New York City: Fashion Week has only just ended, but in the city that never sleeps, nor does the clothing industry. It is estimated to generate more than 300 billion dollars turnover each year. The industry’s carbon footprint is no less impressive.
So, a growing number of designers is trying to find alternatives by making fashionable rhyme with sustainable.
One of these new brands is Loomstate: the cotton used is 100 percent organic. Other, new materials are also used such as Tencel, which is made of wood pulp.
Rogan Gregory and Scott Mackinlay Hahn founded the brand in 2004.
“In my view, there’s no compromise when you talk about design, so I don’t believe in using sub-par fibers, I use the best fibers. From a fashion perspective, we don’t really make any compromises on the design. I would even argue that organic knit is softer and better quality than a conventional,” says Rogan Gregory.
Our next stop is Brooklyn to meet young designer Daniel Silverstein.
Beyond using organic material, what matters to him is to limit waste. Nearly one quarter of the material used to make a clothing item is wasted in the process. So he has found ways of recycling these pieces.
“These pieces on the front are “appliqué” and they come from all over the garment. As you are fitting the piece, you have little scraps that you just can’t quite fit in somewhere. You know, you have to scoop out a piece for the neckline, you have to cut a hole where the arm will go through, and what you do with these pieces of fabric? Well normally you throw them away. But, instead, I make them into the pieces that I think really make this dress unique,” says creative director & co-founder of 100%NY Daniel Silverstein.
While the eco label is meant to give added value to the item, it is not supposed to be the selling point. Designers want to shed the old cliché of green fashion being uncool:
“It should never look as though the clothes are ethical. It should always be the surprise fact behind them,” says Daniel Silverstein.
Outsourcing is not excluded – but not at any cost.
Soham Dave is a brand that produces clothes made in India by local artisans. The techniques used are traditional, ensuring high quality produce, but the design is modern.
“People want to look stylish, they want to look good. Being eco-fashion is a benefit. We don’t want them to buy because we are doing “good things”, we also want them to buy because they love our styles and they really want to wear them,” says textile engineer Nimet Degirmencioglu.
Eco-chic is going mainstream. But how can buyers be sure that environmental consciousness is not just a marketing gimmick?
Among designers and retailers, integrating strong standards has become essential. One of the most high-profile examples is the Higg Index, launched by a coalition of 80 brands – a tool for measuring apparel and footwear sustainably across the garment supply chain.
“The movement now is becoming more technical, more scientific. We can prove what the impacts are. So it’s moving away from the romantic idea, saying altruistically that we need to do good. It’s not a “do good” thing, it’s a smart thing,” says Loomstate CEO Scott Mackinlay Hahn.
Being both smart and trendy? As the fashion industry makes it increasingly easy to combine the two, it looks like sustainable fashion is a lifestyle trend that’s here to stay.