• Timo Rissanen

    Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability

    Office Location:

    Sheila Johnson Design Center


    Timo Rissanen is the Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability at Parsons School of Design. He currently serves as the School Associate Dean of the School of Constructed Environments, and he is one of the Associate Directors of the Tishman Environment and Design Center. He was born in Finland and trained as a fashion designer at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in Australia. Rissanen completed a practice-based PhD on zero waste fashion design at UTS in 2013. As an artist he has focused on the (in)humanity of labour, politics and love through installation, performance and cross-stitched poetry. Rissanen co-curated Fashioning Now with Alison Gwilt in 2009 and Yield with Holly McQuillan in 2011, and he has co-published two books on fashion and sustainability, Shaping Sustainable Fashion with Gwilt in 2011 and Zero Waste Fashion Design with McQuillan in 2016.



    This book is a comprehensive introduction to zero waste fashion design written by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan, two people at the forefront of research on the topic. The objective of the book was to make zero waste fashion design more accessible to a global audience.

    The book features examples of historical and contemporary garments that have been created through zero waste fashion design. The book underlines the importance of studying fashion history, not so we can make stylistic references to past fashions, but to uncover wisdoms that might be forgotten or hidden. Zero waste fashion design is one such wisdom. Where applicable, connections are made between historical and contemporary garments to show that while styles change over time, design strategies do not date.

    Throughout the text is grounded in the broader context of fashion and sustainability. The fashion industry has been slow to enter into conversations about sustainability, catching up since 2010. There is now sufficient baseline understanding of sustainability in fashion for this book to be easily adopted and understood. The book points to new forms of collaboration between fashion design and fashion manufacture, while also pointing to a rethinking of fashion design itself.

    Both authors present their individual design processes in detail, bringing the processes to life through extensive visuals. Together these examples make the point that there is no one ‘correct’ or fixed approach to zero waste fashion design. Rather, each fashion designer can find their own way that makes the most of their own strengths. Nonetheless, successful design strategies employed by both authors are shared, as there is evidence that such strategies can be adopted and modified by other designers. The final chapter of the book aims to provide guiding inspiration for anyone wanting to experiment with zero waste fashion design. The chapter makes it clear that, through practice over time, anybody can excel at zero waste fashion design.

    Read more about the book at

    [Image: From “Zero Waste Fashion” (2016) / Image courtesy of Timo Rissanen & Holly McQuillan]


    Cross-Stitch Poetry is an ongoing series of works that began in 2016. #communication is an embroidery sampler of short phrases cross-stitched daily over 100 days and posted on social media. They are responses and reactions to written communications that are today very immediate, sometimes public and often unclear in their meaning. The daily stitching was a radical act of slowing down, at a time when there was, and is, a sense of urgency around all communications. Working on #communication during spring 2016 was an alternative experience of time, in a city that continues to claim its inhabitants as chronically insufficient no matter how little we sleep and how many hours we work. Over the 100 days the piece took approximately 120 hours to complete. The stitched frame was a response to the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, which occurred on day 90 of the project. #communication was exhibited in False Dichotomy, curated by Libby Clark, at Gowanus Studio Space in 2016, and Documents and Pictures at the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild in 2017.

    Rissanen is currently working on a series of cross-stitched poems. Why embroider a poem instead of writing it on a computer or on paper? Writing through cross-stitching is a slow process, providing an opportunity to consider each word carefully. There's an intimacy in the slowness of the act. Of course 'regular' writing can be that slow too, however individual letters take a minute or two in cross-stitch, and it is in the meditation on each word that the magic of writing in cross-stitch resides. The project aims to include touch as a mode of experience - what is the experience of touching writing like? Does it enrich the experience of the poem?

    [Image: From “Cross-Stitch Poetry” (2016) / Image courtesy of Timo Rissanen]


    15% is a collaboration by Finnish artists Salla Salin and Timo Rissanen. 15% is performative installation addressing the global fashion system: an industry interconnected with both human and ecological systems. The installation creates a production line in a gallery setting. A performer works on the production line, making white t-shirts. The whole process, from cutting the fabric to ironing the final product, is put on display and documented. Each shirt is numbered, the off-cut waste is packed boutique-style and the shirts prepared for retail – as a by-product of the waste. The uniquely numbered t-shirts are priced at $4.95, to match the price of t-shirts by several fast fashion brands. The work blurs the line between an object of value and waste, and the line between mass-produced fashion and a unique artwork.

    15% has traveled globally since its first exhibition as part of Boutique, curated by Annamari Vänskä, in Helsinki in 2012, to Washington DC and New York City in 2013 (co-curated by Vänskä and Hazel Clark), Tokyo in 2014 and Berlin in 2016. The exhibits of 15% in Helsinki and New York included a performance, with Janelle Abbott performing the factory worker, while the other versions have been video installations of the work. Most recently 15% was a part of The End of Fashion in New Zealand in December 2016, curated by Adam Geczy and Sue Prescott.

    Information and documentation of the project can be found at

    [Image: From “15%” (2016) / Image courtesy of Timo Rissanen and Salla Salin]



    Degrees Held:

    Ph.D. (Design) University of Technology Sydney

    B.Design (Fashion & Textiles) University of Technology Sydney



    Recent Publications:


    The Fashion Praxis Collective, 2017, Animal Laborans. The Labor of Fashion, SelfPassage, New York & Gothenburg. Free download HERE.

    Rissanen, T. & McQuillan, H. 2016, Zero Waste Fashion Design, Bloomsbury, London. Available HERE.

    The Fashion Praxis Collective, 2014, The Fashion Condition, SelfPassage, New York & Gothenburg. Free download HERE.

    McQuillan, H. & Rissanen, T. 2011, Yield: Making Fashion Without Waste, exhibition catalogue, The Textile Arts Center, New York, USA. Free download HERE.

    Gwilt, A. & Rissanen, T. (eds.) 2011, Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes, Earthscan, London, UK. Available HERE.


    Rissanen, T. 2015, “Zero Waste Fashion Design”, in J. Hethorn & C. Ulasewicz (eds.) Sustainable Fashion: What’s Next? Second edition. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 179-203.

    Rissanen, T. 2015, “The fashion system through a zero-waste lens”, in K. Fletcher & M. Tham (eds.) Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, Routledge, London, pp. 201-209.

    Rissanen, T. 2011, “Designing Endurance”, in A. Gwilt & T. Rissanen (eds.) Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes, Earthscan, London, UK, pp. 127-138.

    Rissanen, T. 2008, “Fashion Creation Without the Creation of Fabric Waste”, in J. Hethorn & C. Ulasewicz (eds.) Sustainable Fashion: Why Now? Fairchild Books, New York, USA, pp. 184-206.


    Rissanen, T. 2017, “Possibility in Fashion Design Education – a Manifesto”, Utopian Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 528-546.

    Rissanen, T. 2017, “Towards flow: cross-stitching poetry”, Craft Research, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 117-124.

    Rissanen, T. 2013, “Zero-waste vaatesuunnittelu ja sen merkitys muodin luomisen tulevaisuuteen”, Futura, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 45-53.

    Rissanen, T, 2013, “Inlaid Fantasies: the textiles of Andreea Mandrescu”, Craft Research, vol, 4, no. 2, pp. 265-275.

    McQuillan, H., Rissanen, T. & Roberts, J. 2013, “The Cutting Circle: How making challenges design”, Research Journal Of Textiles And Apparel, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 39-49. My profile.

    Rissanen, T. 2013, Zero-waste fashion design: A study at the intersection of cloth, fashion design and pattern cutting, PhD Thesis, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney. Download HERE.


    2017 Stitch Fetish 6, The Hive Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
    2017 We Are Family, ImageOut/Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY
    2017 Handled, Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA
    2017 Home Is Where the Heart Is, Kustera Projects, Brooklyn, NY
    2017 Crafting Resistance, Boise State University, Boise, ID
    2017 Documents and Pictures, San Diego Museum of Art Artist’s Guild, San Diego, CA
    2016 End of Fashion, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand; with Salla Salin
    2016 False Dichotomies, Gowanus Studio Space, New York, NY
    2016 Boutique, Felleshus, Berlin, Germany; with Salla Salin
    2014-2016 Monokini 2.0, Murmansk State Fine Arts Museum, Murmansk, Russia; Finlandshuset, Stockholm, Sweden; Kunstplass 10, Oslo, Norway; Museum Anna Nordlander, Skellefteå, Sweden; Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland
    2014 Boutique Tokyo, Spiral Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; with Salla Salin
    2014 Fashion Art Biennale, Seoul, South Korea
    2014 Mariposa, Fitzgerald Jewelry, New York, NY; with George Plionis
    2013 Fashion Interactions, Parsons School of Design, New York, NY; with Salla Salin
    2013 Boutique, Embassy of Finland, Washington, DC; with Salla Salin
    2013 All Men Are Kunst, Greenwood Street Project, Melbourne, Australia
    2013 Masterpieces of Everyday New York – Objects as Story, Parsons School of Design, New York, NY
    2013 Making It: 20 Years of Student Fashion, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
    2012 Fashion Art Biennale, Seoul, South Korea
    2012 Boutique, Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland; with Salla Salin
    2011 Zero-Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned, A + D Gallery, Columbia College Chicago, IL
    2008 Solo exhibition: Bad Dogs, DAB Lab Gallery, UTS, Sydney, Australia
    1999 Student Fashion of the Year 1999, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia

    2011 Yield: Making Fashion Without Waste, The Textile Arts Center, New York, NY; The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand; with Holly McQuillan
    2009-2010 Fashioning Now: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes, Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, Australia; UTS Gallery, UTS, Sydney, Australia; with Alison Gwilt

    Research Interests:

    fashion design, sustainability, user-centered design, crafts