From Fabric Scraps to Fashion Success: Zero Waste Daniel

Mar 21

In my ongoing quest to engage with the sustainable fashion community, I’ve discovered many new designers who use their talents and passions to create beautiful things. One such designer is Daniel Silverstein, the visionary behind Zero Waste Daniel, in Brooklyn, New York.

Daniel is a pioneer in the Zero Waste movement, garnering support from celebrities and publications across the globe for his genderless, ethically made clothing. From mixed-print hoodies to monochrome joggers, each Zero Waste Daniel item is a striking, one-of-a-kind creation.

Daniel re-uses fabric scraps from FABSCRAP in his “make/shop” — a hybrid studio and storefront — to create unique pieces that each tell a different story. His is a new approach to design and one that stands out among the plethora of mass-produced retail shops across New York City (and the world).

Transparency is a large part of the Zero Waste Daniel philosophy: he invites customers to visit the make/shop, where they can see the sewing in action. There’s something pleasantly antiquated about the way the shop is run, as if it were an artisan’s workshop from another era. (In fact, the first time I visited Daniel’s shop, I met his entire family.) The warmth and honesty he exudes speaks to an innate respect for every customer. In the make/shop, each item of clothing has a maker and a narrative, both of which are made wonderfully accessible.

At the make/shop, where designs hang from different heights and fabric scraps create a sort of three-dimensional mural that surrounds the space with color and life, Daniel shared the story behind building his brand and details about what’s to come.

A Shirt to Launch a Brand

Daniel came from a family of conscious consumers, so it was a natural evolution to integrate sustainability into his design process. But the path to Zero Waste Daniel wasn’t exactly linear.

For five years, Daniel tried to build a traditional brand, but found that the breakneck pace of creating a new collection every season exhausted him. He decided to take a break.

In cleaning out his studio, he gathered years’ worth of fabric scraps into huge garbage bags and took them to a dumpster. Before he could actually throw them away, Daniel had second thoughts.

“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this. This is the antithesis of who I am, this is not what I stand for,’” he said.

He put the bag down and fabrics spilled out in an array of color and patterns. From the scraps, he decided to make a shirt. Once it was finished, he posted a selfie on Instagram, which quickly became his most popular post, getting double the likes of any post he’d shared before.

Comments were streaming in: Are you doing menswear now? How much are these shirts? Can I get one?

“That was sort of, like, the moment of, ‘Oh. Maybe this is what I should be doing,’” he said.

Ethically Made Art Objects

Daniel is inspired to create new designs by finding things he wants to wear that aren’t available anywhere else. He creates items with the limited-edition mindset of an artist and the ethical production awareness of a sustainable designer.

It’s an interesting process that underlies the way a visitor feels in the make/shop, which functions as part-museum, part-store and part-studio, blending the identities of an artist, a designer and a sustainability advocate.

There’s a steady hum of activity from the sewing area and a quiet murmur of voices in the background. It’s hard not to explore the racks of clothes, tracing the stitching or running a hand across the fabrics. The eye gravitates toward displays that hover between colorful layers and sleek minimalism. It’s a feast for the senses.

Even now, as his staff grows and the demand for his designs increases, Daniel still sews at the make/shop, much like he did alone in his studio long ago. From a bag filled with what some would consider trash, he created a vibrant brand that has sparked attention from the biggest names in the sustainable fashion community. The story speaks to the way seemingly small choices can multiply into large, positive ones in the world.

This is something we value hugely at Pildora. While at the make/shop, I watched Daniel at his sewing machine, carefully stitching together pieces of pink fabric to create an angular design against a black background. The piece reminds me of a bird’s wing shadowed by dark water. You can hardly see Daniel’s face underneath his black cap, but his hands remain splayed on the fabric, every moving with the delicate precision of an artisan.

So, how can you start making your own change? Daniel suggests that you get to know the makers of your products in order to make more conscious choices. Who’s designing these objects? How are they producing them? Make sure those brands’ values resonate with you.

When you can connect with the people creating your clothes, your life becomes richer. A simple garment you wear now has a history and becomes more meaningful.

Interested in learning more about Zero Waste Daniel? Visit the make/shop in Brooklyn or check out these upcoming events:

Photographer // Federica Dall’Orso
Creative Diretor // Christina Almeida
Make Up Artist // Sasha Colina Cruz
Hair Styling // Zeta Korqa
Models // Kate Walz, Sydney Bergeron Mikus, Mitchell Henderson