While in Vancouver, B.C. for the annual meeting of the International Textile and Apparel Association, I had the great pleasure of visiting the studio of Katherine Soucie, owner of Sans Soucie Textile + Design. Katherine creates amazing fashions and accessories from pre-consumer waste hosiery -- hosiery with some sort of flaw that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.
I found her zero-waste design processes fascinating! Whereas some zero waste designers reduce pre-consumer textile waste in the design and cutting process, she starts with the waste materials. She purchases 150-300 pound “bales” of waste hosiery from partner mills in Canada and the US. After receiving the bales, she sorts them –the materials are all usable but for different applications. Some are suitable for draping dresses; others are best for accessories. The next step is dyeing the materials. She uses a hot water dye process. However, none of the water is discarded; once the dyes are used, they get stored until the next time she needs them. Because she uses a drip dry process, she only dyes materials from April to October so that the material can dry during the warmer and drier months of the year (remember, she’s located in Vancouver, B.C.). The color palettes she uses are influenced by travel, nature, culture, art, and music. As she determines the color palettes, she continues to assess the materials for different applications.
Printing the materials happens year round. The materials are printed in either tube form or flat. She uses metal-free acid dyes and water soluble inks and natural pigments for the printing process. Fabric print designs are influenced by whatever is going on in her life. Some of the prints are abstractions – letting the eye meander. For others she gets “nerdy.” For example, one of the prints is the chemical structure of nylon printed on nylon fabric.
Once the materials are dyed and printed, they are heat set -- she uses a very old mangle iron to heat set the materials (If you don’t know what a mangle iron is, you will want to google it!). The materials are then ready to be made into fabric. Fabrics are created using a visible mending/hemming process. In creating the fabrics, she uses historical and cultural elements as well as decisions about the application. Applications will include a combination of successful silhouettes as well as new silhouettes.
She has opted not to industrialize her process. As such, she produces limited quantities and her primary distribution channel is through direct sales from her website. In addition, she does custom (made-to-order) designs. She is also a member of Circle Craft, a very successful artist cooperative in British Columbia, and distributes through their gallery and Christmas Market. Her business model has evolved over the years. In addition to creating her own designs from pre-consumer textile waste, she provides waste materials (shavings and yarns) from her work to other designers who are using the materials to make rugs, jewelry, and other fiber arts. From waste hosiery to high fashion – a wonderful example of zero waste design!