Powerful Influence for a Zero Waste Passion

Annie McCourt had a degree in Advertising. After 5 years working in the industry she decided to go back to school to study Fashion Design. She chose to attend the California College of the Arts for several reasons; one of them was the College focus on sustainable fashion design. She says: At that time I was mildly interested in sustainable design. Back then, I might not have said ‘mildly’. I wasn’t aware of the depth of the subject matter then. Certainly I had no idea of how passionate I would become. I just had no idea.

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Annie your collection is titled Consciente: what does it mean?
Consciente is a French word that translates as aware, conscious or consciously.
Consciente is a sustainably created collection, the product of a conscious discovery process searching for cutting and patterning that uses only straight lines, 90 and 60-degree angles in order to control pattern layout and eliminate pattern-cut waste.

What does sustainability mean to you?
I believe sustainable design is practical, it is efficient, and it is economical. It makes sense. Sustainability is a very personal subject. Each of us must decide what his or her stance is; what he or she is to do about it. I spent several years worrying about the future of the planet, about our future. When I started to learn fashion design I fooled around with no-waste patternmaking and I got hooked. Now I am fascinated with the zero waste concept.

Did you have a typical client in mind for you collection?
It is designed for a woman who loves sustainable design but who also loves beautiful and modern design. She’s urban. She’s 30-50. She doesn’t need form-fitting clothes to feel like a woman. She is independent, humble and she loves her life. She values clothing that has depth, emotional depth.

You work a lot with drape.
I believe that draped garments are modern. There are some around today, Yohji Yamamoto for example, but I think it is coming through. It seems our eyes haven’t adjusted to it yet, at least not in the United States. Most women here still prefer tailored, form-fitting clothes.

So would you say your collection is market led?
My collection is primarily an expression of my heart. It comes from a place beyond thought. Of course it is informed by what I know but I design by letting my hands be free, available and self-aware on the form. I quickly let go of what is not working … I move on … I want my design also to be free. This process is so enjoyable.
I believe designing this way has weight and depth. Everything that matters is right in front of you; whatever you’re doing, draping, stitching, pressing, cutting becomes the most important thing you’ve ever done.  The byproduct – well, it’s good-design.

Annie McCourt

But there must be influences that stirred you? What was your inspiration for this collection?
I was inspired by the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

This is at least an unexpected source of inspiration for a fashion collection.
A couple of years ago, I felt overwhelmed by the number of environmental problems listed in our sustainable design class. I felt hopeless and powerless. I saw pollution… trash everywhere. I felt personally responsible; at one point someone told me: God is a controversial artist.

This changed everything. I stopped taking the weight of the world on my shoulders and rather than constantly worry I started to trust, to honor, to see the beauty of it all even in natural disasters. Of course the 2011 tsunami in Japan was a tragedy, it was awful… but I was able to find beauty even in natural disasters.
In the Spring 2011, I created a no-waste garment inspired by the tsunami with drapes that looked like waves. It was indigo dyed. I used this garment to inform my thesis collection.

What did you learn through the process of designing your collection?
There are so many awakenings tucked neatly inside this adventure. Creatively, I got more confident with my design process. I rely only mildly on illustrations; basically I design real-time on the form. It is not usual for fashion designer, but it is what works for me.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to begin designing their final collection?
Stop worrying – it doesn’t help and let go! Also work on the form! The body is 3d, so working in 3d makes sense. There’s no way to anticipate through drawings what will happen on the body.

Do you feel your collection is complete, that it is a finished piece of work?
The process is never-ending. It is revealing. I hope to continue with this.

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