action-story | 10th May, 2016

Susan Dimasi and Chantal Kirby: Fashionably environmental

Susan Dimasi and Chantal Kirby are the internationally successful minds behind the sustainable fashion house ‘Material By Product’ based in Fitzroy.

ActionStory_MaterialByProductSusan was inspired as a teenager to be environmentally conscious by images of Greenpeace activists on the news, in the late 1980’s. “I thought what they did was brave and cool,” she says. “Now, these images serve as a reminder that it’s important for all human activity to become sustainable.”

“Basically,” she explains, “Chantal and I looked at what we do and asked ourselves how we could do it differently? How could we make a difference? How could we make the process we use to create our line environmentally sustainable?”

They started by looking at the essence of what they contributed to the process, “I’m a cutter or tailor. Chantal is a draper,” Susan says. “Together we fused tailoring and drapery into systems for minimal cutting, marking, and joining that reduce waste.” In other words: “we want to build a respectful culture around consumption. And we’re also designing systems to blueprint fashion for future lives of garments. We take any left over stock at the end of the season and rework it into new garments to be placed back in store for a new season.”

Susan said that one of the key challenges for sustainable fashion was to prevent sustainability from becoming a fashion trend itself. “We don’t want this to be something that makes people feel good about consuming these products unless there are real changes to design, manufacturing industries, and our consumption culture.”

“Sustainability is becoming increasingly part of the thinking of design students and young designers. With these guys entering the industry, change is inevitable.”

But while change might be inevitable in the design industry, Susan said she’d like to see changes in manufacturing set up and the culture that surrounds the industry in Victoria. She wants “manufacturing that is woven back into the fabric of the city and inner city suburbs. A return to the local. I’d like to see sustainability woven back into the lives of educated people who choose to work with their minds and hands.”

Written by Lily Weinberg, Environment Victoria Storycatcher