmetry and complexity, and occasionally, some stories to tell about the life they have lived to date. There are many intricate parts involved in reinventing these garments (think Madonna and you’re getting pretty close).

...which is why I leapt at the chance to defy the norm.

I love ‘found’ objects and non-traditional methods. After Space Between founder Jennifer Whitty presented her research to my fourth year textiles class, I knew I wanted to be involved in finding solutions to post-consumer clothing and textile waste. With my design degree freshly under my belt, I swapped my graduation cap for my block printing apron to embark on a postgraduate scholarship as a research assistant.

Developing a way to obscure an embroidered logo was critical to the Fundamentals collection.

One of the conditions of use for the NZ Post Kiwibank uniforms was that we cover up or remove the logos to ensure their brand was not compromised (ie someone could impersonate a bank teller. This would not be ideal).

The initial direction was to develop a block stamp in a cross shape that would be simple and efficient to print onto the surface of the garment or sewn into place to cover the logo. This meant:

  • Research, development, and testing each iteration of the stamp
  • Working with a range of water-soluble fabric inks and application methods for block printing, and
  • Covering as well as cutting out the logo to see what would work best.

What we ended up with was not a logo cover, but a stitched cross on the same fabric type for each garment, removing the embroidered logo entirely. What started out as a solution to a design problem has become a signature feature in the Fundamentals collection.

The care and size labelling for garments is a key component of clothing manufacture.

As I came to learn, care and size labelling is a legal requirement for all manufactured clothing under the Fair Trading Act 1986. The requirements for secondhand or upcycled clothing are not as restrictive, but we wanted to have our own labelling on each garment.  We came up with some clever and quirky ways to add to the existing care labels so we didn’t create additional waste. The block printing methods we had tested for the logo cover lead us to designing rubber stamps that could be used with fabric inks on the existing care labels as well as stamped straight onto the interior of the garments for the size labelling.

The result was a set of stamps and a sewn cross that would be easily applied to every garment; reducing waste and making our mark.

It was important for us to incorporate our values and personality into these designs and the labelling was another way we could do that. The stamps include the Space Between logo and the launch date of the Fundamentals collection, 24 April 2015; this was to coincide with the anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013.

True to our vision, the garments are produced in a small run, not mass-manufactured. We landed on a dual purpose circular stamp so that our wearers would know which garment in the collection they are wearing as well as the size. We also made a ‘designed by’ stamp to show full transparency of the design process, and a ‘Remade in NZ’ stamp to add next to the original place of origin label.

For care labelling, it wouldn’t be Team Between without a dash of good humour thrown into the mix. We decided that the care labelling should include instructions for best and worst results! We placed the stamp on the back of the existing labels so that the instructions included caring for the garment in terms of washing, wearing it with pride, and a subtle nod to its journey into the wearer’s wardrobe.

There are many things we do at Space Between that go against the grain of ‘traditional’ clothing manufacture. Refining the logo cover and labelling systems ignited my interest in tackling the large and small complexities around clothing waste and working with pre-made garments. Focussing on such a specific aspect of clothing made me look at the whole fashion system in a new light. You might be surprised to know how much thought is put into care labelling - have you checked the labels on what you’re wearing now? If you want to know more, check out our fashion lab page, follow us on social, or drop us an email. We’d love to hear from you!


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