By Rachel J. Eike, PhD
The Sustainability Issue:
The apparel industry is a major contributor to environmental problems from textile manufacturing through garment production and distribution to consumer discard – donation, landfill, reuse, or otherwise (Gam, Cao, Farr, & Heine, 2009). According to the EPA, 13.1 million tons of textiles are discarded each year, which estimates about 65 pounds per person each year (Ecouterre, 2012). Of this apparel waste each year, 74% ends up in landfills (Vennström, 2012). “In an industry which is increasingly overproducing, very little is being done to highlight how much is discarded… and yet what is being thrown is often intact, still beautiful, and still usable if thought of in a different way” (Brown, 2010, p. 116). This statement from Orsola de De Castro and Filippo Ricci, founders of the sustainable apparel company From Somewhere, influenced the design of the Femme de Pee Pee collection. Carlee Green, December 2017 graduate of the Apparel Design and Product Development program at Baylor University, decided to challenge herself to create a collection that would showcase well-designed products that combat textile waste intended for donation or landfill. Curwen, Park, & Sarkar (2013) point out that the design stage of the product development process has a direct influence on a final product’s environmental impact (approximately 80%) as this stage is where critical decisions are made, including material selection, garment design, and production approach. Green chose to source collection materials from family storage, garage sales, and estate sales to up-cycle or repurpose unwanted textiles and apparel into fresh looks.
The Femme du Pee Pee Collection
The Femme du Pee Pee collection was originally ideated during a study abroad opportunity in Paris, France. While in a history of dress museum, the women in the 18th century whose fashion was defined by extreme hoops and corsets greatly intrigued me. Fashions of this era were so extravagant that it made functions of everyday life difficult. For example, the upper class had bathroom-specific assistants whose only job was to assist in lifting their voluminous hoop skirts so that the restroom may be used. These women were referred to as the “femme du pee pees” or “the potty women”. Intrigued by the individual whose life was solely to help maintain fashions of the upper class, this led to researching what these “femme du pee pees” wore. These assistants were given the hand-me-downs of the upper-class women’s clothing in which they would take, rework, and make something new. This reworking process inspired her collection. Green conducted trend research to create designs that were contemporary and appropriate for her targeted consumer: the woman who prefers to look cool rather than sexy, and is always looking to express herself even when dressing casually - above all she values unique pieces that support environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
The entire Femme du Pee Pee collection was designed using unwanted materials where items were disassembled and then reworked/upcycled to create something new, following the process embodied by Traidremade (Brown, 2010, p. 136) and suggested as a consumer service approach by Ruppert-Stroescu, LeHew, Connell & Armstrong (2015). During this process, a few old blankets and quilts that had been in her family for a several generations were acquired along with some unwanted men’s chambray button down shirts and old denim from garage and estate sales. With these materials Carlee Green was able to learn new patternmaking and construction techniques that included designing for reversibility (quilted coat) and distressing or fraying effect on the denim/chambray.
Before construction, pattern pieces were drafted by hand to fit the models’ measurements, muslins were created, and alterations were performed where necessary. To create boxy silhouettes, elements of fit were excluded and armholes were lowered on the bodice tops to create additional comfort for movement. Slits on the side seams of blouses and dresses continue the same focus on comfort – further emphasized by the use of quilt and blanket materials. Throughout the collection, multiple pattern pieces were created to execute asymmetrical color blocking to create a unique aesthetic for the wearer. Flat felled seams were used during construction when seaming quilt and blanket pieces to accommodate the extra fullness of these thick textiles. Binding edge-finish techniques were used along each edge of the quilted pieces (example: reversible quilted coat) to create crisp, straight lines down the front of the garment while keeping design elements of the original quilt.
The Changing Consumer – Transparency & Sustainability are KEY
Today’s consumers are conscious about their society and environment, demanding transparent and sustainable products (Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire, 2011). This trend leads businesses to openly communicate their operation and business activities to build consumers’ purchase intensions. The Femme du Pee Pee collection was created for this evolving consumer, specifically the optimistic creative female consumer age 18-30 for spring/summer 2018. The targeted consumer desires to look stylish yet comfortable and shies away from overly feminine colors such as pink and purple - gravitating towards more gender-neutral colors. She loves to be comfortable when she is hanging out at coffee shops, creating, meeting up with friends, traveling, and just soaking up life. This target consumer may be a college student, a professional in a creative industry, or an average individual who wants to look cute even when she isn’t at work. The Femme du Pee Pee collection ties into Green’s personal aesthetic of boxy silhouettes, non-traditional fabric pairings, surface design techniques, and passion for sustainably made products. The Femme du Pee Pee collection may be best suited as part of Everlane, as a potential new branch for their online retail stores or complement works of Elise Ballegeer. Currently, Everlane (2017) focuses on transparency and ethical sourcing while Elise Ballegeer’s (2017) merchandise focuses on using organic and sustainable materials – the Femme du Pee Pee collection could add to their products by including garments made by repurposing unwanted textiles to further support sustainable movements in the apparel industry.
“This collection was all about taking something old and forgotten, and creating something new and beautiful” Carlee Green
Carlee Green plans on completing an apparel design internship during the fall 2017 semester with a sustainable-focused company and may continue to graduate school to work towards a master’s degree in environmental sciences. Read more about Carlee and her designs on her website: http://carleegreendesigns.weebly.com/.
Works cited in this article: