Subtraction Cutting

Julian Roberts is of one of my greatest fashion design and pattern making teachers. He is a British fashion designer and academic. “Subtraction Cutting” is the name given to an experimental method of hollow construction developed by him. Julian has been teaching his methods in 25 countries since 1998.

I discovered him by being introduced by another teacher and I got hooked his method for a long time. I have been following where and what he is doing through social medias from time to time and I have bumped into a conversation he had with one of his students.

The student who participated in his workshop asked him whether she could purchase his demonstration piece and he kindly replied to her that yes she can but he does not want money, all he needs is only the postage. The dress was made and autographed on the corner of the dress by Julian. He is one of the greatest fashion and pattern making tutors in the world. So presumably the dress would be worth a lot even if it was a prototype.

I have come across his generous gestures sometime before like this. One time he asked for donation to his followers of the intention of giving that a donation to women’s health or cancer research when he participated a long marathon. When I saw his conversation with the student, it reminded me how generous he was and has been.

On this post, I wanted to share some of the photos that I tried using the technique of subtraction cutting over the years to create garments for myself.


The above photo is a subtraction cutting dress. The materials are taffeta and cotton.


The wooden dummy is wearing the sub-cut coat. It was difficult to make it for real size so this was only an experiment.


The back view of the photo is actually a poncho. It is hard to figure that out because it looks like a long dress.


Above photo was me experimenting the method with a quarter size mannequin.


Again, it is me working with a real size mannequin.


The back view of my sub-cut trousers. But I did not use good fabric so it became my pyjama pants.


Above photo shows a sub-cut skirt. The material is deep red taffeta and it is comfortable to wear.


Another dress


More dress …


I love his techniques so much and I tried a lot. I did not take photos every single time when I made something because I created so many garments using the technique. I made dresses a lot, trousers, a poncho, wraps and shrugs. I participated one of his workshops but I really learned this method through trial and error. Of course, I was disappointed when the result was not successful because I ruined the fabric. Julian encourages us through social medias not to feel defeated when things go wrong because there is always something to teach us. Instead, let go of the failures and try again.


Julian Roberts and me. I was at his workshop in Melbourne in 2014. Wearing a sub-cut dress I made on that day.


Exploring and designing many creations through Julian’s method is very exciting and compelling. That is why I have kept coming back to use his techniques when I want to make something unique. I will make more trials again to delve into his methods and see how much I could go beyond my limitation.


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