Milan AV-JC zero waste Karma Trench

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

I can sense a definite shift in tone in the sewing world: growing awareness of sustainability and sustainable initiatives, and with that, a heightened consideration of sustainable means and methods of creating. I started #sewingleftovers with the idea of transforming potential sewing waste into something wearable, but what if there wasn't actually any waste in the first place? The future of zero waste patterns is looking very bright - and I'd argue insanely fashionable - if Milan AV-JC are anything to go by. I had the pleasure of taking my first venture into the world of zero waste patterns with their Karma Trench. The following review is pretty epic, but in short, wow. Just WOW.

Milan AV-JC zero waste Karma Trench
I was recently contacted by Mylène L'Orguilloux, the French designer and pattern maker behind Milan AV-JC, who is on a mission to raise awareness of the topic of textile waste. Having previously worked in the fashion industry, Mylène has now turned her attentions to developing zero waste patterns and promoting the advantages of #ZeroWasteDesign to both the fashion industry and us home sewists. Her journey, realisations and eventual rebellion against industry standard practice is a fascinating read, this perhaps being my favourite take away:

'Being able to see the "zero waste" constraint as a source of creativity is ... a sustainable and innovative answer to the environmental disaster caused by the ... the fashion industry.'


I jumped at the chance to test Mylene's zero waste design philosophy in the form of her latest pattern, the Karma Trench. Whilst I pride myself on being able to see beyond the cover of a Big 4 envelope, I'm still a total sucker for great styling and fabric choices, so if you're not sold on the concept alone, let the beautiful Milan AV-JC sample garments and photography reel you in. There are currently 4 PDFs to choose from, available in both French and English.

Innovative ways of using every last scrap of fabric
I opted to print the A4 PDF, though the pattern comes with an A0 file if you'd rather get it copy-printed. The tiled pages essentially form a jigsaw of all the pattern pieces you need to make the trench and cover the width of the fabric, with just a little to spare down the side. Fears of blunting my fabric scissors from cutting through the paper quickly subsided, as the process was so fast! I was impressed with the creative use of every last bit of fabric within the pattern, from belt loops nestled into the armholes, to the little detail of a label holder buried in the back neckline.


The pattern has been developed with suede/faux suede in mind, specifically the variety that does not fray. I love the fabric used in the sample garments, which is linked in the fabric requirements, but I couldn't find a UK supplier of this or something similar. I settled on the 225g faux suede in 'terracotta' from Fabric Online. It's a seriously good imitation of the real thing and only £6.95p/m - there are loads of colours to choose from and I'd definitely buy it again - but it frayed a lot more than I'd hoped, which wasn't ideal, and led me to doing some tweaks that I'll talk about later.


Showing off the epic sleeve proportions
The skill level for making the trench is listed as 'easy' and it really is. The instructions are all contained within a high quality 15 and a half minute YouTube tutorial, which you can watch before buying the pattern if you want to assess the skills involved. I've never worked solely from a video tutorial before but I really enjoyed the experience of actually seeing how elements of the pattern come together before doing it myself.

The most unusual patch pockets

The pockets are made up of 4 rectangles of fabric and the tutorial encourages creativity in how you fold them to create the final design. I couldn't help but feel that mine were a little clunky when I made them, but they started to look better on the whole once the garment came together. I also thought they sat a bit low initially, but when the trench is belted up, they're just right.


The rest of the garment comes together very quickly, particularly as there are no seams or edges to finish. I came to realise that my fabric was going to fray way more than practical or 'trendy' and I wasn't so keen on the wrong side, which was exposed by the large lapels (the fabric used in the sample garments seems to be double-sided). Ironically, I actually had a good amount of leftover fabric as I had to purchase it in full metre units, rather than being able to buy the specified minimum length of 204cm required for the size 38.

Flashing my facings
The label holder taking pride of place on my added facing
I used this spare fabric to draft a simple facing for the back neckline and front opening of the trench, with quite a generous allowance for the lapels. I also created facings for the sleeves as I couldn't risk spoiling the amazing shape of them with a dodgy hem - they extend to the seam mid-way up the sleeve, where they're tacked in place. The curved hem probably suffered the most in my experiments in using non-suitable fabric. I overlocked it and turned it up to a narrow hem, which has left it looking a little flute-y, but I'd say that the overall damage-control has been a pretty good save.

Back view
Whilst it might defeat the point of a zero waste pattern to buy extra fabric, if you can't find a non-fraying fabric then making these adjustments would definitely be an option - it's improved the overall finish of my Karma Trench no end. In other fabric options, I'd be interested to see how this works in a medium weight boiled wool, similar to the Maker's Atelier Raw-edged Coat.



If you can't already tell from the sheer volume of pictures in this review, I absolutely love the finished thing. The sleeves are way more voluminous than I expected, but with the triangular point on the bottom, they just sort of work! I feel bold and fashion forward in my Karma Trench, and even better knowing that some of it's coolest and most unusual design features - the sleeves, the pockets - were formed as a direct result of working with all of the fabric. I'd definitely recommend the pattern to anyone looking to try something a bit different, in terms of both method and design!

Zero waste win!
Thank you Mylène for letting me try this pattern and totally new kind of making experience. Is zero waste pattern design the future? I'm not sure, but I'm definitely open to trying more patterns like this, and I do hope that pattern companies will at least begin to adopt a 'reduced waste' focus, providing more creative lay plans and more precise fabric requirements.

These projects being zero waste are to some extent dependent on being able to buy fabric in very specific lengths, as I found with my Trench. The only online fabric shop I'm currently aware of that lets you do this is Stoff & Stil, but if you have any other recommendations for my future zero waste adventures, please leave them in the comments below!

You can read more about the Milan AV-JC project here

Stay in touch!

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23 comments

  1. Wow, your coat is gorgeous! I love the idea of the zero-waste pattern and, like you say, it's used in a cool way to shape elements of the garment.

    I must say, the Milan AV-JC size range is hugely disappointing - I would love to have tried this but I don't fancy buying a grading project. :(

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for this remark, I do read understand your point and I'm working hard on providing wider size ranges. The 3 first patterns were available only from 34 to 42 but for this one I have added two more sizes so it goes till 46. I know it could be even wider and it's a real ambition for me to develop also plus size patterns but this was already a big step forward considering the time it requires me to develop extra sizes. For the time being I'm alone on this project and therefore handling any little aspects of it from design to grading, pattern making, sewing, photo shooting, filmmaking web integration, accounting, workshop facilitation, fashion school presentation, communications... and I skip the details... So even though I have the ambition life doesn't offer me more than 24 hour per day. I'm reassuring myself with the little saying "Rome wasn't built in a day"
      I try my best, with the cards I currently hold in hands and....fingers crossed for the future ! ;)

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    2. Thank you Lisa! And thanks Mylène for jumping in too.
      I was doing a bit of research to see if I could find some other zero waste pattern suggestions, but it seems that the Milan AV-JC approach is currently pretty unique in home sewing world... we can only hope that more companies will invest in this kind of approach/have more time to develop zero waste patterns that are accessible for a wider audience! Good luck Mylene in trying to take this approach further with a hopefully expanded size range!

      Wendy Ward offers some good suggestions/resources for adopting a more reduced waste and zero waste approach - maybe some of these are of interest? https://wendyward.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/zero-waste-sewing/

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  2. J'adore! - what a beautiful make Shauni, you wear it well.

    The Milan AV-JC website is fascinating, interesting that the zero waste layouts are very similar to traditional/ethnic garment layouts and construction. Think zero waste sewing might be my new obsession . . .

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    1. Cooool, thanks Barbara for your comment! I'm glad it intrigues you to the point where it becomes a new obsession ! I'm currently working on news designs so the panel will be soon extended ;)
      Keep in touch !
      xxx
      Mylène

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    2. Thanks Barbara! I'm honestly thrilled with it, even more so as the approach/concept was so different for me! If you find any other cool zero waste pattern suggestions send them my way! :) xx

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  3. Wow, I love your coat, and the color especially. Great save with the facings--I assumed they were there by design because you made them look so professional. Boiled wool would be ideal for this design not least of all because it doesn't really have a "wrong" side. =) And buying fabric in such a specific length would be really nice; I'm impressed that Stoff & Stil does that!

    -Abbey

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    1. Thanks Abbey! The colour seemed a bit bolder than I'd usually go, but I sooooo loved the sample garment in a similar shade. Adding the facings felt a bit scary, but it was much easier than I thought - I'd really like to try it in a more suitable fabric though, definitely one without a wrong side! :) xx

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  4. It looks fabulous on you but unless the patterns are size inclusive they solve nothing. Many people are because they can't find cute, stylish clothing in their size range. Zero waste only works if it is an option for everyone.

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    1. Hi Corkpop,
      Thanks for your comment, even though I find it a bit harsh by saying "they solve nothing"
      As I just explained to Lisa (on a comment above) I'm working hard on this design research project and size inclusion is something I really care about.
      Unfortunately as anyone on this planet, I'm ressources limited and I still try to find the balance between design research/ raise awareness events/ communication/ size distributions.
      So the more the project will be stable, the more the sizes options will be extended.
      Well, I'm just trying "to make my colibri part" as we say here in France and there is no other choices than doing it step by step !


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    2. Hi! Thanks for commenting! I had a great experience but I guess I didn't take into account that it might not be an accessible pattern for everyone. Mylene is doing a great job of raising awareness of just one of many approaches to sustainable sewing, so I'd say that that at least is a very big positive. Her website is also a great resource for makers, the fashion industry and beyond.

      I heard that the Sewcialists are doing a November theme month on 'sustainability' so hopefully that will raise some other good options for approaching zero or reduced waste making and sustainable initiatives!

      Good luck Mylene in trying to expand the inclusivity of her patterns and size range. xx

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  5. This coat looks great on you, Shauni, and it's an interesting design idea. I'm all for reducing waste in sewing, but I'm not convinced that patterns that use all of a piece of fabric by having extra volume or non-functional details are really doing that - I think I'd rather have an economically cut garment and then use any leftovers for other (useful) projects. I'm definitely in favour of designers being much more precise about fabric requirements, though! And shops allowing us to buy those precise cuts - at the very least they should all allow quarter-metre increments, right? I'd also be happy to see single-layer cutting layouts, because they're always much less wasteful.

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    1. Hi Nina,
      Interesting remarks ! I do agree with most of them.
      I initially started this zero waste design project because - as many of you guys- I piled up loads of fabric scraps in my sewing closet, and kept saying to myself "one day I'll reuse them all for sure" but after three years I just realized I never managed to do it. Some scraps were so tiny, curvy and irregular that it was impossible to reuse them in a nice way (apart from filling cushions, and this is what I did)
      I have tons of zero waste designs tricks in stock but I'm not happy with the ones which use extra fabric or use non functional details, event though most of our conventionnal garments do use non functional details, like weird pockets, straps, flares, extra yokes, unnecessary shoulder trendy holes etc..
      I try my best to design pattern that are both minimalist and trendy so this also the reason why I keep saying it's a design research project. It takes time to develop good designs.
      Anyway I also wished patterns brands offered more precise fabric requirements and single ply layouts because sometimes they are just ridiculous.

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    2. Yes, I am very familiar with the scrap mountain problem!! I think even filling cushions is a good use, though (I'm making a yoga bolster right now filled with scraps and worn-out clothes). And I do think pattern design has a role to play as well, so it's great that you're working on it. I love the zero-waste design of traditional Japanese kimonos, where there's so little cutting of the fabric that you can unpick them and basically have virgin fabric again!

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    3. Thanks Nina for your lovely and interesting comment and Mylene for getting a discussion going! I do get where you're coming from with needless use of fabric, but I totally love the sleeves and pockets in this case and would consider them to be design features/the things that make the pattern most interesting! I guess there's always going to be a bit of a weigh up between zero waste and 100% functional/zero waste with design features and extras. In the case of this pattern, the pockets actually run right at the bottom of the cutting lay out so could be left out or adjusted if you wanted to use less fabric or make them more functional!

      Love the idea of a kimono that you can basically take back to the start again - I think I need to do some research and find a pattern! And I'm so on board for fabric shops offering to cut more appropriate lengths - only today have I had to purchase 2m of fabric when I only needed 1.3m! xx

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  7. Wow !! Thank you so much Shauni for this amazing blogpost ! I did not expect to read such a thing. I'm so glad you liked the concept and the whole sewing experience. The outcome is so nice, you did a great job with this unexpected fraying fabric - Well done, the facings were the most appropriate solutions..luckily you had enough fabric. It's funny because when I was working on Karma this summer, I also designed a version for fraying fabrics (with the facings and other collar finishing) but didn't had the time to grade the pattern, make the tutorial and prepare the whole package for both so unfortunately I had to choose and the suede fabrics took me ! But I'll definitely try to release this version next year as it'd make fabric hunting much more easier for people ;)
    Anyway I'm currently working on new designs, so let's hope I have the time to release one of them next month !!
    Keep going with this blog full of passion an love- obviously.
    Stay in touch xxx
    Mylène

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    1. Hi Mylène, just wanted to say a huge thank you for the lovely comment and taking the time to get involved in some of the discussions that this post has prompted - not many designers would jump in and do this, so thanks!

      I loved the process and love my finished trench - it's been getting so many comments when I wear it. I was interested to hear that you'd actually made a version with facings and a collar finishing. That would be a great pattern for next year and definitely open to up to lots of different fabrics :)

      Can't wait to see (and try) the new designs - best of luck with them! Thanks again for letting me try your amazing concept!

      Shauni
      xxx

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  8. Dang, that's a cool coat and an absolutely fascinating design!!

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    1. Thanks Lia! I'm soooo into the design/silhouette! xx

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  9. Oh my goodness, your coat is amazing and I love the pockets. And I haven't heard of this pattern company before, I shall have to have a nosey!

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  11. Absolutely love the finished trench Shauni & your review. I also fancy this in a wool - and am now wondering if I have something suitable in my stash... An added bonus of zero waste, I don't think are many coats of the length requiring only 2 metres of fabric!

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