Saturday, March 15, 2014

Zero-Waste Fashion Designer Spotlight: Tabitha St. Bernard from TabiiJust

    About a month ago, when I was looking for content to write about, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog called Tabs on Fashion by a NYC eco-friendly fashion co founder and designer of Tabii Just, Tabitha St. Bernard. I was very interested in learning about her clothing line, Tabii Just, so I visited her website to discover that she uses a unique pattern making technique. This technique, zero-waste design, really interested me, as I make my own clothing and I love sewing. I am always looking for new ways to use fabric scraps and design more efficiently. One of the neat things is that everything from designing to manufacturing is done locally in New York City. Tabitha's designs made a debut in the Fall 2013 New York  Fashion Week and have been worn by Wayna (American R&B singer with top single, "My Love" in 2008) and Lenay Dunn (Host of MTV's 10 on Top). 
   Tabitha's designs are very bright and unique, bringing out the beauty in women, who like to be bold without showing a lot of skin. I decided to contact her to see if she would be willing to interview with me and much to my surprise, she replied to my email. I could hardly contain my excitement and posted below is our interview! 
M: What is Tabii Just?
T: Tabii Just is a zero waste line of ready-to-wear clothing that is manufactured in New York City. 

M: Could you explain what zero-waste pattern design actually means? 
T: Zero waste pattern making can be classified as any pattern making or design technique that leaves no fabric remnants. For Tabii Just, I start with a basic rectangle of fabric and use darts, tucks or seaming to tailor it to the body. I then take the little remnants of fabric and take it to be recycled at a local green market.

 M: Why did you choose to become a sustainable eco-friendly designer and how did you get started?
 T: I chose to become an eco-friendly designer when I started learning about the in-depth workings of the clothing industry. For too many mainstream lines, the focus is on profitability without considering the effects on the environment and the people who are making the clothing. I simply was not comfortable just making beautiful clothing in a bubble. I wanted to make a difference and I want my clothing to help increase awareness with their presence. I got started when I enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduating, I interned for Vivienne Tam. I then joined the dressline design team at Tahari ASL. I started Tabii Just after leaving Tahari.  

M: What is the importance of designing and manufacturing locally in NYC?
T: New York City used to be one of the most thriving fashion manufacturing neighbourhoods in the world. Because of a lack of international labor regulations and low costs, clothing started to be produced at a fraction of the cost in countries so foreign, no one questioned the conditions under which the workers were working, whether children were making them, how much the adults were being paid and the number of hours they were forced to work. What the US consumer saw was really cheap clothing. They didn't see anything else. This meant that skilled workers lost their jobs. The movement to bring manufacturing back to the US is important because this model for clothing production is not sustainable in the long run. Local manufacturing means that US labor regulations are more likely to be enforced. It means that skilled workers are able to set the standard for production depending on quality, not cost. 

 M: Your designs have bold prints and patterns? What is your source of inspiration?
Photo taken by Charles Beckwith
 T: I am from Trinidad and Tobago and my heart belongs to my country. My love for design is strongly rooted in my ancestry. I am inspired by nature, the beautiful colors of costumes in our annual Carnival and the vibrancy of the culture. I have also lived in New York for over 10 years so that has also had an effect on my aesthetic. I want to make clothes that are easy to wear for the New York woman.   

M: What types of promotion do you use to make consumers aware of Tabii Just and that sustainable fashion exists?
T: I've been lucky to be living in the time of social media. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blogging, etc. It helps me connect with the people that support and buy Tabii Just. I also get their feedback sometimes before I place an order on what works and what they like. It also helps them see the process of creating a line using a sustainable model. I post images of me in the factory, the trim shops I visit, and other daily activities. 

 M: How is eco-friendly fashion different from what current NYC designers are doing?
 T: I don't think it's very different. I think local production is a subset of eco-friendly fashion. If you think about the time, money and energy that is saved when designers aren't producing locally, it's easy to see that eco-friendly fashion isn't a narrow concept but a rather inclusive one.

Thank you so much Tabitha, for agreeing to interview with me. You have inspired me to try incorporating zero-waste design and eco-friendly techniques into my own sewing. I look forward to seeing your future designs! 
Photo by Charles Beckwith

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