zero.O.lab Project a Vehicle for Social Change Through Fashion

Katherine Soucie transforms thrift store castoffs into cutting-edge fashion.

Credit: Yvonne Chew

Katherine Soucie combines zero waste philosophies and design to localize and reinvigorate the local fashion scene


Katherine Soucie is indeed a fashion philosophist. Her creation, zero.O.lab, is a collaborative fashion design project and the first in-house clothing label for My Sister’s Closet, a second-hand boutique in Yaletown run by volunteers of the Battered Women Support Services.


The brand, developed in August 2010, is more than a collection; she calls it a “collaborative system.”



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My Sister’s Closet

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With the determination to combine zero waste philosophies with fashion design, Soucie creates both runway-ready and ready-to-wear pieces made from discarded donations from My Sister’s Closet. Picking up unwanted items from them each week allows her to deliver a new series of work on the 15th of every month.


zero-lab- fasion designs

zero.O.lab designs are created from discarded donations and are sold at Yaletown’s My Sister’s Closet, a retail arm of the Battered Women’s Support Services.


It may sound like too great commitment for one person, but Katherine is no newbie to the fashion design world.


Her experience working with industrial waste since the early 1990s and creating stylish and functional collections made from thrown-out textiles through her Sans Soucie label has helped her receive many accolades and awards. She attributes some of that creativity to the thrift stores of Montreal, where as a young girl she would scour the racks for vintage pieces she could rejig as new clothing.


Soucie says the advantage of re-working secondhand items is that “thrift stores house every designer on the planet” and therefore offer a chance to “collaborate with designers past and present.”


zero.O.lab makes big impression at Vancouver Eco Fashion Week

The latest zero.O.lab collection, featured in the February 2011 Vancouver Eco Fashion Week, was inspired by surrealist designer Rei Kawakubo and Hanna Hawke.


Some stand-out pieces were made with household textiles such as curtain panels, which were dyed using a natural rusting process involving found objects, salt and vinegar (pictured below).


zero-lab-curtains dress

A zero.O.lab creation, this dress began as household curtains.


Katherine says that although there are “millions” of clothing designers out there, she continues to create because of her responsibility to what she can put out there: the ability to use the zero waste concept “as a vehicle for social change through fashion.”

These pieces keep discarded clothing out of the landfills, and “as opposed to being told what to wear,” people are empowered to “be aware of what you’re wearing.”


zero-lab Katherine Soucie

zero.O.lab’s Katherine Soucie [left, with the author] is approaching fashion from a different (more eco-friendly) angle.


Looking ahead, Soucie’s dance card is definitely filling up fast. She will continue her research development at Emily Carr University exploring concepts of zero waste; a designers in residence program at My Sister’s Closet is also in the works; an affordable ready-to-wear line (under $100) will be released soon; and, of course, she’ll continue to produce one-of-a-kind fashion and installations that are socially responsible and that help encourage awareness within the community.


zero.O.lab at 2011 EcoFashion Week Vancouver

Katherine Soucie (centre) with her designs at
Vancouver Eco Fashion Week 2011.


Video: What is zero.O.lab?

zero.O.lab is not just the work of Soucie but of a collection of artists, designers and creative thinkers. Under the name zerolab (a), they are working to localize the production of garments in Vancouver and “empowering knowledge and creativity in the community to cultivate self-sufficiency.”


Great music by local singer-songwriter Adam Farnsworth accompanies this simple, creative little video about the mission of zero.O.lab: