Sans Soucie Turns Waste into Wonders

Growing up in the 1980s “when recycling was being implemented,” was how Vancouver fashion designer Katherine Soucie first became waste-conscious.

Today Soucie runs Sans Soucie, her own label, which has followed a zero-waste design philosophy since its launch in 2003. Using unique materials, Soucie constantly educates consumers about eco-friendly fashion.

ZERO-WASTE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

Soucie’s zero-waste design philosophy stems from working in a textile mill in Ontario, where she was first exposed to produced materials that were discarded at the end of the day. Seeing firsthand the waste that was created from a single company made her aware of the issue.

It’s what society wasn’t aware of that pushed her to study textiles and focus on creating waste-free garments and fabrics.

Soucie’s philosophy includes using waste materials from garment factories, reusing dyes, and capturing excess ink on table covers. 

USING PRE-CONSUMER WASTE

Soucie avoids using newly produced materials for her garments, organic or otherwise. Instead, she chooses to use pre-consumer waste — buying materials that would never leave the factory, called castoffs. Castoffs are typically the result of a wrong stitch or something similar, she says.

Soucie makes her own fabric from the castoffs; her main source of material is hosiery. For the past 10 years, Soucie has bought waste from hosiery mills in Canada to “transform it into a new fabric, garments, accessories and art installations.”

Straying from buying new fabric to create her garments is a decision made by having “more materials on this planet that we don’t need to be producing anymore.” While it’s okay for designers to want to step into the eco-fashion market by using organic materials, the issue lies in those materials still being produced.

PRODUCING ALL-CANADIAN PRODUCTS

Though she sells her garments internationally, all of the materials Soucie uses come from factories in Canada. Producing one hundred per cent Canadian garments is important to Soucie and something she’s been able to continue since creating her label.

Three years ago, she was encouraged to expand her label by buying waste materials from other countries, and had to take a step back. Soucie was reminded of her Canadian roots and why she originally put herself in the business. 

“There’s a bigger picture to what I’m doing. I’m not just producing a textile, I’m not just producing clothing,” she said. “I really wanted to rethink that structure because this is meant to be specialized.”

“There’s a certain process and there’s only a certain amount of work available and that’s okay.”

PIECES MEANT TO LAST

Creating the pieces herself, Soucie also emphasizes the fact that her product is meant to last: “I’ve seen clients that have bought some of my earliest work and the work still looks brand new.” The designs are described as timeless, so consumers really can wear them over a number of years without going out of style.

All garments are made to be machine-washable and dryable, but are encouraged to be hand-washed and hung to dry.

Furthermore, Soucie offers continuous repair on products. “If something happens or the client has outgrown it, it can be remade into something else,” she says.

EDUCATING THE PUBLIC

Soucie finds educating people about what she does and why equally as important as using materials produced in Canada. 

While at design school, Soucie was told there was no market for reusing textiles, and terms like “zero waste fashion” didn’t exist. “I was told that I couldn’t do what I’m doing,” she said. But being told she couldn’t design for a non-existent market pushed her to where she is today, which is why education around zero-waste is so important to her.

“It needs to start before the fashion schools; it needs to start in the elementary and secondary levels,” she said.

Today, Soucie educates people by writing about the type of work she does and using social media to help. Wearing her own label is a form of education in itself and even word of mouth is her “strongest form of marketing.” Often her clients come from referrals from other clients and “keep coming back.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

While Soucie creates her own fabrics, she intends to do the same for other designers: “My goal is to be able to produce this material for other designers to work with.” Soucie is connected to a circuit of international designers, and hopes to collaborate with a handful of them by sending some of her material to see how they would make use of it. 

Soucie also aims to build a “design house” based in Vancouver where other designers would be able to come in and produce a collection of their own using her textiles.

Soucie’s garments are heavily inspired by nature and architecture. Her designs embody the Japanese term “wabi-sabi,” which means “finding the beauty of things that are dead or don’t have a voice.”

For more information about Sans Soucie, visit the website or Soucie’s online shop on Etsy.

by Kayla Isomura

Photo Credit: Kayla Isomura (first three photos) and Peter Jensen (photos from Vancouver Eco Fashion Week).