For Sarah Dixon and Danielle Sponder Testa, what began as musings on sustainability soon evolved into a business model. The designers, who met as students at the London College of Fashion, developed the “Flourish Approach” to bring together community skills and resources from across the planet. By creating interchangeable components using techniques as varied as Estonian folk-knitting, Mayan weaving, and African batik, then seaming them together in one central location, Dixon and Testa envision modular garments that offer innumerable opportunities for customization.
Their partnership arose from a series of “aha” moments. Dixon, who spent years working in a knitting cooperative in Nepal, was frustrated with the bureaucracy that separates skilled makers from market opportunities, while Testa, winner of the Geoffrey Beene scholarship in New York, wanted to explore “alternative modes of sustainability” for the mass market.
The Flourish Approach system uses “cluster groups” of local producers to combine multiple stages of production in one location and minimize costs.
In contrast to the traditional, somewhat linear supply chain, the Flourish Approach uses “cluster groups” of local producers to combine multiple stages of production and minimize costs. Multiple countries are still used in the production of the garments, but in a way that generates value for all stakeholders, including the environment. “Producing components of knitwear has been done through history, but the focus has always been on cost minimization,” Testa says. “The Flourish Approach produces components in order to optimize unique skills from around the world.”
Dixon and Testa are testing their theories through the creation of a branded knitwear collection, The Flourish Approach: Experience (simply known as “The Experience”), which uses elements of co-design to encourage product longevity through emotional attachment.
The Flourish Approach encourages zero waste, since knitwear components can be disassembled and reused.
“The eternal cycle of desire that ‘fast fashion’ encourages is seen as detrimental to the wearer who will be left feeling dissatisfied and frustrated,” Testa says. “It would seem, therefore, if we encourage personal attachment to a knitted garment we can extend the product lifetime.”
Another advantage of the Flourish Approach is the potential for zero waste, since knitwear components can be disassembled and the yarns reused. “Our components can be used in different ways each season so that there is no excess stock at the end of each season,” Testa says. “Rather, remaining stock will be filtered into ongoing designs, individually customized pieces, and new design ideas.”
It’s such unique details that will help a brand stick out in a customer’s mind, she adds, noting that the Flourish Approach was created to show that sustainability and big business can coexist. “Flourish Approach systems can be set up anywhere in the world using a variety of groups and individuals to knit uniques components that join together in a worldwide garment,” she says.
The Experience, which is currently working with producers in Nepal, Peru, India, Africa, and England, is anticipating a spring launch.