To become more sustainable, Winsome Goods founder Kathryn Sieve (B.S. ’11, Apparel Design) knew she had to find a way to incorporate the leftover fabric scraps from her products into usable items. After discussing the problem with instructor Lindsey Strange (Apparel Design) it became clear that it was the perfect research project for students to tackle in the Apparel Studio I.
Dividing the class into small teams, Strange asked the students to design potential uses for Winsome Goods’ production scraps. “The students’ designs had to fit within the Winsome brand and had to be repeatable, scale-able, and able to be produced profitably in Winsome’s studio,” explained Strange. “Experiencing these constraints in a hands-on project gave them a better understanding of the complexity of the issue of pre-consumer textile waste and appreciation for work still to be done,” she continued.
Each team received a bag of textile scrap from Winsome Goods and were told to first and foremost experiment and use the material as inspiration. Anne Holmes and Kai Johnson (both Apparel Design) were two of the students tasked with finding a way to reuse the excess material. “We began by researching the brand itself, as our designs needed to fit into its identity and business model,” explained Holmes. “We went on a tour of the Winsome Goods store, where everything is designed and manufactured, and got to hear from Kathryn about her design process and philosophy.”
The teams then started experimenting with new ways to reuse the cut-away scraps. “We wanted to focus on transforming the scraps into a new material rather than simply attaching them to an existing product or quilting them together,” said Johnson. “We also wanted to make sure the method we proposed wouldn’t require the materials to be re-dyed and would be cohesive with the aesthetic of Winsome’s products.” What the two came up with was a process of cutting the leftover textiles into small strips, adhering them to a water-soluble backing, and stitching through the entirety before dissolving the backing to create a new textile.
Thrilled with the new process, Sieve decided to implement the students’ technique on a larger scale. Winsome Goods now uses it to create the welcome mats and area rugs that are the staple items of the new Winsome ZERO collection. “Because of this technique and the new collection it helped launch, Winsome Goods can officially say we have a zero-waste fabric system. Each rug saves up to 14 lbs of textile waste from landfills,” said Sieve.
For their part, the students discovered the challenge that surrounds many design problems, and how to work with strict perimeters. “This process has definitely helped me realize the importance of research and collaboration during the design process,” said Holmes. “I think a lot of people get into the design fields because they have a strong personal vision or aesthetic but realistically you have to be adaptable and focus on the criteria and the constraints of the brand or customer you’re designing for,” she concluded.