I remember the moment when I felt I didn't want to be a fashion designer any longer. After 6 years of formal fashion education in Moscow, Russia, and almost 2 years of Master's programme in Fashion and Clothing design in Helsinki, Finland, I went to New York to present a collection of textile prints at a large textile fair.
Why was it important to you to offer a sustainable, responsible, Eco fashion line and how do you incorporate ideals such a Zero Waste into your work?
It took me over two years to recover and find my own way of being a designer and artist working within the fashion industry. I went back to my previous practice-based research in zero waste pattern cutting and took a closer look into the field of emotional attachment in design. I figured out that I can't stop designing, as it is in my nature, therefore I need to find the better practises of doing it. That's when I jumped into sustainable approaches in fashion.
At the same time, doing research in waste percentage in fashion production I realized the scale of this problem and its invisibility to the majority, not only consumers but designers as well. That's when the idea of Painting waste project occurred. I kept thinking about these cutoffs/ fabric leftovers/ waste that every non-zero waste designer / company has. I understand that as one individual I cannot solve this problem, but as an artist I can bring attention to it, so we can all together think of the solution and the concept of this waste.
Nowadays, it is widely known (I hope) that modern clothing industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. And as said previously there are different levels of waste streams such as pre-consumer and post-consumer. In Painting waste project, I mostly work with pre-consumer, industry waste. Upcycling (=making a product of higher value) this textile waste into art is one of the solutions to bring the value back to the discarded textiles. At the same time it is the way to question our practises of wasting resources and labor involved in textile production.
And as someone from the fashion industry I want to point that now is the time we consider the waste we create daily as a resource for our future creations, it's more than enough of it.
In my painting waste project, I find inspiration in collaboration. As I work with other designers or fashion brands to get the waste fabric, there is always a starting point that's coming from outside. I get the resource to create with from other people-designers. Every time I get fabric scraps, there is always a story behind it, another designer's inspiration and creative process. I start there and add my input to it. I try to connect us both in the new painting and give it a new third life.
Please share a bit about your brand - client, materials, type of clothing you offer, where it's sold, collections or made to order?
As the project is fairly new, I don't have established practice of how I work with fashion brands or how is it sold. I explore the possibilities at this point. So far, I approached designers and brands myself suggesting to send/give me the waste from the cutting stage. After collecting it, I'd make a painting keeping the rights to it. But I'm open to new unexpected proposals to collaborate to come from the other side as well. How do I sell? Through Instagram and exhibitions. One exhibition is running right now at El Kartel in Vancouver where new works are presented to the public and are available for purchase. I work with commissions as well.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an sustainable designer?
The realization that I'm a tiny part of the huge industry that is very slow to change in every level.
How do you help customers understand the higher cost of sustainable garments when they are so inundated with sweatshop-produced cheap merchandise?
In my case, the question is how do I help my customers understand why something that was considered waste suddenly costs money, and that exactly what I love about this project. It basically looks at the question of how much our waste costs us as well as the next level of questions on the topics such as waste as a resource and how we can transform our perception of waste.
How do you incorporate sustainable living in other areas of your life?
I do try to own clothing that has a story behind them and has a personal meaning for me as well, therefore I keep it in my wardrobe longer (forever).
How did you connect with Vancouver Sustainable Designers, and what are the benefits of being a member?
Over Facebook. I got invited to the group by a friend and joined the group mainly to learn about Vancouver's mindful fashion community. I've attended only couple of events so far but, it's been an amazing resource of knowledge and new connections work and non-work related. I'm sure it will grow into something bigger with time. I feel great to be a member of a group and seeing other like minded designers brings me hope that we can "do good design" together.
Anything else you would like readers to know?
I'll be happy to see you at the El Kartel exhibition event running now through July. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1442577415848106/ )
Social Media Links -
- Website - www/varvara.ca (with previous art project)
- Instagram - www.instagram.com/painting_waste/ and www.instagram.com/ready_to_paint/
- Book - https://view.publitas.com/p222-12603/zhemchuzhnikova_readytopaint_book_digital/page/1
- LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/varvaraz/
- EXHIBITION - www.facebook.com/events/1442577415848106/