fiona clements señorita awesome cutting fabric zero waste fashion

Fiona Clements. Pakeha, Kai Tahu, Clan Gordon, Craftivist, Zero Waste Textile Practitioner. I grew up in Waitati, Dunedin, I spent my childhood roaming in nature and playing with crafts. My Grandmother was a tailoress and I enjoyed many hours with her and my Mum learning and sewing together. I am connected closely with nature and am very environmentally minded, my beliefs are reflected in my textile innovations. I graduated from the Otago Polytechnic with a Bachelor of Design (Fashion) with merit in 2011. My Graduate collection ‘Chimerical Conundra’ was made entirely from manufacturers offcuts.  I was 1 of 5 from my class of 26 selected to show at iD Dunedin Fashion Week in 2012. This was the launch I needed to believe the concept of zero waste fashion could compete in the current fast fashion system.

Zero waste sets a new benchmark of thinking outside the square.  What inspired you to come up with this approach and when it comes to fashion how easy was it, really?

It was through my studies at Otago Polytech that I first became aware of how wasteful the industry really was. Seeing that first hand in my classroom then searching for more knowledge and looking at a global scale was overwhelming. “It’s estimated that we make 400 billion m2 of textiles annually, 60 billion m2 is cutting room floor waste” – Fashion Revolution. I first discovered through reading Timo Rissanen’s paper ‘15% to 0: Investigating the creation of fashion without the creation of fabric waste’, where I learned that around 15% of fabric is left on the cutting room floor.  I have since discovered it is more like 8 – 30% depending on the cut. In Aotearoa, we have 100 million kilos of textiles every year that go to landfill.  It’s far too much when 95% of textiles can be recycled.

Creating a zero waste mindset is really a big puzzle that I find quite intriguing to try and solve. The idea has been there historically but we have stepped away from it as we choose to look fabulous, but actually, the shame of being that size 0 with a perfect life has done more harm than good to our global society. I wouldn’t say it’s easy I would say it takes a certain mind frame to work this way.

It all depends on what you’re doing whether it’s creating from scraps to using large ends of rolls. Do you need to use zero waste patternmaking or are you recreating fabric to then cut from again, or do you prefer no waste and drape on the mannequin to make unique pieces? There are many different options when it comes to zero waste throughout the design and manufacturing process, where you start is up to you!

Reading the ‘about’ page on your website and your comment ‘Senorita AweSUMO is my response to workplace-related harm’. Can you elaborate and let us know what this means to you?

It means a space where the worker is respected and given all rights to work in a safe environment. We all deserve this right and as someone who has experienced this as part of my working journey, it was a catalyst for bigger things.  A place of growth for myself, where I gave myself permission to stand up and say this is not ok with me! We deserve better as your employees, your actions are unacceptable!!

It went further than that for me as I was experiencing a high rate of migraines and illness.  This I believe was related to the solvents and other chemicals I was using daily as cleaners and printing inks  during my work for 5 years. I have never been able to prove it but as the person who lives in this body I felt it! It was a happy day to be out of that building and onto the next journey! Nine years later I am feeling great. I still find myself in that pain space at times and it is never a fun realm to venture into, Headachia, no thank you, I didn’t sign up for that!!

This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in workers rights and that the human rights abuses, that happen daily in the fashion system are unacceptable behaviour that needs to change. For the past 8 months, I have finally been able to work on my business and grow it to a space where it needs to be. I am now looking to support local manufacturers and out workers. Only after a journey of self-realisation and growth has this been possible. I have had many challenges with my health and mental wellness to being homeless, feeling depressed and suffering from anxiety. But through meditation, love self-talk, yoga, and wellness practices I maintain this body in a space that can give and receive.

We all look to be inspired when it comes to our passion, who/where does your inspiration come from?

Nature and the environment surrounding me. The environment is my biggest love and that is why I work to enlighten others about how this industry really works and to give an alternative that is AweSUMO!!! I am very close to the earth’s vibration so I feel it speaking its truths when I walk upon its crust.  That experience is a taonga to me and my role is to kaitiakitanga te Papatuanuku.

Stella Cooper, Aart Model Management  Stella Cooper, Aart Model Management Stella Cooper, Aart Model Management

Being one of the Founders of Just Atelier Trust, can you tell us more about this initiative and where the idea came from, including what you get up to?

Just Atelier Trust is all about zero waste life in design.  There are two of us named Fiona who started this trust.  We saw a need in the community to deal with our textiles from a more love-based ideal. At present they are a commodity to be bought and sold at will.  We want humans to treasure their clothing to treat them as good friends. Better care and stewardship will lead to fewer textiles to landfill. Which our city currently has 4000 tonnes per year ending up here.

We help our community engage with their textiles through practical workshops. Our Sew Good series has us making beeswax wraps, cloth pads, and tote bags. During school terms, we run a Capsule Creation evening course with items being made ranging from basic T’s, Skirts, Trousers, and Jackets. We hold a monthly mending session where we give our knowledge and time to help care for our communities textiles. We hold a small space in the heritage precinct in Dunedin for our community outreach and workshops. Over the past few years, we have got involved by doing community pop-ups such as fashion shows during the Vogel St Party and UNSTITCHED: Local Fashion Revolution pop-up in the heart of our city through Urban Dream Brokerage. We are currently leading a community-led project ’Bags for Good’ to create a reusable bag library trial alongside the Dunedin Curtain bank.

How do you think we as a community can raise greater awareness of our impact when it comes to clothing choices?

Have fun with your textiles, take ownership of them, treat them like your best friends. They are the ones that are right next to your skin every day, holding you tight, keeping you warm. Share stories about your favourite clothes, help each other learn new things, encourage craft and reuse, try something new. Ask your retailers who made your clothes? Get involved with Start your own chapter, have a clothes swap, thrift shop hop or mending session.  Enjoy a cup of tea, breathe, relax, craft, care and love.

Why do you think living consciously is so important now?

Because humans have done enough damage to the earth.  We are at a crisis point where we need to be super conscious to counteract that problem so we can lessen our future impact and start the regeneration process of Papatuanuku.

Favourite quote?

“I will do something today that my future self will thank me for”.

fiona clements zero waste textile practitioner
Fiona Clements


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Profile & Photo credit: Stella Cooper, Aart Model Management

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