Spotlight: Mark Liu


05 Monday 05th July 2010
Mark who? Chances are that you've never heard of him, but this designer is revolutionising the fashion industry with his revolutionary 'No Waste' technique proving eco-sustainability and fashion need not be mutually exclusive concepts. A graduate of CSM, Mark Liu has developed a revolutionary cutting technique that saves an extra 15% of material on each garment. Just one sheet of cloth is cut into jigsaw pieces to fit seamlessly together, using every inch of fabric that traditional cutting techniques waste and end up as more landfill.
Mark Liu, Unicorn Collection. Photography: Science Museum

Don’t Panic caught up with him for an interview to find out his future plans, tips for the fresh crop of designers and how he thinks fashion needs to snap to it and get greener.

What are your plans for the next season, SS11?
My plans are a bit unusual and not all that clear cut for the next season.  Over the last six months I have purely focused on research to find the limitations of our existing fashion system. One of my discoveries was that fashion is a culture of copying and translating ideas. To create a sustainable future for fashion we need new solutions and new thinking.
What do you perceive as the biggest obstacle to eco-couture, apart from the access to sustainable materials?

What we need is more inventors and less copiers. Invention is not making “innovative” cloths that reference the past or the latest movie. It is developing new techniques and ways of thinking for a practical outcome.

It takes a very  different set of skills to invent. It is something you are not taught in college and most designers will never do it in their entire careers. The more established you are, the harder it is to take a risk. It takes hard work, you will be constantly criticised and there is no guaranteed outcome.
TRASH has showcased a whole new range of sustainable and eco-friendly materials, such as Morphotex; are they materials you envisage using in future collections?
As I have always used sustainable materials, my next goal is to challenge the fundamental way we design clothing. The way designers even think about making clothing is derived from pattern cutting techniques that are hundreds of years old. Modern science and mathematics have techniques which can quickly solve problems that would take an eternity to do by trial and error. These techniques exist and could be applied to clothing to make them more sustainable, comfortable and aesthetic. However, most designers are too afraid to read these kinds of books or commit to learning these ideas.
Do you have any current plans to show at London Fashion Week or any more exhibitions planned for 2010-11?
I would like to bring thought in fashion out of the 1890s and into 2020. Invention takes time and the limitation of six months for each collection was too little for me to make serious change. So I have decided to step outside the fashion system until my new research is ready.
What tips, small or big, can you give new designers starting out and also established fashion labels on becoming more eco-conscious?
For existing labels, material substitution to sustainable materials is getting easier every day and I encourage you to do so.
For future designers, I suggest that instead of rebelling by referencing punk or making things more sexy, try questioning what you are being taught and question yourself. Self educate, as new information is always coming out and your teachers are learning it at the same time as you are. If you can invent, you can change things and it is infinitely rewarding.
See Mark Liu's 'No Waste' dress from the Unicorn Collection at TRASH Fashion at the Science Museum, London.

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