Design Inspired by the Cradle to Cradle Design Philosophy 

"There comes a time in your life where you focus solely on what you believe is right regardless of what everyone else is doing"

- Alexander McQueen

Oxymora was part of the Central Saint Martins 2016 Foundation Show and was sponsored by Alexander McQueen.  It was chosen as a finalist for an internship with Alexander McQueen.

A Model of Ethical and Ecological Luxury

Cradle to Cradle

The Cradle to Cradle philosophy was pioneered by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart as an approach to design, which looks at the life-cycle of materials within technological or biological systems.  Products can either be comprised of technological nutrients, which are designed for disassembly and reuse, or biological nutrients, which can safely biodegrade back into the earth.  One of the key pinnacles of the philosophy is Eco-effective systems rather than Eco-efficient ones.  Rather than being less bad, the goal is to create waste free systems, which may even offer additional environmental benefits.  Designing an effective system means considering local environments, resource availability, energy use, cultural systems, and workers rights.

While working on Oxymora, research into the feasability of a Cradle to Cradle production system, informed my design and reinforced the possibility for a small scale luxury fashion supply chain.  I share an outline of my research below. 




Organic and Fair Trade cotton protects workers rights, local ecosystems, and water sources.  The Chetna Organic Cotton Project promotes small farming communities in India and is 100% traceable.


Amisa or peace silk refrains from boiling silkworms alive by allowing the larvae to hatch before spinning the silk from its cocoon.  This produces a broken thread, which results in a singular aesthetic and natural silk of superior softness.  To see how The Ethical Silk Co is doing it click here.


Cashmere is one of the softest and finest types of wool.  

FAIR produces sustainable and ethical cashmere yarns in Association with the Mongolian Cashmere Herders and luxury brand Maiyet


Fairtrade wool sourced from New Zealand is humane and sustainable.  Merino wool stays warm while wet and has natural antibacterial properties. 

To see why People Tree sources their wool from New Zealand click here.



A garment within the biological system must have finishings that biodegrade along with the garment or are removable and reusable.  The suspender straps of the garment can be disassembled via screwable rivets and reused with new lengths of leather at end of life.  The buttons on the jumpsuit are made of wood. Biodegradable thread and interfacing are now viable thanks to C2C certified brand Lauffenmuhle.



"Water pollution due to effluents from textile dyeing industry is a cause of serious concern.  The techniques for detection of dyes are cost intensive and futile because the dyes undergo chemical changes under environmental conditions and the transformation products may be
more toxic and carcinogenic than the parent molecule. " 

- International Journal of Environmental Sciences 2012


Why Natural Dyes?

The use of chemical dyes is an integral part of the modern garment production process. The textile industry alone is responsible for 20% of global water pollution.  While closed loop dye processes have been developed, most dye factories in third world countries go unregulated and dump thousands of pounds of chemical waste water into local watersheds. While not all chemical dye processes are inherently bad, the creation of garments within a biological system means that when the fabric decomposes it cannot release back into the earth harmful chemical or heavy metal dye particulates.  Natural dyes pose an alternative by avoiding many of the toxic chemicals needed in the dying process. Unfortunately, they still require the use of a mordant - often heavy metals - to set the dye. After researching a range of traditional and alternative dye processes, the home recipes I chose either utilize alum or no mordant to achieve the dye color. These can be found in Gwen Fereday's book Natural Dyes.  Alum is controversial as to whether it can be considered completely non toxic.  It is the safest of mordants, but still has been found to be harmful to plant life.  Indigo poses a similar challenge.  The traditional industry alternative are AZO free dyes, which are significantly safer than traditional chemical dyes, but still pose environmental threats when released back into the environment. Currently, brands like Freitag are working with textile certifications such as Oeko Tex, which works for maximum environmental and human health standards.



Following the Rhana Plaza collapse in 2011 working conditions in the fashion industry came to the forefront of media attention.  From unsafe working environments, to long hours, inadequate pay, and child labor, fast fashion perpetrates an industry of unethical practices.  Part of creating a sustainable design chain is ensuring it is an ethical one. Mehera Shaw Textiles Pvt. Ltd. is a fair trade manufacturer in India, which provides production services to independant designers. They work with sustainable textiles, artisan printing, and embroidery.  They are just one of a number of small scale manufacturers working to offer designers ethical alternatives.



In every step of the garment supply chain products must be transported. Fibers must be dyed, woven into cloth, manufactured into garments, distributed to stores, and purchased by the consumer - often these processes occur at different locations.  When considering the environmental sustainability of a product, sourcing becomes a key component of the product's impact. Consequently, a key element of this design plan involved developing one that was as localized as possible.  At present, the current design plan sources raw materials silk and cotton, dying, and manufacturing all within India. Sustainable cashmere can be transported from nearby Mongolia and wool from New Zealand. Transporting wool all the way from New Zealand is far from ideal and represents a subsequent step that could be taken in reduced the garment's impact.  


Rituals of Use

The Beauty in Mine

What makes something special and unique?  Why do we hang onto the hat our grandmother made us or the one of a kind 50's jacket we found in a vintage shop? There is something distinctly attractive about items which have a personal touch or an element of singularity.  Back before the advent of mass production, clothing was made on custom tailored basis.  Up through the 1950's it was not uncommon for men and women to order pieces from a tailor, seamstress, or relative.  Oxymora pulls from the age old tradition of beautifully lined tailoring to add an element of personality and singularity to the suit.  The lining is both something the wearer can appreciate privately and share as a decorative element.  The function of choice - versatility in the way the suit  may be worn - also speaks to the role of the individual in bringing a garment to life.  

To engage with a garment,

 to become an active participant in how it is worn,

 is to build a relationship with it,

and hopefully,

to render it indispensable.


Practices of Care

An Oxymora garment is intended to be air dried and washed by hand

According to a 2010 study at Duke University, laundering in American households accounts for 847,445 million gallons of water usage, 241 thousand GWh of electricity consumption, and 179 million metric tons of CO2-e emissions annually

 The singular greatest way consumers can directly reduce their textile based environmental impact is to

- Wash on cold -

- Use front loading machines -

- Hang dry when possible -


End of Life

Following the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy this design plan produces a garment intended to biodegrade at end of life.

All materials come from the earth and return to the earth. 

No toxins. No landfill.


Oxymora is about contradictions.  As a piece, and as an ongoing exploration, it aims to rebuild the world of the Beat generation through a feminist lens and reinvent paradoxical elements of women’s fashion.  

In looking to the Beats Siena examined themes from post WWII domesticity, men’s fashion, Buddhist teachings, Beat literature, 1960’s art culture, and the work of Diana di Prima. 

Oxymora is not only about the empowered woman, but the unrecognized voices of female beat poets, the varieties of form and function available on the female figure, and the possibility for empowerment through ethical and ecological choices. Inspired by the Cradle to Cradle Design philosophy, the garment is intended to be made completely from biological materials, with fair-trade resources, and the ability to biodegrade at end of life. 


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