Are patterns the future of fashion? Liam the label wants you to do it yourself
The idea of a fashion collection that doesn’t include any actual clothes may sound a bit unusual, but after sitting down with the talented Emily Miller-Sharma of Liam Patterns, we’ve realised it could spell a more sustainable fashion industry.
Liam Patterns is here to change the way we buy, wear and look after our clothes, while making the fashion industry circular in the process. How? By selling patterns for beautiful and stylish garments so you can make them yourself at home.
We were lucky enough to pick the brains of Emily Miller-Sharma to discover how it all works and what’s next for Liam Patterns.
What made you start Liam Patterns? Why begin selling your IP?
Overconsumption creates an unnecessary demand for resources and puts price pressure on producers which drives down wages. I believe overconsumption happens (in part) because we are disconnected from the actual making process. We don’t fully appreciate how long it takes to make a garment, or the resource required to grow enough cotton for a T-Shirt.
When trying to find answers to the complex questions around sustainability, a useful tool for me is to look to how my grandmother and great grandmothers’ generations lived, used and consumed. The problems we as a society have created, particularly with regards to the environment, have massively accelerated over the past couple of generations. I am therefore convinced that so many of the answers are actually sitting right there in our history, we just need to connect with it.
My ancestors made their own clothes. It took them TIME! As a result, they valued their clothes more – took care of them, washed them more carefully, and mended them so they could be worn and kept beautiful for a long time.
In the early stages of lockdown, I found it difficult to THINK. Every time I sat down to work my brain turned to concrete. After a while, I got my embroidery needles and threads out, and started stitching. Making things with my hands centres me inside my body and produces the good chemicals in my brain. Ideas started to flow, my shoulders relaxed and I realised I had been spending most of my time with my jaw clenched.
The title of the collection came from asking myself the question: “what have I got in the back of the cupboards that I can make into dinner?”. I loved this idea of having limited options, and what I could make from that – through sheer will power a wine or two, and having fun. The joy I felt using up that new type of lentils I bought ages ago or actually making the stock I had been freezing leftovers for was so real and so true. I wanted to bring that same buzz back into my working life – both in the way I approached making a collection and in what I offered to our customers: make things by hand!
So, it’s a combination of wanting to share the experience of joy I get from playing with colour, texture and shape when I make clothes, along with wanting our customers to experience the level of skill it takes to sew something. The thinking there was that if more of us understand this skill, clothing in general will be valued more, and we will waste less.
How did you first come across circular fashion, did this begin with your label Liam?
To be honest I couldn’t pinpoint exactly “how” I came across it – I think it’s just a combination of reading a lot of articles, talking to my peers and seeing how other industries deal with eliminating waste.
What does circular fashion look like to you?
Circular fashion to me needs to be about a wider circular strategy across all aspects of society. At a granular level for example, recycled polyester comes from recycled plastic bottles, or work that The Formary has done on end-of-like cellulose can be used as part of road surfacing. But more broadly, the clothing industry doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and these types of concepts work best when everyone is working towards solutions.
It’s something that we all need to work on together, and the work will never be DONE, it’s just an iterative process of continuous improvements for people and our environment.
If you had to only pick two patterns, which two would they be, and why?
I LOVE a bias dress, and this one is good because it can have a sexy, low v-neckline but it covers my bra straps.
Glen is a woven T-shirt pattern that I have refined and refined over the past 6 years – every Liam collection has a version of it and I feel like it’s a perfect mix of relaxed but smart.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I have a 10 month old baby so mornings can make me feel like I am a leaf in the wind. HOWEVER, other than the standards of getting myself and Juniper sorted, my three most important goals are: 1) meditate for 10 minutes 2) announce to Juniper that it’s “my first sip of the day!” when I take my first sip of coffee 3) walk to work and blast music super loud into my headphones
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
No compromises ever. – Toby Morris is the partner of my flatmate from university’s sister. He had this written on the folder that he carried around with him and I have always loved the singularity of it, thinking about it often.
To me, it doesn’t mean that I LITERALLY never compromise, but what it does mean is the thing that is most important – I hold on to that, and honour it, not wavering from my responsibility to it.
One documentary or book everyone should watch?
I feel like I might not be answering this question “correctly” but my watching time is about pure entertainment. So if I am going to answer honestly, I would probably say The Big Lebowski.
How do you define success?
I’ve thought a lot about this question because when I first read it I realised that it’s not something I have considered for a long time. Probably as a teenager I had ideas of what “success” might be, but now I feel like I just take one step in front of the other, walking towards the life that I want to live and the person I want to be.
I could also think about it as loving the work that I make, and because I can’t help but make things, this is something that is never “done” either.
What’s next for you and Liam Patterns?
Right now, I feel I have done this huge piece of work and it has just been released out into the world. So, firstly, I need to listen to hear if that is what the world wants. After that, it’s about improving, refining or adding on to what I have started. It’s exciting!
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think we should know about?
Mindful Fashion New Zealand: https://mindfulfashion.co.nz/
Inspired to enhance your DIY skills? Give Liam Patterns a go for yourself (and tag us in your creations).