Using high-tech design Kye Shimizu wants to change fashion for good

by | Mar 15, 2019

Kye Shimizu is not a fashion designer, but his Algorithmic Couture project has created a new convention for fashion. “I have used code to eliminate waste and make fashion sustainable,” he says.

Kye is the co-founder of Tokyo-based research collective, Synflux, which focusses on design research and fashion design.  With his colleagues Kotaro Sano, Kazuya Kawasaki and Yusuke Fujihira, he developed a system which borrows concepts from traditional Japanese straight-line pattern cutting. By combining this with innovation and technology, the 22-year-old design engineer and his collaborators “elevate the culture of sustainability through fashion”.

As a child, Kye and his family lived in Texas for a few years. On his return to Japan, he was struck by how the Japanese don’t have “trash”. Instead there are bags and bins with names for items that are no longer needed but which are carefully recycled. In Japan, he says, there is a rich history of sustainability. Take the kimono for example. Pieces of fabric, cut from the same roll along straight lines are sewn together. Using this straight-line cutting method means the shape of the wearer’s body is never a design concern, and very little fabric is wasted during the making process. “We have a different attitude to waste,” the 22-year-old designer said at Design Indaba 2019 in Cape Town.

At the core of this attitude is a Japanese belief that everything has life, and if you believe that there is life in everything, you will respect things. Kye wants to apply this respect to the global fashion industry, an industry, which he says is horrible.

In an interview with Twyg, he refers to Burberry, the British fashion brand which destroyed £28.6m worth of unsold products [in 2017] to protect its brand and prevent unwanted stock from being sold at knockdown prices.   Kye says, “It is irresponsible to burn unsold stock. We have to stop,” he says. Besides eliminating the problem of overstock, Kye wants to reduce waste during the linear design cutting process. About 15% of fabric is discarded during the this conventional process.

“We are reducing waste by optimizing how curves are used in the fashion design process,” he says of the design concept he has developed.

A video that explains the Algorithmic Couture project describes how by using 3D CAD software and algorithms, Kye’s studio is able to create optimised 2D zero-waste patterns cut to a customer’s body data. The patterns are comprised of rectangles and straight lines allowing for the optimal use of fabric. The customer is able to choose the fabric and colour, and garments are made using the digitally captured body data. Although garments are bespoke, mass customisation is an essential part of Kye’s innovative fashion system, to reduce waste and energy.

So in a nutshell the process, which is still in development, works like this:

  • capture body measurements and data of consumer;
  • create digital patterns using straight lines;
  • in collaboration with designer, outfits are designed using these straight line prototype patterns;
  • consumer chooses color and fabric;
  • outfit is made to fit the consumer and is cut along straight lines (to avoid fabric waste).

Have these ideas been put into practice? Kye says, “We are currently collaborating with fashion brands but we cannot disclose names.”

Kye says, “Do keep an eye out for us early April”.

Image credits: Portrait of Kye by Daijiro Mizuno; others supplied

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