EMROCE. The only zero-waste swimwear in the world

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Vol. 10




Discover the world of EMROCE, the avantgarde zero waste swimwear brand that's reshaping fashion norms. Meet Emma La Rocca, the creative force behind this groundbreaking label, as she unveils the innovative techniques and principles driving emroce's success. At the core of emroce's ethos is a commitment to zero waste. Unique cutting patterns inspired by Japanese Kimono designs ensure every piece fits together seamlessly, eliminating fabric wastage entirely. Over a decade, emroce's studio has evolved into a sustainable fashion laboratory, birthing a zero waste business model adopted by global giants like Decathlon. Collaborating through the ZWDO Collective, emroce shares its wisdom, aiming to save 40% of fabric from landfills. By choosing emroce swimwear, you support a small New Zealand company with Italian roots, contributing to a voice challenging fashion norms. Emma’s focus on zero waste lay plans and sustainable fabrics creates timeless swimwear, promoting fearless fun while nurturing appreciation for our planet. Every emroce purchase is an investment in a greener future.


The Journey of Emroce, the World's First Zero Waste Swimwear Brand What inspired you to start Emroce, and how did the idea of a zero-waste swimwear brand come about? There weren’t jobs in sustainable fashion when I came out of university in 2009. It wasn’t widely known yet that the fashion industry causes so much havoc on our environment. I couldn’t bring myself to work for a company that carelessly damages the environment, so I always knew that I needed to create a company where I could use my working hours to inspire a good change that helps the world. I decided on the name Emroce while in my final years of fashion design at Massey University Wellington. I felt that having a brand name was the very first step and that it was best to choose this name as early as possible. I first learned about zero waste fashion design in third year from my Tutor Holly McQuillan who is considered a forerunner of zero waste fashion design in the world. I was already focused on sustainable fashion design but I figure that if you’re making sustainable fashion to help the world, you should make it the most sustainable that you possibly can! Zero waste design gives you an extra step up. It allows you to be more sustainable. It encourages you to be more creative.

I began testing out different zero waste design approaches. The ways that zero waste can be achieved through design are infinite. I made a childrens collection from men’s shirts while volunteering at the Whangamatā op shop, I made a collection of multi-sized summer dresses cut from zero waste patterns, I continued my thesis collection which was made of French knitted, recycled wool and exhibited the pieces in art galleries around Aotearoa. I found it difficult to make new clothing from pre-existing garments. I wanted to try zero waste pattern making on a fresh piece of recycled cloth. Then I discovered Econyl recycled nylon while travelling and teaching surfing in Chile. I was always adapting my swimwear to make it work better in the waves. I love the water and zero waste pattern making. The elements came together and I decided on the spot that I would make zero waste swimwear. How do Japanese Kimono zero-waste patterns shape Emroce's design? Many items of clothing from indigenous cultures are zero waste from their production to the finishing of the final garment. We can look at indigenous clothing and the cutting patterns of cultural garments like the scottish kilt or the Japanese kimono to draw inspiration.

LIGHT UP MAG The kimono is nice as it is made up of a few different rectangular pattern pieces. It’s a good simple pattern to try for a first zero waste garment as you’re simply fitting smaller rectangles into a larger rectangle which is the shape of your fabric. Your fabric width and length will determine the length and width of your sleeves and hem.

and marker makers to design something that saves their company money and saves our environment from their trash.

How does Emroce's zero-waste model differ from traditional fashion practices, and what challenges were faced?

Challenges will always be found when introducing a new idea, especially to the fashion industry who have been working with a similar base method since the mass production of clothing began. And here I am offering a new method that came from playing with paper rather than something based on computers.

My model mainly differs in the fact that I’m not using the normal hierarchal design process where you draw a pretty picture of a garment inspired by other pretty pictures, then you drape or pattern-make to try to recreate that drawing in cloth. Instead, I’m using the measurements of the cloth as my main design inspiration. The tessellating shapes of the pattern pieces and how they fit together in the cutting plan inform the design. My initial design is a very faint idea that can be changed at any moment. More importance is placed on creating a functional garment with a good fit that is cut from a zero waste pattern. My swimwear still ends up being beautiful even though this isn’t my top priority. The designer should realise the responsability that they have. It is such an important role. Any designer can choose to put something into the world that has less of an environmental impact. They could work closer with the pattern makers

Often the blame for the fabric waste is placed on the pattern and marker makers and the burden is left with the fabric cutters or clothing producers who are often in a completely different country.

It’s widely accepted that 15% to 30% of the fabric is thrown away when making any garment. University students are still being taught to create in this way. Zero waste design can look really difficult to achieve but once people try it they quickly realise it’s creative potential and how easy it is to design out the waste. How did the Decathlon collaboration happen, and what role did ZWDO Collective play? I was recruited to work on a zero waste design program for Decathlon, the world's largest sporting goods retailer in 2021. A French zero waste fashion designer Mylène L'Orguilloux convinced the company to try out the concept of ZWFD in order to save fabric and save the company money. She was given a year to work alongside the head patternmakers to teach them how minimise the fabric waste.

LIGHT UP MAG At first they didn't like the change but they quickly picked up the idea and enjoyed the competition of who could create the least waste. Decathlon were convinced that integrating ZWD would be economically viable for them so a minimal waste design team was put together. This team analysed the companies waste which in all companies is recorded and easy to compile. They then ran ZWD sprint weeks where the different design teams came together to minimise the waste on their products. It was for these sprint weeks that Decathlon hired myself and other zero waste designers from around the world to analyze their cutting plans, make zero waste versions of their designs and walk the design teams through our working process. In 2021 Decathlon saved 783km of 140cm width fabric from going to landfill. This is almost the length of Te Ika A Maui. They saved 8,330tCOe from entering our atmosphere. This is our first solid data which we hope will convince more fashion brands to begin using zero waste design techniques. This recruitment truly came about thanks to the global zero waste design community which is inviting and eager to share. We all have the common goal of wanting to help our environment and we know that collaboration is the fastest way forward. The global ZWFD community is small but is growing in numbers as more people try out zero waste pattern making and sewing for themselves. One way to jump into this community is via ZWDCollective.org where you'll find free zero waste sewing patterns and expert advice.

What impact does Emroce aim for in the fashion industry with zero-waste design? I hope to inspire everyone to try zero waste design and production and not just in fashion but across disciplines. Once you try it it’s very hard to go back to working in a way that creates so much waste. I aim to get into as many large fashion houses as I can to show them how much money they can save by using zero waste design methods and how easy these savings can be achieved. I aim to arm the fashion industry with these tools so that they have no excuses to continue creating so much unnecessary waste that harms all of us, including them. How does the fusion of Italian and New Zealand influences shape Emroce's identity? In Italy the people shop by touching the fabric and checking the seams. They try the clothing on to make sure that it fits them absolutely perfectly. My University teachers taught me to be a perfectionist with my sewing but selling to the Italian market as my first customers forced me to perfect my craft even more. I was living in Lago Di Como when I made my first zero waste swimwear collection. It was 2015 and although sustainable fashion was becoming more available in New Zealand, in Italy it was only just beginning and I was there for it.


The Italiani took me under their wings as one of their local sustainable fashion designers and I really appreciate that. They also convinced me that showing a bit more buttcheek looks better than covering any bum up completely and that it’s absolutely fine and acceptable. I suppose the Italian/kiwi fusion can be seen in the merging of the craftsmanship and quality attributed to Italian clothing and the “kiwi ingenuity”, the (mainly) dark colours and the functionality of each design where the garments are seen as more of a tool than a beauty statement. As director and head designer, what's your daily routine in the Papamoa’s studio? Coffee, get the kids to school, water the vege garden then pick up from where we left off yesterday. After choosing a good podcast, the day is generally full of overlocking and zigzagging, marking up zero waste layplans and cutting them out with scissors in a double layer of fabric. Then 1 child gets home and my other important job recommences. In the summer months I’m often back in the sewing room once the children are in bed so that I can keep up with the orders and set the tasks for the next day of sewing.


How do Emroce's designs inspire change and appreciation for natural water sources? We appreciate the water more if we get into it and enjoy it. This is one of our major aims. To give women a tool that makes them feel confident to go swimming and try other water sports. To grow more peoples love for the water because it sure needs our love right now. This is also part of the reason for us including some trans swimwear styles. A friend of mine had not been swimming for many years, since the beginning of her transition. For one, I don’t want people to miss out on this beautiful element because of body image issues but if all trans women are having a similar issue then that’s a large group of people distancing themselves from the rivers and ocean.




How do individual fashion choices contribute to a more sustainable industry? With every purchase we make we are voting for the brands that we want to keep in business. It’s the companies creating pollution, not the governments and when a company has a lot of money and power they can lobby for law changes that allow them to continue to exploit their workers and our environment. Global warming began when the Industrial Revolution began. We the people have the power to change all industries from impacting our environment in such a horrendous way simply by choosing to buy products from ethical brands or by choosing the more sustainable option so that the company gets the idea that ‘we want more sustainable products’. You buy one sustainable product they’ll replace it with another sustainable product. You buy one petrochemical-based product they’ll replace it with another petrochemicalbased product. We the consumers have more power to create a positive change than we realise.


As we conclude this edition, we extend heartfelt thanks to Emroce and its visionary founder, Emma La Rocca, for their unwavering commitment to creating positive change in the world. Emroce's journey as the world's first zero-waste swimwear brand is not just a narrative of fashion innovation but a testament to the transformative power of sustainable practices.

Thank you, Emma, for choosing a path less traveled in an industry rife with challenges. Your dedication to inspiring change and challenging traditional fashion norms showcases the true potential for innovation when driven by a deep sense of responsibility. Your vision has not only birthed a brand but has become a beacon for conscious design and mindful consumption.


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Article by Camila Sanches

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