It’s hard to make an environmentally sustainable choice when we buy clothes. Even when selecting ‘natural fibres’ like cotton or wool in your clothing, not all is as it seems when it comes to environmental sustainability. Charne Esterhuizen from MAAK Clothing noticed that the way we mass produce clothes creates a lot of waste, and can release plastic fibres and other pollutants into landfill and waterways.

Charne was interested in a creative career and studied fashion design at university. She learned that the fashion industry is one of the world’s leading polluters – from disposed textiles during manufacture, to “fast fashion” ending up in landfill after only a few wears, to dyes and microfibers polluting our waterways.

She has a vision for big changes in the fashion industry, and has started her own Canberra-based company, MAAK Clothing. Amongst her more traditional fashion pieces, Charne is creating custom-fit, one-off designs that create no waste during the production process. She does this using technology like 3D printing.

When Charne met a 3D printing group at a local showcase while she was at uni, she had a lightbulb moment. What if you could use 3D printing to create durable clothes with no waste, which you could wear over and over for a long time? What if these clothes fit you so perfectly and were styled so timelessly that you wouldn’t need to replace them?

Her first piece of 3D printed clothing was a dress comprising dozens of butterflies, all made of flexible rubber. The butterflies were hand-assembled, and the offcuts from the printing process were used to create matching accessories like a handbag.

Charne has had to learn how to draw computer-aided design (CAD) files and do her own 3D printing. She’s attended conferences and seminars where she is the only fashion designer sitting in a room of doctors – but she sees it as an opportunity to talk about her work, not a situation to be afraid of. She’s had to overcome a huge fear of speaking in public, mostly by facing her fears and just doing it – now she’s often invited to speak at events.

Charne’s work was featured at Vancouver Fashion Week in 2017, as well as a bunch of events all over Australia. But it’s what’s on the horizon that is really exciting. She’s been working with Australian researchers to bring bioprinting to the fashion industry, so she can make custom fashion out of sustainable, biodegradable materials. Her vision is for MAAK Clothing to be a world leader in sustainable clothing, and show the fashion industry that it can, and should, change.

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