Zero Waste Daniel: How One Man Turned Scraps into Style
Hey, guys. My name is Amy Kuhnen. And I'm your host for the town hall Rubicon, first and only podcast where we share advice for techies for lovers and for penny pinchers as much as I love the sound of my own voice. This broadcast is gonna rely heavily on guests were subject matter. Experts on everything ranging from how to get your small business up and running interviews with some of the brains behind your favorite, apps and even had to remove garbage from outer space. You never know who's gonna pop up and join me next in studio. So make sure to subscribe to the town hall on I two get episodes downloaded directly. And if your boss is making you work through launch your commute. It's just too short. You miss something. Awesome. Don't worry. We've got your back. You can check out our blog for recaps reviews in all things townhall. Hey, everybody. Welcome to brand new episode of the town hall. Today's interview is already one of my favorite. And we haven't even started. Yet, if you live in Brooklyn, you know, him, and if you live anywhere else in the world, you're going to I'm joined right now, the Skype by Daniel Silverstein, better known as zero waste Daniels. Thank you so much for hopping on hang out with me. Oh, my pleasure. Thank you for such a sweet intro. Yeah. WD? Let's talk about you a bit. Will you take me through all of your big steps professionally in personally that kinda got you? You are today. Walk me through what your time line looks like totally. So I guess working backwards. I'm about to turn thirty and in the first ten years of my life. I think I established my career path as a designer. So when I was a little little kid. I just couldn't keep my hands away from fabric and design. They're sort of an infamous story in my family about my mom coming home and seeing a collection my very first collection that I. Died at about four years old or five years old made out of all of the tissues all of the tape in the house all over my sister's is when I got in trouble for using all the tissues all the tape, which was then banned from using she came home another day to find that I had used an entire role of tinfoil and made an entire underwater scene. Sculpted mermaid than all kinds of things. And and so she relented and took me to a store where I initially started working with scrap material. So we live not too far from Amish country when I was a kid and she took me to a local fabric shop where the community made their own clothing and sold remnants from their work as just a means of making a little extra money in and keeping it in in the economy. So I was able to fill up a Brown paper bag or about a dollar, and that was like going to the toy store for me. Right. So over the next errors, I expressed tons of interest in design, I took sewing classes and weekend. Classes at by t for high school students, I made costumes for SLA la- musicals and prom dresses, or my friends, and it was very clear that I was going to be pursuing a career as a designer. I went to t I studied fashion design, and I graduated with top honours and tastic internship experience. And it was just something that I was really passionate about I was a bit of a nerd in school always sort of pushing myself to experiment, a little more or trion new techniques or take a class that I wasn't required to because I just really loved the art form. But as I studied I learned from percent experience at internships in design rooms, and the like that there was so much waste everywhere in this material that I used when I was a little kid was something that was grossly undervalued as a professional. So after about six months of trying to force myself to work in the industry post graduation. I became completely fed up with that. And I started my own collection with the idea of having no. I products at all we'll go into re-rolling all of that Paducah thing that was where your passion for sustainability was really sparked my head a couple of sort of capstone moments in school. I would say that really got me thinking. So I remember in my freshman powder making class like pattern making one on one which is just sort of like to design for anyone who's not a designer pattern maker instead of draping things on a dress. Former on a body you are designing flat on paper and flat on paper. You see how all of the pattern pieces almost like cookie cutters, and how they line up together and Mike professor Santa Marcus who I learned so much from was always telling us, you know, you wanna squeeze your pattern pieces as closely together as you possibly can. But there's always waste and it's very frustrating because materials are really expensive. Live and you end up paying for the material that gets thrown away. And she said, you know, just an off handed remark an extra sentence at the end of a lecture if someone would make a pattern that had no waste, they'd be a millionaire an thought to myself, why is no one drying, you know. And so little moments like that also got to participate in a design competition at IT to make a pair of sustainable jeans. And I saw all of my colleagues Mike classmates saying I'm gonna get cotton. I'm getting natural dyes might thought to myself. Well, yeah, we should all be using that stuff. But we have to use everything. This is something I've been learning since I was a little little kid, and I designed with that approach. I brought it to my professor, and she said you're not gonna win this competition, but you should keep doing this. So these little moments along the way really took me in that direction completely separate. From my design career might older sister is somewhat of an environmentalist very conscious lifestyle, and you know, as any little sibling looks up to their big sister. I always wanted to impress her, and she just didn't give shit about fashion. So it was always something that I kept in my mind. Have you keep someone who want to impress interested in something that don't care about? And I think that subconsciously and eventually consciously that became a part of my design process and love that. I love that. Obviously, I'm gonna wanna tackle a lot of topics, and you know, I'm honestly tell fan Girling a little bit. But before we go into the solution in everything that you're doing. Let's talk a little bit more about the problem. How big of an issue is waste in the fashion industry, and for those that don't know or honest like you said don't yet care in this case about textile waste. Why should we be talking about this issue? Why should we be paying attention to this? I would say. The main reason that everyone should be paying attention to is that clothing is one of our basic needs food, clothing and shelter. Are the things that we can't live without it protects us from the elements. Does so much for us in terms of letting people know and understand our socioeconomic status. Our beliefs. Our religion all of these things are so ingrained in our clothing. It's something that we all humans believe, you know, we have a right to and so whether or not you care about the fashion industry or what's the latest trend or on a runway clothing is probably on you while you're listening to this. So the waste gets made touches you, and that's something that I think we need to re appropriate. I think it's something that we really see in the food industry happening really quickly. People are studying to understand how their food is getting to them in what it's made out of and how that affects their bodies. And also how it affects the people who produce. Shit clothing, very similar most clothing starts on a farm as a crop and so- pesticides labor conditions. These are things really affect the global economy and huge populations of people alongside from that. The landfill aspect is terrifying. So there's lots of things that can be done with leftover materials. And it's estimated that about ninety five percent of textiles that end up in landfills could be recycled or upcycle or views. So it's it's a staggering market failure. And also a huge amount of waste that's being displaced in our environment on top of that over twenty one billion pounds of textile wastes were put into landfills in the United States in two thousand fourteen according to the latest studies. So when you look at ninety five percent of that as being potentially. Mike lable, we're demanding incredible resources of the earth without using them to their capacity. And so it's just a broken system that whether or not you're super into the the fashion world, the actual clothing that you're wearing the linens. You have in your home that kitchen linens, the bed linens, your bathrobe. These are all things that are affected by this process. Because from tippy tippy top all the way to the bottom of the industry. Everything is made using a very similar process in. Let's jump right ahead. Let's talk about the solution. I mean, the problem is staggering. Like, you said, the landfill effect is absolutely terrifying. And said there's some solutions in there's a bevy of them. But let's talk about yours. Let's talk about re-rule. You know, you see in every interview every article, you know, you've had a lot of fantastic press over the last couple years insider and nylon, you know, they always describe it as you know. Zero as Daniels. The first line of clothing made from rewrote which is categorizes the fabric of the future in it's composed of a hundred percent scrap material. So tell me all about that, you know, Hetty scratch from different places would pieces. Look like, what's that process of putting everything together? How'd you come up with this idea? It's insane. Thank you. Yeah. It's been such a journey. So when I started making my work as an independent designer originally started making a high end cocktail evening line, and that was not using role. I hadn't come to the role solution, and so zero waste design can happen in a lot of different ways and initially I was working with the design partner, and we were doing all these patterns where everything would fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. And that's a great solution for anyone who isn't into re-rule. But what I love about the rewrote technique and the scrap material and the reuse of is that there's such an abundance of this stuff. Like, I said ninety five percent of the textiles that are going into landfills could be recycled or reused. So when I became aware of that at a commercial scale, I started thinking about how to reuse this stuff and the idea of re-rule comes. Again, from that cookie cutter analogy where if you're looking at you know, what you would do when rollout some cookie dough. And you cut out all of your gingerbread men. You actually take the leftovers ball them back up and roll them out again. So you can squeeze a couple more cookies out of that. And I started looking at these pieces of fabric and thinking if I just put them back together, I could make another shirt, and what's interesting about it. And what I've been doing is that every type of fabric reacts differently is sewn differently. Requires different thread, needle sizes can be joined differently has all kinds of different properties. And so the the concept of re-rule is something that can be invented and reinvented over and over and over again with every textile that it's applied to the basically when it boils down to is taking these odd shapes on small scrap materials and joining them together to make more fabric. I use a system of rules that I've. Developed to ensure that it will be flat, and usable that it is sturdy and won't fall apart. And we check it for things like holes damage just like you would any textiles for production. But what's most fascinating about it is that depending on the point of interception of waste, it can be as planned or as random as you want it to be so re-rule could be completely universal uniform beautiful reproducible designs or like my collection. It can be made out of reclaimed textiles that are now making every single piece of one of kind because our textiles are always changing. And that's a little bit about the rewrote technique. So you also have a brick and mortar retailers station in ref Glenn where you made like custom clothing in a lot like the namesake the shop also boasts zero waste. Yes. I'll listeners who. Don't know what is waste shop meaner. Look like. So that's exciting. Actually right now the shop is closed for renovations. Reopening on November fifteen with some really cool new features. But the original shop and the updated shop will always be zero waste. And so what that means in the store is a couple of different things. I we make all of our textiles in store. So if you're doubting this process or wanna know more about it and see it up close. You can come actually watch it happen, which is really cool all of the offcuts of the offcuts. Stay in the store. Everything is in here. Everything I've collected everything we use. It's all right here. So the first thing about zero waste is just not throwing things out when you remove the waste bin from the equation. You start having to look for other solutions, and that is how I approach zero ase design that's not with. You know, starting with a sketch earn inspiration or mood board. It's looking at what do I have to use? And in terms of the actual way, we run the business. It's in every aspect of what we do. So we have a policy for any team members working here any contractors anyone who's gonna intern Missouri's Daniel notables come into the store your completely responsible for all of your personal waste. And I encourage the people who I work with to, you know, at least during the business hours that they're here experiment zero ase can you bring a reusable edge container. Can you bring your own for a knife? And we have some dishes here and things that can be reused. We also don't purchase any materials that come with disposables. And if we do, for example printer ink is something that's really hard to get without soft plastics on it. Right. We collect those materials I saved them for other projects. So if I'm going to do a crazy costume or one of a kind piece can I use? That shiny plastic as an embarrassment, and that's a little bit about zero Ason shop. So I think you already answered my own question but deliver outside of the workshop liking your own home. I sure do it's really important to me. I live with my boyfriend, and we live as close to zero waste as possible. And it's always a challenge. And I think just living not zero waste as a challenge. You know, just being conscious person in our complex world today is hard. It's always a question somewhere. You know, people wanna fight for animal rights, but getting alternative proteins without disposable plastics is really hard. So you you wanna buy local grass-fed? But then it's wrapped in plastic at what is everywhere you turn. We come up against problems. If I you know, I've I've interviewed a fair share of zero laced influencers before, you know. No at type to ban Johnson. I'm gonna talk to Lauren singer from trashes for toss. You know, what are some of your immediate tips and tricks for listeners who just wanna make small changes that'll, you know, add up over time. What are some little things that they can do in their houses or in their offices? You win over the office. You know in your own home owner, some low hanging fruit. I think the biggest thing is preparedness, and it's right on my website for anyone who wants to check it out you can purchase one or DIY, but I have a little essentials kit. That is just the things that I take with me every day of usable utensil o'clock napkin that also doubles as a Hanky very messy percents. A jar or a tem that you could use for leftovers compost on the go or water or beverages and an emergency Topac. You know, you never know when you're gonna wanna pick something up. If you wanna swing by the grocery store, all those little things this in just a small, you know, like ten by five cosmetic pouch, it's really easy to pop in your backpack on a purse or keep it in your car where whatever your lifestyle is it basically ensures at all times that if I wanna grab food if I need to clean, something whatever I'm doing. I have my basics covered, and it really helps of things like plastic forks straws disposable to go cups and things like that plastic bags, and it's just, you know, phone while it keys essentials, and it's so easy that I think that that's you know, like, they say meal prep is the. The you know, the best way to sustain any diet. I think you're absolutely right about being prepared. I do wanna switch gears a little bit because there was something that I saw that. I thought was so cool, and I would be remiss fed in take the opportunity to ask you about it you put on event this year during fashion week if you weeks ago that I think is just brilliant. You know, you did a comedy show one night was euro as Daniel sustainable. Fashions hilarious. How was that? Had you done anything. Like that before what you talk about. What were the result heckle is at real? Oh my God. That was one of the greatest nights, I realize not too long ago that one of my main motivations for speaking ever in my daily life, or to a group of people just to make people laugh, I get so much pleasure out of making people laugh, and I enjoy it brightens my day to see other people smile, and I think especially surrounding such heavy topics like sustainability climate change and global awareness. You know? You you have to be able to poke fun at things you have to be able to reach people on a level that isn't pedantic or trying to be a RAF it, or, you know, a messiah of any kind you just trying to identify with people on on a level that they can understand after years of studying fashion interning for fashion brands working for fashion brands, I really have no interest in doing a fashion show ever again in my life. It's not something that speaks to me as a designer personally. And so what I wanted to do was do a show, but do something that was gonna make me happy, which is to make people laugh when I was a kid I Donald in acting, and so I have definitely a comfort level in in front of a group of people, but I've never done comedy before never written comedy before. And with the help of one of my best, friends and my boyfriend we've workshop at a little and we were able to sell a hundred ticket. Slower revolution. And we packed the room full of people, and we make people laugh little known fact about zero as Daniel one of my sort of links specialties in my personal life is doing impressions of people so difficult impressions and just talked about the like daily realities of trying to live zero waste or be zero as designer like how ridiculous it is that there's seventeen kinds of watermelon in the grocery store, and you can't get any of them without plastic. So it was a it was a great event. It was really fun actually since then I did the show where more time a co working fashion space in Cincinnati while I was there teaching workshop so that was really fun that to me, let's bring you down here to Atlanta come for the office. I would love to my God. I'm not even kidding. The before you get back to the grind. I wanna play a little game with you short Amana. Ask you like ten rapid fire questions. Just blurt. The first thing that. Comes to your mind a landed. Add if it's terrible, no pressure cool. Number one. What is one piece of advice that you would give for budding designer in the industry, just do something that feels authentic original to you? What is your morning routine? Look like hits news like eighteen times. Who is your favorite person follow on Instagram who that's a good one? Oh, liz. Oh, who's one of your biggest fashion inspirations halston? What you're to carry? Okay. Song creep by Radiohead, if any actor dead alive would play in the movie of your life. Who would you cast yourself in Y O at such an amazing question a play this game all the time with everyone? I know who would playing me. I really don't know. I would love to see someone like I dunno. I dunno. My god. I have no idea. One funny if I hope. That's good enough. What's the first job ever had working for my dad? He has a pool in Spotify store who was the last person that you texted me, look, it was my boyfriend mareo. What is the toughest thing about your job? I think the toughest thing about my job is reminding myself that it's all about the sum of the parts. And lastly, what a success mean to you success to me means that when I'm done, and I can't work anymore. I made a difference. That would be proud of being. I love having you on here today so much like I said before you really are. I mean, you are my favorite person on social media. And like, I'm just so honored to tell your sustainability story in you know, you're the pit me of one man's trash is another man's treasure. I'm just really excited for you. Thank you for letting me be a small part of it. Thank you so much for having me. This has been such a great interview. You're amaze. At this. Keep doing it. He doing you too.