"A Conspiracy of Ravens – Men’s Sartorial Zero Waste Collection"
Pablo Alejandro Maas' bachelor's thesis from Lahti Institute of Art and Design. Collection images by Atte Tanner, Megna Mukherjee and Rune Kjelseth.
My name is Pablo Alejandro Maas and I’m a tailor, a fashion designer and soon-to-be UI & UX designer from Helsinki, Finland. “A Conspiracy of Ravens – Men’s Sartorial Zero Waste Collection” is my bachelor's thesis from Lahti Institute of Art and Design.
My collection (resulting in one full three-piece zero waste suit with three variations) was born from the need to prove that form does not need to be sacrificed in order to save material, even when it comes to a well-established piece of clothing in society, like a men’s suit.
While bespoke suiting is a fairly sustainable concept in the sense that it’s made to order, extremely durable, and easily alterable it doesn’t mean it can’t be reviewed critically. A C50 (chest circumference 100 cm) sized men’s three piece suit uses about 4.5 meters of standard width (1.5 m) shell fabric: 2 m for the jacket, 1.5 m for the trousers, and 1 m for the waistcoat with rear in lining. If the material used is a stripe or check pattern, it requires a little bit more fabric to assure the pattern lines up. A three-piece suit consists of over 200 different pieces of often 6 or more different fabrics. And all of the various trimmings, like buttons, the zipper, the fastener and others of different materials are not included in this count.
The tailoring community is extremely proud (and for a very good reason) of its long traditions in its relentless creation of perfection, but while working on my thesis collection, I ran into a lot of diminishing attitudes and prejudice towards sustainable material use and especially with thoughts of combining tailoring with experimental pattern making. Part of this attitude also comes from the concept of masculinity and fashion.
The average man is a challenging target group in that the options for menswear are few, often because of the fear of being ridiculed for dressing differently, especially compared with what all women can wear and enjoy in silhouettes, materials and forms. That’s why in the end, my work aimed to be recognized and valued by average men as equal to its role model and by not revealing how it was made, like a true bespoke suit.
I started by defining what is and what makes a suit: It's a pragmatic uniform that represents masculinity in its restrained form and subtle details. In my definition, two technical qualities defined the suit jacket: the embedded sleeve and the collar with lapels. Remove both and you get a differently named piece of clothing, while the trousers and especially the waistcoat are less strict in their form. I then ranked all the listed details to decide where to start from and determine whether or not something needed to be sacrificed in the process to ensure my concept worked.
I had the aim of achieving a predefined version of a men’s suit but I was also prepared for the fact it may not be possible. Failing was always an option, which would have been also a valid research conclusion. I started assembling the zero waste pattern along the fold, aiming for a more or less mirrored pattern. Originally I thought of making a whole menswear collection zero waste but drew the line in applying the zero waste techniques only to the shell fabrics. I felt using all materials in a zero waste matter would immediately define that the final form could not be predefined as lining, fusing, canvas and padding helps to create form and the balanced fit.
Click on the images to enlarge.
My first priority was to integrate the pattern shapes of the aforementioned embedded sleeve and collar. Then I moved to adding different patterns to the same piece of material, starting from the biggest and moving to the smallest ones. Once all of the actual patterns were placed, the next step was to determine how to utilize all the remaining gaps for pocket flaps and such details in between them. Men’s suits have a lot of different, both practical and quirky, details that I kept in mind to use in filling such gaps and determining the overall pattern. Through countless trials and errors, I somehow succeeded in creating a zero waste pattern for a three-piece suit. If I recall correctly the pattern itself took me about three to four months to complete. Due to that I decided to focus on varying the existing pattern and not create a new one because I could not predict how much time it would take and I had a schedule to follow.
Like I mentioned before, lining up the striped and checked fabrics is a skill that adds to the value of a well-tailored suit and shows the true skills of the tailor. But the ambitious task of focusing on pattern further increases the overall consumption of fabric. This is why integrating the concept of patterned fabric use into my zero waste pattern design was very important.
I could’ve approached integrating the patterns by digitally printing on the fabric, but being loyal to my aesthetics, I chose to be inspired by ravens and decided to use only black on black effects. Applying commonly used fabric patterns in suits I chose to use a pin stripe and glen check inspired visual effects in addition to an all black suit. Using a matte black foil and shiny transparent silicone, I handprinted all of the pieces that required a pattern by hand so that the visual effect would line up in the final result, like in a traditional suit. The visual illusion also draws the attention away from the chaotic way of how the cloth is cut even more.
Once I had all of the suit pieces cut out, I then prepared the suits using traditional tailoring methods.
I’m still personally blown away and amazed that this worked out. I verified that the original concept worked as planned by asking men who aren’t in the fashion industry about the suits, to which they responded, saying that the suits look good and they would wear them. I must admit that, in being so subtle in the visual language and elusive details, the concept was quite understated in its overall effect, since most viewers to whom I could not explain the idea just understood the end result as ordinary plain black suits. Nevertheless, the final three-piece suit zero waste pattern measures 224.5 x 161 cm and consists of 68 independent pieces. Compared to the 4.5 m of fabric an ordinary suit uses, it saves 47% of material.
- Pablo Alejandro Maas
Follow Pablo on Instagram @alejandromaas.
Visit his website at alejandromaas.com.
Read Pablo Alejandro Maas bachelor's thesis (in Finnish, preview below).