Ones to Watch – Melissa Lockwood

November 12, 2014

salvaged fabric rainbow top

After presenting vegetable inspired designs for Project Subway on the Nolcha Fashion Week: New York runway this September, the Nolcha Fashion Week: New York team were eager to catch up with independent fashion designer Melissa Lockwood to get the inside scoop on what was on her agenda for her brand, IQ Test.

IQTEST garments are made with fabrics that are collected from garment cutting factories. The fabric is what the mass producing designers throw away. The fabric is salvaged to keep it from the landfills.  IQTEST is focused on raising awareness about the environmental impact of the mass disposal of textiles.

Melissa is a conceptual artist. She studied at the University of Iowa receiving an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts.  Melissa is a self-taught fashion designer.  Currently Melissa is focused on raising awareness about the environmental impact of the waste and toxic pollution the mass disposal of textiles is causing on the worlds environment.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 23.31.24Why did you decide to become a fashion designer? I decided to become a fashion designer because I saw dumpsters full of fabric being thrown away. I was a performance artist and I thought to do a performance art piece about fabric waste. I wrote a proposal to the amazing organization chashama asking for a space grant to open a pop up shop to sell garments made from fabrics fashion designers had thrown away.

I was given the generous space grant and I opened a “shop” for 3 weeks on 37th street between 7th and 8th ave. It was a success to me as wholesale buyers came in and wanted to order the garments made from off-cut fabric pieces and others bought individual items. This proved that mass producing designers were missing unseen garments in the fabrics they were throwing away. This exhibition inspired me to pursue fashion design, and over time as my designs received praise I started to think that I may have a skill with fashion beyond performance art.

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? It is interesting to be in the fashion industry, I find the people I meet have very diverse personalities. I meet people working in factories sewing and cutting out fabric. I meet people who go out and collect the discarded fabrics in the NY Fashion District. I also have meet some incredibly generous super creative people in the fashion show scene. Having worked with Arther Arbit, Alicia Osborne, Gina Tron and others at the Williamsburg Fashion weekend, they always astonished me with their support, acceptance, encouragement and overall amazing natures. The experiences I’ve had with shows and professionals working in the fashion industry is what makes it exciting to be a fashion designer.

How would you describe your brand? My brand is pretty humble as it has chosen to work within self imposed restrictions based on the use of salvaged fabrics. By the nature of choosing to determinately try to inspire large corporations to change their use of fabric practices. I have chosen a strategy to make the garments as accessible to the mass appeal as possible. In other words I am trying to design very wearable and appealing items so people will want them with the motive of inspiring the big waste creating companies to use their off-cut fabric that is usually thrown into the landfill and at best recycled.

I met a lead designer for a major fashion house producing many big name designs. I was fortunate enough to hit it off with her and have meeting with her where she gave my sample fabrics that would have been destroyed or thrown away. I made a point to explain as to how my research could be applied to large scale production. She in amazing and listen patiently as I explained in detail. With questions and explanations about how she though it maybe hard for the designers because of the additional planning that would be involved. With every idea that was stating why it would be hard I would counter with profit the companies would get and the positive environmental impact it would have and how if it could be done it would create a new trend in manufacturing. I was recently sent an article that shows how Patagonia has started to use off-cut fabrics. my brand is designed to change how the fashion industry views fabric layout/cut out procedures.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?  
Seeing others inspired to use off-cut fabrics. For people like Nolcha, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Village Voice, Williamsburg Fashion Weekend and many others who acknowledge what I do and help spread the word about the need for fabric being seem as a resource no garbage. When I see more and more zero waste and salvaged fabrics used in fashion. All the Fashion Shows I got to participate in are the highlight too, I love making garments and the shows.

What is the inspiration behind a particular dress from your collection? 
I made a dress from the most common off cut fabric shape. This dress to myself and many wearers astonishment had a crazy easy accommodating fit. The shape is a long narrow strip. These pieces have an interesting history. From what Ive been told the edges of the fabric is cut off and thrown away because it is not geometrically a perfect strait line. I made a cute dress, it is a zero waste design and can be mass produced creating no waste. Of course the designs that inspire designers to analyze their fabric layout spreads to find the lost garments.

Describe your ideal consumer. A person who cares about the environment and enjoys wearing the garments I make. They are people who are living wearing proof that what was once seen as garbage was a resource worth paying for and wearing.

What is your favorite piece and why? My favorite piece is a red red dress I made that educated me through its emergence about the possibility of garments being made from pre-cut random stacks of same shape pieces. One day I went to a fabric cutting factory and saw piles of the most beautiful red fabric. The pieces were long and narrow with a half circle shape at one end. Id never selected this kind of shape before from the off-cut. I noticed a few other colors of fabric in a very similar shape so i took stacks of those too. These were stacks of 30 of the same shape, one upon the other. This is the same way the pieces designers save are after the cutting as the fabric is layered to get 50 sleeves 50 front of shirts… But when I took these home I could only imaging sewing them together along the long edge, one to the other creating a sheet of fabric with all the half circle at the bottom. When I had a piece big enough to wrap around the dress form I sewed it shut creating a tube in a sense I pulled this over and onto the form and to my astonishment without altering the pieces I found I had mad a dress! I only had to close the top end cut out a opening for the head and arms to pass through. The little pieces cut of could be used for cap sleeves and neckline ornaments.

If you could have any celebrity spokes model, who would it be and why? Gisele Bündchen. Gisele Bündchen was named the 2011 greenest international celebrity of the year, Bündchen devotes an extraordinary amount of her time and money to environmental causes.

What store would you love to have your clothes in? Barney’s.

What does 2015 hold for the brand? I will continue my experiments and production of women’s garments and hope to complete a line of menswear too.  I am very excited about this, it is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but now hope to be in a position to put effort into creating some mens looks again.

‘Live life to the fullest, love laugh and be kind. Treat everyone equally. Please help save the Earth’s environment by learning and implementing changes you can be greener.

The Nolcha Fashion Week Ones to Watch feature is a weekly interview highlighting an independent fashion designer that is making moves in the fashion industry. Whether from a runway show in New York City or discovered by our globetrotting team we are proud to be a platform of discovery supporting innovative independent fashion.

If you are an independent fashion designer interested to be featured in the Ones to Watch interview series please email with more information about your brand.

Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, founded by Kerry Bannigan and Arthur Mandel, is a leading award winning event held during New York Fashion Week hosting independent fashion designer runway shows.