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Why Waste Reducing Pattern Construction?

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This is Elsien Gringhuis and her team

Elsien and her team in the Netherlands, from top left with clock: Jasmine, Annemieke, One Room, Elsien and Nina
Elsien and her team in the Netherlands, from top left with clock: Jasmine, Annemieke, One Room, Elsien and Nina

We sat down to talk with Elsien about the team’s journey, and to talk a bit about the way she does her pattern construction.


Reducing waste in Pattern Construction


JF: Hi Elsien, we are wondering, what is a waste reducing pattern construction?
Elsien: It is a way of placing the pattern, so that you take the width of the garment and the placement of the pieces into acount, to make as little waste as possible. It can also start at the point where you plan the construction of your garment, and in some cases one can plan a product so that there are no waste alltogether.


JF: How did you come up with the idea to use this method in your production?
Elsien: From the start of my brand I made a serie of garments where each pattern exist from only a square or rectangle, using the whole fabric width. I used it literally as a square, like for example the square top. But I also draped with it so it was not directly recognizable as a square or rectangle. Furthermore I made a series for the Woolmark prize, I was nominated for in 2014, and made a line only existing from the most elementary shapes, like a circle, triangle and square. All these patterns fitted into each other so there was only a minimum of waste.


The studio and the studio dog, Freya
The studio and the studio dog, Freya (she’s good at posing)


JF: How does it affect your collections to choose this way of designing?
Elsien: In total I have made two series with  zero waste principle, and for me it is really about the puzzle, how can I make a fashionable collection without any waste. It made me very aware of how much fabrics got lost with the usual cutting.

When I started to work on this zero waste collection, I also wanted to reduce as many seams as possible because in the industry every seam, every handling costs energy and of course money.  I also wanted to make this part as efficient as possible.

But sometimes  less seams have consequences that it takes more fabric! So then the puzzle starts again. I work with my patterns to reduce waste, but only work zero waste for limited styles.  And (almost) no seams is not always a solution for a zero waste pattern.


Blue and white striped skirt with rolled up sleeves in organic cotton
Blue and white striped skirt with rolled up sleeves in organic cotton



JF:  What is the impact you have when you choose to work this way with products?
Elsien: The consequence is that I design very consciously. I choose every design, every fabric, every handling very carefully and always with a strong focus on sustainability. Because we make everything ourselves and only local, I have a very strong connection with the clothes. Nothing leaves the studio without going trough my hands.

We are very keen on our environmental impact, so that’s why we buy our fabrics mainly in Europe. And always use every single piece of fabric, also the little pieces.  And because we do not work with seasonal collections, we can use up the fabric until it’s out.  And we work extremely efficient so there is almost not waste :)


Leightweight supersoft summer kaftan dress in white Tencel
Lightweight supersoft summer kaftan dress in white Tencel


Se full collection from Elsien  here!


More about Elsien and her studio



Elsiens focus on highly innovative patterns, reduces the waste to the max. Another great factor with the way Elsien and her team work, is that instead of building seasonal collections, they are building chapters in books. These chapters are meant to fit together, and also books have a line of cohesiveness to tight then together. Every piece is also made on demand, not before you order it,  which saves the environment from overproduction.


By producing locally in the Netherlands with skilled tailors at work, Elsien support and create work for a craftsmanship that in many ways is about to be forgotten. To choose this way of producing, gives economic growth to her community and all tailors get fair pay for their work.


“There are many campaigns regarding “responsible clothing”. And I think that is a good thing! Unfortunately little has changed yet. I still read too often that as soon as employees within third world production companies stand up to rebel against the bad working conditions, they are violently stopped by the entrepreneurs and they are dismissed or are ruthlessly put back to work. I would like to see, that workers receive a humane living wage, normal work hours, a safe work environment and no discrimination and sexual harassment against women. I am proud to work for Elsien and to be a part of her mission and her commitment to change the (fashion) world and to make durable sustainable clothing.

Enjoy the clothes you wear! It is made for you with love!”

Janet, Tailor Production in Elsien Gringhuis Studio


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Working with Elsien Gringhuis

Elsien Gringhuis knee length dress in off white

The start

Just Fashion started working with Elsien Gringhuis a few years back. With our shared core values it was a great meet. Thanks to Skype we are always able to talk directly with designers far away and get a sense of how they work and think on a personal level. This is really important to us.

From this starting point we have seen Elsien grow, building each stone of her business on the same ground principles and keeping her core. Being featured in Italian and German Vogue last year as a design talent to watch was a great confirmation that Elsien manages what we want to show the world; it is possible to be forward thinking and deliver FASHION while still choosing better production methods and raw materials in the process.

Elsien Grinhuis close up
Elsien Grinhuis close up


Building a book

Elsien’s design is not built on collections and seasons. The design is made much more like books, where each collection brings a new chapter, but all parts of the book are always available. Comparing the collections, you can see the similarities in the style and the design, the colour scheme and the cut of the products, and it is all made to build on each other and be mixed and matched. Elsien always use a shape element in each collection. That way each chapter she produces is stringent and saves fabric in the process.

Image: Tse Kao, Elsien Gringhuis Clay Trousers in eco cotton with digital print
Image: Tse Kao, Elsien Gringhuis Clay Trousers in eco cotton with digital print


Design process

Elsien’s design principal is completely based on sustainability. Form, function, material and finishing all contribute to designs with a long life span and high quality. Being a sustainable brand is more than using just the best fabrics. All design is built on the No Waste principle, trying to make a result of nearly no waste in the design process. The focus is on highly innovative patterns that reduce the waste to a minimum.


High end fabric quality

Elsien Gringhuis works with wool, cotton, silk and other natural materials bought from trusted retailers in Italy and the Netherlands.  The label does their best at finding a balance between being sustainable and being a high-end fashion label. Most fabrics are GOTS, BCI and/or Oekotex certified, and the goal is to get all of them certified. The important thing though, is to keep the fabric quality high, so the design will last a lifetime. All items are produce locally in Elsien’s studio, on demand, not made before you order them.

Elsien Gringhuis wool sweater in grey
Elsien Gringhuis wool sweater in grey

Education and rewards

  • Cum Laude at the academy of visual arts in Arnhem (ArtEZ).
  • Won the Createurope in Berlin, the Mittelmoda in Italy and was nominated for the Frans Molenaar-award.
  • Presented her first collection during the Amsterdam Fashion Week in 2009.
  • Won the Green Fashion Competition in 2011
  • Won the Fair Luxury Award in 2012.



“A functional and well thought out design makes me very happy. All good things are simple, but there is nothing more difficult than to make a good and simple design.”

– Elsien Gringhuis