Rethink Fashion Waseda

1. How did you get into launching a new brand “MONO”? (Background information/why did you start this brand?/what does the name MONO mean)

Growing up in New Zealand and being immersed in nature, I was ingrained with a deep respect for my natural surroundings from early on. It wasn’t until last year when sustainability was brought into sharper focus for me. I was visiting my grandma’s hometown in Japan and set foot in a local textile store only to discover that the collection of fabrics they provided were all deadstock. This opened my eyes to the vast scale of garment waste, seeing the endless piles of leftover materials dumped from other, larger producers in the fashion industry. It was then I quickly developed a fascination for this industry and felt inspired to take sustainability into my own hands; to create timeless pieces by upcycling and repurposing these unloved fabrics.

And so, MONO Handmade was born.

‘Mono’ means one. With each MONO piece, they are handmade making it uniquely its own. No two handmade items are ever the same, making each garment a one-of-a-kind.

2. Do you have any particular plans to enhance the productivity and the quality which means materials and the production process of reducing burden on the environment? In other words, how is your brand sustainable? And how do you balance the cost and environmental effects?

Each MONO piece is handmade by upcycling deadstock fabrics, allowing me to divert material waste from landfill and to give them a new purpose. I also try to incorporate as many natural fibres as possible, mostly linen.

All of my fabrics are currently sourced locally in Nagano so I’m able to handpick each fabric based on its quality and material. Producing domestically allows me to be able to contribute to the local economy and reduce the negative impact of a long supply chain.

I love that I can create pieces in a way that celebrates the uniqueness of each fabric, giving it a new breath of life.

3. We recognized that you made the clothes by handmade, so we want to know how you made those clothes? And also, do you make them on your own?

I make all MONO pieces. This process in a nutshell involves steps from brainstorming design ideas with rough sketches to structuring the shapes to finally testing the product. Passion for sewing has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. My grandma, aunty, mum - they all have impeccable skills in making clothes, and their love for sewing must have rubbed off on me. For me, sewing is so therapeutic - it’s like meditation. Every noise is blocked, the minutes seem to melt into hours and before I know it, I’ve created a piece. It’s my kind of therapy and I love it.

4. How do you define “dead stock”? And why did you pay particular attention to the “dead stock” to save the environment? Also, we want to ask you that is it impossible not to make the “dead stock”?

“Deadstock” is the leftover stock or inventory that is unused or discarded, which typically end up in landfills. In textile terms, deadstock can refer to leftover fabrics which are weighing down the fashion industry. These excess fabrics result from several reasons - it can range from fabrics having small imperfections to companies ordering and over-estimating their needs. Whatever the cause, they are considered “deadstock”.

We all have a responsibility from the manufacturers of fabrics to the consumers. For me, knowing that I had access to these deadstock fabrics - I wanted to do my part by creating sustainable pieces and giving these fabrics a second chance.

In the fashion industry, it’s inevitable to simply just remove “deadstock” but we can certainly reduce it. There are many ways brands can avoid overproduction, e.g. by being smarter about future trend prediction and fabric cutting techniques. But while we’re faced with the many deadstock fabrics, we can build business models that incorporate used or leftover fabric into new collections.

5. MONO handmades use only dead stock, but are there any ideas/approach to prevent being produced dead stocks by your brand?

While I upcycle deadstock fabrics for all MONO garments, smaller offcuts will inevitably remain after production. So I try to abide by a strict zero-waste philosophy by reusing these leftover scraps for smaller pieces like scrunchies, inside pockets, etc.

Recently, I collaborated with a friend in Hawai’i by using offcuts from my previous collections, turning scraps of fabrics into bucket hats with a special touch of their art. It was a perfect way to not only upcycle deadstock fabrics, but also textile offcuts.

All MONO garments are also responsibly handmade-to-order. This slower approach to production means that waste is reduced and products are consciously created only when they are wanted. There are so many creative solutions to recycling materials and I’m open to exploring other sustainable practices.

6. Do you have any thought/words that you value in living a sustainable life? How can we be a eco-conscious consumer?

It’s empowering to think that we can act if we want to. And I think we’re able to live a more sustainable life if we set our minds to it and begin to do things differently.

As consumers, the power of change is in our hands. You don't have to be a perfect consumer; a lot of us just need to be a little better. There are many ways to be a conscious consumer. Some tips are to be smart about your purchases - eliminate impulse buys and opt for brands that create positive impacts.

There is a range of areas to consider when making an eco-conscious purchase, ranging from ethical labour to sustainable materials. Search for brands that approach production ethically and transparently - support the ones that align with your values. I know as an individual, it’s hard to see how one action can make a difference. But adding up each of our actions equate to big changes in the grand scheme of things.

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