Friday, October 8, 2010

Sustainability and all that crap...'s not that don't believe in it, sustainability, that is...I have just been doing it for years and today it seems so overused. When I studied at Esmod in Paris, I had an evening class in the Sentier - the garment district quartier. I would get out late and walk to the apartment of a friend a mere 2 blocks away just as the cutters were putting out their "coupons" or "restes" - their scraps from metres of fabrics cut that day. They would shove them in big plastic trash bags and leave them in or overflowing from their bins for the trash men to come by in the middle of the night and pick them up. I discovered this one evening as I walked to my friend's house and saw a lovely scrap of the most amazing wool peaking out from a poubelle...I, of course, immediately opened the bin, ripped into the bag and started sorting. Priceless finds: coupons of leather, wool, lace, jersey, silk, embroidery... I would go through the poubelles outside of a cafe and find bags of corks from the bottles of wine that had been consumed that night. I would stop and find a bag of discarded buttons on the sidewalk or a bundle of unused zippers that had been dyed the wrong color. William, my friend who restored paintings at the Louvre, was the absolute best picker in the poubelles. He would show up at my door after a "large item trash day" when the big bins would make the tour of the different arrondissements of Paris and bring me an oriental rug or a cashmere coat. He would haul the pieces from a retired marble mantle piece up the 5 flights of his 1800's building (that once belonged to the sister-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte) because he had no elevator.

And so, once a week, when I had a dinner date with William, after my illustration class, I would search the poubelles for cuttings of discarded fabric on the way to his apartment. I would haul my plastic trash bags up his stairs and pile them in the corner until I could come back on a weekend and safely transport them (with his help) on the metro back to my atelier. Thus was born my "Collection Poubelle spring 1987" made entirely from used, recycled, discarded and the most beautiful fabrics you could ever imagine.

Which brings us up the present: while I was sick in bed with cancer last year, I went down to my shop one day to find 2 large plastic bins. My friend Dale had been in an old house in Clarksville and had salvaged panel upon panel of old lace curtains: stained, dust laden and stiff as boards. Today, I am finally getting around to cleaning those panels: gently hand soaking them in the tub, hoping to preserve their natural tea stained, yellow hue and then in the next few weeks, turn them into clothing. An ode to the "Collection Poubelle"...


  1. Thank you thank you thank you for not hijacking the term sustainable and using it for financial gain.....which is what it becoming. I am calling out people for this, one by one, and hopefully, they will actually find out what it is. In the farming community (ie, us old hippies), it is to replenish, rather than take from, the earth. We let them take over organic, we are a bit more resistant to this one. xo

  2. I know, I have been a closet conversationalist for over 40 years..I mean I was cheap, so I do not waste things...Never thought about sustainability either...just never wanted to waste anything (stuff, friends, love, time, effort), you get the picture?