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Thirteen to Zero: Exploring Sustainable Design, is the name of Dawn Russell’s current exhibit at the Craft Council Gallery on Granville Island.

In order to understand the title, you must do a little exploring on your own, with the help of the information provided by Dawn and found on the various walls of the gallery. If you do this, you will be rewarded. It is not only a beautiful exhibition but a thought provoking one.

The fashion industry is the second worst polluter on the planet, according to the documentary River Blue. The fashion industry is a 20th century “Fast” industry. Its objective is to produce garments fast, and get them to the consumer fast, so that they receive their money fast, and the cycle can start all over again.

The term ‘Slow Clothes’ was first coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for sustainable Fashion, in reaction to the Fast culture our society embraces. Slow Clothes uses the work of the hand in every aspect of garment making, from the growing of organic natural fibres, through dyeing to finished product.

This is the theme of Dawn Russell’s thoughtful and beautiful work, now on show at Craft Council Gallery, Granville Island. One wall of the gallery is given over to signage commenting on the pollution generated by the Fast Clothing industry. Interest piqued, you see on the opposite wall the title of the show: Thirteen to Zero: exploring sustainable design.

Dawn has taken the title of the show and presented us with 5 pieces that embody her theme.  Her purpose was to work towards zero waste, and use eco friendly materials. The piece that dominates the gallery is called Suelo, or soil. Cotton cloth has been compost dyed, which means dyeing the fabric by leaving it in contact with earth and other organic materials until it begins to take on colour. The finished garment is a dress made using a subtraction technique – ie. the removal of specific pieces of cloth in such a way as to create a cylindrical garment while leaving the fabric whole. Dawn has removed 13 circles of fabric from the original rectangle to create her shaped garment: the “Thirteen” of the show’s title.

Her second piece is a draped, indigo dyed wool jersey, that hangs beautifully around the shoulders and was made using the length of cloth in its entirety – zero waste, the “zero” of her title.

Her next 2 pieces are also eco dyed, one, warm shades of rust on a handwoven silk and hanji paper cloth. The other is eco dyed with leaves and berries resulting in a detailed and varied print on wool jersey. Each of these garments was made leaving only 1 piece of “waste” fabric.

Her final piece is an indigo dyed cotton linen dress, simple in shape, and leaving only 3 pieces of waste fabric.

The whole is a cohesive and beautifully researched and executed commentary on Slow Clothes in the era of fast fashion.

by Ros Alymer