STEM

Zero-waste digital weaving technique.

The project

Zero-waste digital weaving technique.

THE CHALLENGE
Today, fast fashion dominates the way we produce, sell and buy garments. In 2018, the fashion industry was responsible for almost 100 million tons of waste, making it the second most heavily polluting industry in the world.
The industry keeps consumers in the dark and breeds an unhealthy and unsustainable customer mindset. There is a real need for an alternative to this industry.
STEM’s goal and mission are to be the industry alternative.

THE SOLUTION
STEM is a garment creation and retail system for the 21st century.
It pairs a novel zero-waste digital weaving technique with sustainable garment production and retail approach aiming to radically change the fashion industry. It is a disruptive innovation affecting all key steps of the current garment manufacturing system that produces a huge amount of garment waste. The revolutionary weaving technique impacts and changes every step of the current garment production and retail system. It guarantees zero production wastes directly involving the consumer. The technique ensures that fabrics will only be produced after design and purchase creating conscious decisions throughout the process. New crosssector communication makes the process more efficient, showcasing designers to work with the same production technique.

STEM (Denmark)

Sarah Brunnhuber is a textile designer based in Copenhagen. she have studied design at the Design Academy Eindhoven, and work in STEM with a freelance pattern drafter.

LOTTOZERO (Italy)

Lottozero is a centre for textile design, art and culture, a creative hub and consultancy studio. 
The headquarters are divided into a gallery, a shared studio space and an open lab for textile production, experimentation and research. They support the development of emerging talents and brands through scouting and residencies in their headquarters facilitating the exchange between them and traditional companies for mutual benefit.

STORYTELLING

THE IDEA:

In 2015 during my second year at Design Academy Eindhoven, I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’, which completely changed my outlook on the fashion industry and brought real meaning to my work! From that moment onwards, all my projects became about how I could try to change the way we produce, wear and interact with our clothes. 
The idea for my zero-waste weaving technique came to me after a whole semester spent hand-weaving and exploring ‘floats’ (unwoven areas). I had begun to weave basic shapes directly on the loom while leaving surrounding areas unwoven. Once off the loom, these shapes fell into three-dimensional forms. One particular sample resembled a vest. This got me thinking about weaving garment pattern pieces directly on the loom and I started to question why we don’t just weave exactly what we are going to use. Fast forward to my final year and graduation project, for which I wove pattern piece shapes on the loom by hand and hand-knotted them together using the floats to draw attention to the seams and, through that, to the process behind producing a garment. 
After graduating, I continued to experiment with the zero-waste weaving technique using a TC2 loom (a manually operated jacquard loom) and adapting the technique to suit current industrial looms. With the weaving technique at its heart, I extended the concept to a holistic production and retail approach, covering sustainable materials, zero-waste production, pre-order retail methods, and a customer experience that tells the garment’s production story.

THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT:

The first weaving mill I worked with in 2018 found that the irregularly loosely-woven areas led to extreme unbalanced tension on the loom. Other weaving experts also told me that my approach would be impossible to implement on current industrial looms. But to keep weaving everything by hand would not only have limited future production volumes but also made it impossible to produce reliably precise garment patterns. I was not ready to give up on the technique and was encouraged by feedback from a few visionaries including Lottozero (a centre for textile design, art and culture in Prato/Italy, one of Europe’s main textile districts), who saw its potential. It became clear that in order to revolutionise an industry so stuck in its ways, I needed to approach it from the ground up, starting with production. So, I needed more industrial partners (weaving mills) willing to experiment.
My ambitious aim is to develop a holistic approach to fashion production and retail through the Stem concept, a collaborative garment production brand aiming to eradicate waste from the fashion industry and foster more conscious customers.
Stem addresses three key problems of the current fashion industry:
1: Production waste (up to 25% of material lost during standard cut & sew production): Stem garments are produced using the zero-waste woven garment production technique and high-quality recycled natural fibres. The Stem weaving technique only weaves the pattern pieces (arranged using a nesting software), whereas areas in between are woven as loosely as possible and kept as part of the design of the garment.
2: Over-production (in 2018, 30% of the 15bn garments were never sold and 50% disposed of in under 1 year): Stem’s technique means that the fabrics can only be produced once the design is finalised and only exactly what is used will be woven. We are also extending this thinking into our retail approach, implementing an on-demand (pre-order) system. Conscious consumption goes hand in hand with conscious production!
3: Disconnect between garment production and customer: Most people don’t appreciate the work that goes into making garments, such as how many pattern pieces might be needed or what they look like. A Stem fabric visualises this beautifully and clearly. Pattern pieces are woven directly on the loom; visualising the garment construction process as well as the simple act of weaving (a repeated over and under motion). Once sewn together, the loosely woven areas become fringes lining the seams of the garment. Drawing attention to seams creates a simple visual connection with and understanding for the production process and is an eternal reminder of the production story, bridging a gap between craft and industry. Better communication results in a greater love and value for the garment, which helps customers move away from the culture of disposable fashion.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS:

Together with my Worth partner Lottozero (a centre for textile design, art and culture in Prato/Italy), we set out to industrialise Stem’s zero-waste weaving technique for a larger impact on the fashion industry.
But then the pandemic struck and our residency with Lottozero had to be moved from April to September -not knowing what state the manufacturing industry would be in after the lockdown ended. In the meantime, I used this unexpected time-out to develop the patterns and digital files for the first prototype shirt, hand-weaving a wool sample and learning all about business models with my WORTH mentor Silvia.
Finally, September arrived and I was off to Prato/Italy, where Lottozero had organised a two-week schedule packed with 13 industry meetings and visits, pitching Stem’s zero-waste garment production technique to weaving mills and industry experts, getting very encouraging feedback. 
There is a clear sense of community within Prato’s textile district. People were incredibly generous with their time, sharing their contacts and giving us factory tours. We learnt a lot from the constructive and critical feedback about weaving fabrics the Stem way, while feeling encouraged by the amount of interest in the idea. Our meetings culminated in two jacquard weaving mills agreeing to develop the technique using their looms!
We also learnt about the process of recycling wool, which has been taking place in Prato for almost 200 years! It starts with sorting, still done by hand by experts dividing old garments according to their composition and colour. Next comes the wet or dry shredding of fibres, which are then spun into new yarn. This inspired me to incorporate recycled yarn into Stem’s production process where possible. 
During the residency we were also given the advice to protect the technique, so with the help of the WORTH lawyer we developed an NDA for the mills to sign during the development period. Although this slowed down the sampling process a bit, once the NDA was signed, we received the samples within a few weeks. 
So, thanks to Worth, we now have the first set of industrially-woven Stem fabrics, which we are now using to develop the cutting and sewing technique with our seamstress in Copenhagen. 

THE COLLABORATION:

The collaboration between Stem and Lottozero has been absolutely key for the project’s success. 
Lottozero have opened up so many doors for us and used their extensive network of industry partners to prepare a residency for me. During the two weeks, we met with 13 different industry suppliers and manufacturers. It was inspiring to discover this fascinating city that is promoting circular thinking embedded in its textile production culture, and has been recycling wool for almost 200 years to maximise the (re)use of materials!
By the end of the residency, we had managed to secure two industrial mills as development partners, and Arianna from Lottozero has now become our point of contact with the mills.  She has been incredibly generous with sharing her expertise about production, material and processes, answering all our questions, and providing crucial feedback. She has also been invaluable for bridging the language barrier and embraced the challenge of communicating the system-changing Stem approach to the industry partners. Arianna has really become a key part of Stem, so much more than just a research partner!

THE FUTURE:

Stem is at the start of a really exciting journey. Worth has helped create the first industrial samples, which we will now use to create interest among future collaborators. We aim to embed the Stem approach within the fashion industry, working with both established and young brands, helping to kick-start their careers. We plan to work with retailers to normalise the pre-order model as well as selling Stem garments directly to customers. In the long term, I would like to see Stem become a hub for both small and large-scale experimental production techniques. 
To realise these ambitious plans, we are planning to further grow the Stem team, establish a secure supply chain and develop a strong visual identity for Stem.

THE MESSAGE:

Collaborating with others is essential for any project’s success. A team provides support and encouragement, but can also input fresh perspectives and critical insights for better problem-solving.
Sometimes someone’s throw-away comment or silly idea will trigger a break-through! 
So make sure you are not alone when you embark on fundamentally changing a whole industry’s mindset!

 

PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS

The vase

The vase

Lumimóza

Lumimóza

3D metal panels

3D metal panels

Thinking Woman’s Chair

Thinking Woman’s Chair

Aeras-x Seat for Drone Taxis

Aeras-x Seat for Drone Taxis

The Vegan Sheep

The Vegan Sheep

Loom-State

Loom-State

Common Sands 2.0

Common Sands 2.0

Maretech

Maretech

Minois

Minois

STEM a garment production brand

STEM a garment production brand

Storytelling Garment Project

Storytelling Garment Project

Mapu Preto

Mapu Preto

Minta

Minta

NO/thing

NO/thing

Modifiable Vegan Bag Collection

Modifiable Vegan Bag Collection

In the Circle

In the Circle

Clotho

Clotho

Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed

Vibro-Tactile Textiles

Vibro-Tactile Textiles

LÈBIU – let’s CORK it

LÈBIU – let’s CORK it

WeAr Design

WeAr Design

Freskos

Freskos

ALMA

ALMA

Bubble Façade

Bubble Façade

Crossing Parallels

Crossing Parallels

EnaOna

EnaOna

SEISMIC GARMENT

SEISMIC GARMENT

Rethinking the Bra

Rethinking the Bra

Kinematic handbag by RMATURA

Kinematic handbag by RMATURA

Nova Underwear

Nova Underwear

BioChromatic

BioChromatic

Dimmenso

Dimmenso

Beaggie

Beaggie

Ignorance is Bliss Carpet Collection

Ignorance is Bliss Carpet Collection

WE ARE NOT IN THIS ALONE

WE ARE NOT IN THIS ALONE

H|H

H|H

Vibrant-barrier-free glassware collection

Vibrant-barrier-free glassware collection

Edge Chair

Edge Chair

Marbled Salts

Marbled Salts

Moseanic

Moseanic

Kombucha TSUGI

Kombucha TSUGI

LiLO

LiLO

The Eastern Side of Riviera

The Eastern Side of Riviera

Future Wardrobe

Future Wardrobe

Ventri

Ventri

FreyZein

FreyZein

SILENCIO

SILENCIO

Re-Print Ceramics

Re-Print Ceramics

Vivid

Vivid

A Phyne Bomber Jacket

A Phyne Bomber Jacket

Burning For

Burning For

Circular workwear collection

Circular workwear collection

Recontile

Recontile

Fashion Colada

Fashion Colada

SCALA

SCALA

New Matters

New Matters

Not 2 Forget

Not 2 Forget

Agogic – Be prepared for more

Agogic – Be prepared for more

SMARTCOAT with ETHICS

SMARTCOAT with ETHICS

Mocha Split

Mocha Split

Reframd

Reframd

Zerobarracento

Zerobarracento

ALLCA Disruptive Rugs

ALLCA Disruptive Rugs

Wearable Play

Wearable Play

Wear-Abouts Baltic Sea

Wear-Abouts Baltic Sea

Gelatex x NO/AN

Gelatex x NO/AN

Luxury Bag Collection

Luxury Bag Collection

Amalgama

Amalgama

TTorch

TTorch

From the ground

From the ground

Biolea

Biolea

Ultra

Ultra

Capsule coat project

Capsule coat project

Mayya x WORTH

Mayya x WORTH

The Space in Between

The Space in Between

Rustic Wool Robotuft

Rustic Wool Robotuft

Cartiera & SwIdeas present: Change!

Cartiera & SwIdeas present: Change!

Fish_Fish

Fish_Fish

Common Sands

Common Sands

UCQC Inclusive

UCQC Inclusive

Gabriella Veszpremi X Inpelsa

Gabriella Veszpremi X Inpelsa

Mowo

Mowo

i-Morfé

i-Morfé

Iguaneye

Iguaneye

Ruumy

Ruumy

Fugazi Fugazi

Fugazi Fugazi

Serisole

Serisole

Hi-LAMP

Hi-LAMP

Lucid

Lucid

Senss

Senss

Walkytalkies

Walkytalkies

Sole sustainability

Sole sustainability

A Warm, Light, Luxurious, Sustainable Cloak

A Warm, Light, Luxurious, Sustainable Cloak

Spell My Name

Spell My Name

The “Bib” chair

The “Bib” chair

Materia Bruta

Materia Bruta

Planned Space Pooling

Planned Space Pooling

3D knitwear on demand

3D knitwear on demand

Lit Lace Interface

Lit Lace Interface

iluTex

iluTex

Sukka 

Sukka 

PineSkins Soft Wall Tiles

PineSkins Soft Wall Tiles

Unmoist Raincoat

Unmoist Raincoat

IOT Jacket & Robot

IOT Jacket & Robot

Stars Collection

Stars Collection

Words that shimmer

Words that shimmer

Persona

Persona

PULSAR

PULSAR

Identity 560

Identity 560

Øjenfryd

Øjenfryd

The Ghost Bag

The Ghost Bag

Diluci bags

Diluci bags

M2M furniture (Made 2 Measure Furniture)

M2M furniture (Made 2 Measure Furniture)

Myhand Prosthetic Socket

Myhand Prosthetic Socket

Oceanwear

Oceanwear

t-Studio – 3D fashion design network

t-Studio – 3D fashion design network

Curve

Curve

Multifunctional Textiles

Multifunctional Textiles

Fashion Designing in an Inclusive World

Fashion Designing in an Inclusive World

‘Parameter’ Table

‘Parameter’ Table

Occay

Occay

KICS

KICS

ERGOVI – healthy multiposture chair

ERGOVI – healthy multiposture chair

PreemieCme

PreemieCme

Circular Bags

Circular Bags

Clayer

Clayer

Lulu V2

Lulu V2

Fishskinlab

Fishskinlab

Dynaback

Dynaback

Esther Hates PVC

Esther Hates PVC

Gardin

Gardin

Foldable High Heels

Foldable High Heels

Sustainable Acoustic Panels

Sustainable Acoustic Panels

Edbora Collection

Edbora Collection

Smart Heated Vest

Smart Heated Vest

ACDL Artisan Chausseur Design Lab

ACDL Artisan Chausseur Design Lab

Smart Life Jacket In Watersport

Smart Life Jacket In Watersport

Fragments Garments

Fragments Garments

Hollow: A Lie Story

Hollow: A Lie Story

FWN: Family Wear Nature

FWN: Family Wear Nature

Himaero “The Emotional Jewel”

Himaero “The Emotional Jewel”

Spellbound

Spellbound

Wear Pure

Wear Pure

Connextyle

Connextyle

Unlimited in 1

Unlimited in 1

Paramatrix

Paramatrix

Feel More Knitwear

Feel More Knitwear

Skarabeos 2

Skarabeos 2

Twill

Twill

Fashionable Wearable Camera Accessory

Fashionable Wearable Camera Accessory

‘Margarete’ – Cork Task Chair

‘Margarete’ – Cork Task Chair