Time to check in with one of our previous Love Zero Waste podcast guests, designer, and zero waste pattern maker, Birgitta Helmersson. Alongside her own practice, she runs Helgrose together with her partner Sam Grose. Helgrose is a clothing brand making unisex workwear with a zero waste production model.
A lot has happened since our chat with Birgitta in the episode, "From fast fashion to accountability" (https://soundcloud.com/lovezerowaste/episode-5-from-fast-fashion-to-accountability). She’s had a major break-through in shaping her business model and finding ways to reach out with her work on zero waste clothes.
Hi Birgitta, what's up?
- Well, I’ve recently had a baby, Aila who is 3 months old, it seems so long ago though, 2020 has really started off with a bang! Slowly getting back into work again, and just trying to process all of these crazy world events!
We met you in the first season of Love Zero Waste (from fast fashion to accountability), and we were talking about your work on zero waste patternmaking - bringing zero waste fashion (and awareness) to the public. How's it going?
- I have been slowly working on a lot of new zero waste patterns over the last 6 months or so for my own label, Birgitta Helmersson, which has been dormant for some time. It's been difficult fitting it in around Helgrose and the shop but it's something I’ve been wanting to pick up again for a while now. Alongside my BH collection, I released a PDF sewing pattern of one of the pieces, the zero waste cropped shirt.
What reactions have you got so far on your work? Any surprises?
- The zero waste pattern has been so well received, in such a short time.
It’s been amazing! In the first week, I counted orders from 10 different countries. What’s really taken me by surprise is how I feel like something has all of a sudden clicked for me, with how I want to move forward with my work.
I love what I do and I’m really passionate about zero waste pattern cutting. But I still find it very difficult to just sell clothes, as much as they are ’slow fashion’ or whatever you want to call it, I have always struggled with this. There is just so much out there already. My plan had always been to eventually pursue education, to share my knowledge somehow, but I didn’t really know where to begin. This feels like a really nice start and I’m really excited to teach my method and inspire people to get creative with zero waste pattern cutting in a way that is simple and easy to understand.
What made you make the zero waste pattern in the first place?
- This new collection I had been working on was meant to launch the week all this COVID stuff hit. I had been slowly working on a plan to start focusing on my own label again, and in particular on the zero waste pattern making side of things, which is what I have always been most passionate about. All of a sudden I just couldn’t keep going with the old plan, it didn’t feel right. I mean how can you ask people to buy your expensive clothes at a time when everyone’s losing their jobs and there is so much stress and uncertainty, I just couldn’t. In the end, I decided to release it with a zero waste pattern as well.
Honestly, it was more of just a simple side thing to give people a more affordable and accessible option, while I figure out how to adapt the business for whatever future world we may find ourselves in.
In the end, that’s been the best seller and it’s so exciting to be able to share my method with people, and to see that they actually like it!
Any more patterns coming? Or other things?
- Yes, definitely! It's basically all I want to do now, I’m having so much fun with it! I am currently working on a second zero waste pattern, the gather dress. This is a personal favourite of mine so I’m really excited to get this one out there. I’m also working on more online tutorials to complement the patterns, and I would love to hold physical workshops at some stage. But we will see when us humans can all be together again! Sam and I have also had some great ideas for Helgrose, we feel like the two businesses will complement each other really well and we can't wait to get started on it. Time to adapt!
If I would like to use your zero waste pattern, where do I start?
You can purchase the zero waste cropped shirt pattern through my website (birgittahelmersson.com). What’s really cool about this pattern is you don’t actually need to print anything, everything can be drawn directly onto your fabric by following the diagrams and instructions, so I feel it’s super easy to get started with, there’s no complicated glueing together of pages which normally needs to happen when you download yourself a pdf sewing pattern. Find yourself a bit of nice fabric (linen looks great in this style), get your hands on a sewing machine (although if you’ve got the time hand sewing works too) and get started.
You can find extra tips and tutorials through my Instagram (@birgittahelmersson) and on the website. Upon the suggestion of some of my followers and online sewing community, we have come up with a hashtag for projects as well, #memadezerowaste. Please share what you make, it's lovely for everyone to get inspiration from one another this way!
Birgitta Helmersson, http://www.birgittahelmersson.com/
Birgitta Helmersson Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/birgittahelmersson/
Helgrose Studio, https://www.helgrose.com/