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Sustainable Fabric Design: Surprising ways brands are using patterns to lower their impact.

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Words by Lyndsay, Creative Lead and Senior Designer.

Yup, we used the buzzword: sustainable. Talking about sustainability when you work in the world of commercial fashion is nerve-wracking. Cancel culture is real, and even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to say the wrong thing. But it’s an important conversation to have, and taking part doesn’t mean that we’re pretending to be perfect in our own journey. It does mean that we are engaged and listening though, and are working towards doing what we can to impact change.

It’s no secret that the fashion industry needs to do better in the intersectional fight against climate change and towards ethical employment. But let’s face it: this industry exists. It visually uplifts our daily lives and employs over 75 million people worldwide - including all of us in the studio!

So how do we move forward? We think educating ourselves and being part of the conversation is an important step, and the emerging generation of designers do too.

Our lovely intern and Print School student Bec Oakes says, “Sustainability is a value that runs through my personal life and my design work. It's about considering the impact of each of the materials you use, only buying and using what you need, and being responsible about disposal. As one individual designer, my impact is small so I work with brands that align with my values, who care about their environmental impact and operate sustainably.”

With all of this in mind, we’re exploring how brands and designers are using pattern within their products to consider sustainability (and hopefully inspire you to think about this too.)

1. Print Matching

We’re sure you’ve already seen this one all over Instagram but print-matching is more than just a trend. It’s a clever and sustainable way of reducing fabric and production waste with a fun aesthetic. KidSuper’s #twinning sets take it one step further and use offcuts for appliqué artworks.

This technique can be used across the board for many different gender-inclusive prints and product types. Want to wear matching prints with your partner, kids, and dog? This is the trend for you! Go bold and joyful like at Stine Goya or pair it back with a classic check.

WGSN says "#printmatching and #matchingsets are picking up pace across the streets and catwalks. After seasons of plain basics, consumers want to inject energy and vibrancy back into their wardrobe, perfect for head-to-toe print.”

2. Wear Your Values

Another print-based trend that incites curiosity around sustainable, ethical fashion is literally wearing your values on your sleeve. Renown for her honest values and use of sustainable fabrics, Stella McCartney mixes printed graphics with other of-the-moment trends like tie-dye to get her message across.

London-based brand Gung-Ho showcases their sustainable values by picking an issue that needs attention (such as climate change or plastic in our oceans) and designing prints around it with the aim of their garments being wearable conversation starters. Plus a portion of all of their sales goes to charitable causes to further offset their environmental impact.