Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Ethics + Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion, and The Sustainability Equation: Ethics and Aesthetics in Contemporary Fashion
My notes from the panel ramble all over the place. Furthermore, at times I was listening too intensely to take any. Both signs of an invigorating conversation, I think. Gilhart spoke about the philosophy at Barneys, and the importance of an emotional connection to clothing over product or brand. From a sustainable design perspective, she made a strong case for good design and embodied value as the most important drivers. I'd agree; we've all seen abominable things made from organic cotton, no? Thankfully it's becoming rarer but for a while there seemed to be a lot of things out there that used sustainability as some kind of apologetic excuse for sloppy design and/or crappy manufacturing. Julie mentioned how the Barneys customer is still slightly suspicious of anything labeled organic; at least in some cases the company no longer promotes garments as such, but rather, as strong statements in design. That's what attracts the customer to the clothes in the first place. Common sense, really. Apparently they are getting increasing requests for 'green' gowns for the red carpet. She recommends Isabel Toledo. Not an obvious choice to some but one that made sense to me. Toledo's work has a lovely timelessness about it, without ever appearing generic or 'classic'. Or maybe it is classic; it's just not a word I particularly like. My personal favourite statement from Gilhart, one that gives me much hope, was a quip on how at Barneys they are constantly saying how there are just "too many collections, too many clothes, too much stuff".Right on.
Caroline's notion of wanting to design things that the consumer can eventually pass on to her granddaughter sounds deceivingly simple but think about it. It's a powerful statement. Instead of maybe two, three, even five years' worth of wear, she's suggesting several decades. This stems from her having inherited her grandmother's cashmere cardigans, which she wears herself. She has also reappropriated some of her grandmother's patterns for Uluru. Caroline also talked about the need to integrate sustainability into business models from the outset, something she has done. At Fashioning Now, Rachel Bending of Bird Textile spoke along very similar lines; the audio is available on the FN website. As for the Uluru/Alabama Chanin interaction, Caroline prefers co-operation over collaboration; the former speaks of a sustained activity whilst the latter can suggest something temporary. She also noted how she seems to share everything she knows with anyone that wants to know. This is what I love about the sustainable fashion community; the secrecy and paranoia that seem to afflict the rest of industry are largely absent.
As for Mary, I think she should work with me. Why? Towards the end she spoke of having produced some leather t-shirts, and as a result she's ended up with five containers of leather scrap (size of container unclear). "It's such a waste", she said. Yes. Mind you, her team is working on designing something out of the scrap, but leather is one area I haven't delved into in my research. Mary, I'm likely to be in touch. I know I already linked to Slow and Steady Wins the Race above but because the site is such fun, here is the link again. On the whole, listening to both Caroline and Mary was a refreshing delight; reading through mainstream fashion sites it's easy to break out in hives over the banal soundbites from some fashion designers.
Onto the exhibition, which I saw over a week ago. It is open until February 20, so make sure you see it if in New York. The beautiful catalog is only $10; get it! The exhibition is beautifully designed, with large text panels supporting each of the three sections. The design is by a team of Graduate Interior Design students from Pratt, led by Professor Jon Otis. The designers are Lexie Averick, Yi-Ting (Elvie) Chang, Laura Clifford, Jenni Hellstern, Amanda Meininger, Megan Niemczyk, Alex Pethtel, Juliette Pousset, Dena Saperstein, Jeehee Son, Jinwooh Song and Jordan Wagenseller. Congratulations; the space was a delight to move through. There are three broad themes under which the designers fall; of course, most relate to all three categories, but such ordering makes the concepts easier to understand. Because I'm lazy, here are the panels for you to read, and some not-great photos; a close friend once said I destroy beautiful things with photography. My photography lecturer over ten years ago echoed those sentiments. Anyway, here you go:
Uluru with Alabama Chanin: Detail of a recycled cashmere sweater appliqued with organic cotton jersey:
Rogan, one of the Loomstate designers: detail of patchwork dress of recycled denim, courtesy of Barneys New York:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: detail of a shirt:
Kelly Cobb's 100-Mile Suit: feelers for some of the yarns and fabrics:
SUNO (detail of dress of vintage kanga):
Alabama Chanin: Detail of an organic cotton jersey dress:
An organic cotton denim dress, dyed with natural indigo:
Finally, an audience member mentioned an 'eco-fashion' show taking place at NYU tonight. More details are here.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This is on tonight, I hope to see you there:
“The Sustainability Equation: Ethics and Aesthetics in Contemporary Fashion” 6 p.m. Tuesday, January 26 Pratt Manhattan Gallery 144 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor Regular Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The full EFRA Committee report is available here
*I should disclose that I in fact own four H&M whatevers. I have a belt I bought in 2005 (I bought two at the time but the other one broke beyond repair), and three identical black v-neck t-shirts. How very Armani-on-the-cheap of me. About two months ago, a friend was about to donate them; he bought them in May, only to realize afterwards he didn't like them. I love my friend, despite the fact I don't understand the decision-making process leading up to the purchase. At $8 a pop, not much decision-making was required, of course. Anyway, I tried one on, it fit well so I got them. The hems twisted in the first wash but I can live with that. The fabric will last a year at most. This often comes as a surprise to non-Scandinavians but back in the 80s, H&M was still known for quality clothes at a reasonable price. Now... Well, Google them with The New York Times.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
A group of fashion, jewelry and homewares designers, some of whose design practices are fundamentally informed by sustainability, is having a sample sale at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. The details are:
Date: Friday 29 January 2010
Study NY by Tara St. James
My thoughts on these things? By finding a treasure or three at sample sales such as this, you generally support small, local businesses; at any time a good thing but even more so at times like these. And treasures they often are; it's not unusual to find a sample that never made it to production - a one-off that nobody else has. Back in the day, this is how I sent my samples and excess stock out into the world. Not by incinerating, because that's, well, insane.
And here's the update, and what makes this even better than it already is: 20% of the proceeds of the sale go towards supporting APEX, a nonprofit that provides educational mentoring to inner city youth And, in case you can't make it to TriBeCa on Friday, Cutdrop is hosting an online pre-sale of select designers starting Wednesday January 27th and ending on Friday January 29th. My thanks to Dream Sequins for the update!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Work offers a dialogue around the ecological, social and cultural dilemmas of fashion in our time.
MA FASHION & THE ENVIRONMENT
MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY
PRIVATE VIEW & PRESENTATION TO PRESS, INDUSTRY, TUTORS AND STUDENTS / 13.00 – 16.00
FRIDAY 29 JANUARY – MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY
PUBLIC VIEW / FRIDAY 17.30 – 22.30 / SATURDAY - MONDAY 12.00 – 16.00
You are invited to see, hear and participate in creative provocations by graduates of MA Fashion and the Environment.
This exhibition is brought to you by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion & London College of Fashion as part of SHIFT – a festival from Cape Farewell.
Included in the exhibition:
highlights from Fashioning the Future 2009, the international student awards for sustainability in fashion.
Local Wisdom by Kate Fletcher, an opportunity for you to share the story of a favourite garment.
QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL FOYER
LONDON SE1 8XX
Friday, January 15, 2010
Related to the exhibition, at 6pm on Tuesday 26th January there is a free panel discussion moderated by the curators. Confirmed speakers include Julie Gilhart, senior vice president, fashion director of Barneys New York; Mary Ping, designer and founder of Slow and Steady Wins the Race, and Caroline Priebe, designer and founder of Uluru. I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I have an exciting meeting today related to this; when the time is right, I'll post more here.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
H&M responded very quickly, stating this practice would stop. Shame nevertheless that it happened in the first place. This is one of the more sickening examples of waste in the society we've created. I do hope that other brands take note and likewise cease doing this, and donate the clothes to those that need them (no shortage there).
For reasons I won't say just yet, this is a topic I'll likely return to soon, so stay tuned.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Amendment: I've just read the rules. The money will go towards MUSE Elementary. Nevertheless, I feel that this sum might deny the next Madeleine Vionnet from entering the competition merely for financial reasons. In an otherwise refreshingly democratic competition, it's the one thing that makes it not so.
When it comes to sustainability, I have no doubt the intent is 100% well-meaning but could be thought through better. After all, this is a dress that will get worn for a few hours only. It's a fair chunk of cash, time, effort and flights for one dress. (And yet I can't help hoping someone from Sri Lanka wins, as unlikely as that may be.) The more sustainable option would be to wear something one already has, or if that won't do, have something one already has altered. By Deb Scott or even a non-Academy-Award-winning designer. To most celebrities, it would seem, there is hardly anything more disposable than a red carpet dress, although I acknowledge the very well meant intent here: wider exposure of sustainable fashion design. It's just that materials choice alone doesn't make something automatically a sustainable design. What I'd love to see afterwards is an eBay auction of the dress, and using the proceeds to reimburse all the entrants their fifty bucks. The first choice of material, as reminiscent of Lizzy Gardiner's efforts as it may sound, would of course be broken Titanic DVDs. Remember Titanic? The only time I ever came out of a cinema and the seasons had changed. Thankfully modern technology can provide us with a summary version:
Saturday, January 09, 2010
This week I am meeting with Tara St James of Study NY and Caroline Priebe of Uluru; both are involved in 5 in 1, a design collective based in Brooklyn, not far from where I've found my first NYC home. I've been meaning to blog about Tara's work since she emailed me shortly after the last NY fashion week, but as is evident from the blog, I haven't blogged at all since the dust storm. (I clearly survived it; I wish I could say the same about my workload over the past four or five months.) Anyway, I very much look forward to meeting both. In a not-so-unexpected coincidence, Lynda Grose suggested just a few days ago that I get in touch with Caroline, only a few days after Tara had passed her details onto me.
In other news, Fashioning Now will be traveling to the Fremantle Arts Centre later this year, and Alison Gwilt and I are working hard on the book. As publication dates firm up, I'll post them (tentatively) here. If I've learned one thing about how these things work, it's that any dates regarding publication should always be treated with somewhat flexible eyes...
Finally (though there is so much I could write about after such a long break), thanks once again to the Fashion & Textiles program at UTS. My farewell present from the team was two scarves hand-woven by Liz Williamson, which I absolutely love. If you're unfamiliar with her scarves, find them and check them out. You will have them for life. I now have four. Thank you.
More soon. Thank you NYC for the warmest welcome!