Christopher Raeburn, Adiff, sustainability, up cycling, patterns, sustainability, book

Last week, many of fashion’s sustainable designers shared their design recipes in a new “fashion cookbook.”

Aptly titled the “Open Source Fashion Cookbook,” brands like Assembly, BrownMill, Chromat, Raeburn (featuring the label’s shark mascot) and Zero Waste Wardrobe, open-sourced their designs in celebration of one label’s attempt to redefine access to sustainable fashion — starting with pattern-sharing.

The brains behind this latest concept book are the Adiff duo: Angela Luna, who serves as cofounder and creative director of the brand, and Loulwa Al Saad, cofounder and marketing director.

Noting how enduring labels will need to probe the relationship between consumer and brand beyond a stale transaction, Luna argued: “There’s this communal shift that’s happening.” Both Al Saad and Luna believe open-sourcing designs is the future of fashion, and there’s further evidence to back up their case.

“The fashion industry has been so proprietary up to this point,” Luna said. “We were thrilled with the response [to open-source designs].” The former was a statement she made with irony, as Luna first headed down the patent route with the “tent jacket” design that first established the Adiff brand.

The tent jacket transforms from tent to jacket and was designed by Luna as a solution for displaced refugee populations and people experiencing homelessness, giving new weight to the meaning of clothing as protection. While she spent four years developing the patent for the jacket as per the recommended guidance from her instructors, she said the pandemic flipped her perspective completely.

“At the beginning of the pandemic everyone was baking bread,” Luna said, stressing a newfound interest in self-sufficiency among consumer subsets which means mending, sewing, upcycling and repairing are the new cool in fashion. Their book may be a hard-swallow for conventional brands: “The main point of the book is not having to rely on or buy into a brand in order to act sustainably to create this greater sense of self-reliance.”

And for that, it means unlocking access. While the book itself retails for $60 and is available on the brand’s website at Adiff.com, all patterns are freely downloadable and printable to scale.

Essays within the book also push a sentiment that urges caution in simply buying one’s way into the sustainable fashion movement, asking, instead, for a pause to reconsider the pre-existing power dynamics of exploitation. Referencing the takes on colonialism and fashion by Slow Factory cofounder Céline Semaan and journalist Sophia Li (two of many contributors to the book), Al Saad reiterated how “true sustainability actually goes beyond conscious consumerism.”

This latest push for open-sourced fashion is indistinguishable from the rising maker movement also being documented in books (all about mending culture), like Fashion Revolution’s Orsola de Castro.

When digital native footwear brand Allbirds launched in 2014, the company also took the stance of “open-sourcing” its learnings, having set the precedent with its knit fabrics and sugarcane-based EVA foam — which competitors can freely use. This past May, the brand continued what has been seen as its contrarian ways when it linked with Adidas in pursuit of bringing the “lowest ever carbon footprint” for a sports performance shoe. The goal for synergy was clear: it’s about collaboration over competition.

In 2019, the Council of Fashion Designers of America also launched its open-sourced “sustainability initiatives,” garnering support for small-to-medium-sized enterprises and designers who may otherwise face cost restrictions and limited access to sustainability resources.

Not unlike other industries, fashion is now turning to open source as a way to drum up innovation in sustainable fashion.

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