Sustainable Designer Interview: Australian zero-waste designer Alice Sutton


Australian sustainable designer Alice Sutton creates feminine shapes with a unique contemporary aesthetic for her independent label Edition.  Employing zero-waste pattern cutting techniques, using natural fibers including merino, silk and bamboo, and local (Australian-based) production, Alice’s collections make a significant contribution to sustainable fashion design. Alice was kind enough to grant me an interview so I could learn a bit more about her motivations, values and production processes.

Alice in her studio Photo credit: Hayley Boyle

Alice in her studio Photo credit: Hayley Boyle

Could you tell me a bit more about your label? What is the ethos of your brand? What defines your style?

“The Edition brand is primarily about creating a great product for women who appreciate unique shapes and conceptual design. Edition caters to women aged 30-65 who appreciate quality and are looking for a product to fit their individual style. My label has a strong focus on sustainability, but this is secondary to the aim of developing quality unique design. People won’t be attracted to the clothing if isn’t well designed, so the design process is central. Local-production is another important feature of the Edition brand. This preserves highly-skilled textile manufacturing in Australia, but this also increases the cost of production, thus increasing the price point of the label (around $400 for a dress). This again emphasizes the importance of good design, so that customers of Edition are getting a unique quality product that is worth the investment.”

Can you tell me a bit more about the sustainability features of your label?

“I use natural fibres in all of my designs. Merino is the mainstay textile that I use, sourced from New Zealand. I hope to be able to source some Australian merino in the future to keep it is local as possible. I have also used some hemp and silk, and I use bamboo in some of my designs. I have been able to source some bamboo from a mill in Australia, but the supply limited, so the bamboo is usually sourced from China.

I employ zero-waste pattern design processes, which means that there is no textile waste as a result of my clothing production. Zero-waste pattern design adds to the complexity of the design, and make the design process more personal. It also means that the silhouettes you create are quite unique.

Sustainable design has always appealed to me as the way forward for fashion. It is a good point of difference and gives me a way of standing out against other designers in the industry. “

What specific challenges and benefits do sustainability considerations bring to the design process?

“Sourcing fabric can be a challenge for sustainable designers in Australia. There is only one fabric wholesaler for sustainable textiles and the range is limited. This means it can be difficult to create a unique product, especially if you want to incorporate prints into your designs. The supply of prints is very limited and every other sustainable designer will be sourcing the same fabric. To get around this challenge I am currently collaborating with a local (Canberra-based) Aboriginal artist to create some unique prints on organic cotton which will I use in my future designs.

When you are small label, it can be difficult to do everything as sustainably as you would like. But each step is a good step, and I hope that each iteration will be better than the previous one. That is why I called the label Edition- I hope that each collection- each edition- will be more sustainable than the last. “

Where do you see the future of sustainable fashion heading?

“Every small step that a designer can take with regards to sustainability is a good step to take. I enjoy defending my choices and telling people why I choose sustainable design. Each conversation I can have about my choices helps to change the market.

Fashion at the moment- the fast fashion industry- it is pretty scary where it is heading. There will probably be more incidents such as the one in Bangladesh (the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed over 1000 garment workers)  before things really change. But I hope that sustainable fashion will emerge as the way forward. Free range eggs were once an obscure product, but now consumers seek out free range over other eggs and make their choices based on ethical considerations. I hope that sustainable fashion will become mainstream in the way that free range eggs have. ”

Edition by Alice Sutton Photo credit: Andrew O'Toole

Edition by Alice Sutton Photo credit: Andrew O’Toole

Many thanks to Alice for her candid interview. The Edition collection is currently stocked in two boutiques- one in Canberra and one in Hobart. For information on these stockists, and to see the full collections, head on over to the Edition website.