NY Fashion Week GreenShows: Beautiful Styles with an Eco Twist
By Beth Terry on September 19, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
What do New York Fashion Week, a sheep sanctuary in Britain, and destruction of the Indonesian rainforest have in common? The GreenShows, the first semi-annual fashion event "exclusively committed to eco-friendly, ethically sound, fair-trade fashion in New York City."
Check out this video from Wallet Pop:
Fashion that happens to be green
We'll get to the fashions, but first a bit of background...
The brainchild of EdMedia Inc. founder Eric Dorfman, The GreenShows was created to fill a gap to help eco-fashion designers show their collections during New York Fashion Week by providing them a venue, runway production, public relations and backstage support such as hair and makeup, which would otherwise be a financial burden to undertake during fashion week.
Unlike other eco-conscious shows in the past, The GreenShows is not a group show but individual shows slated at different time slots. It will take place twice a year during NY Fashion Week.
During a quick phone chat, Dorfman explained that he got the idea for The GreenShows after walking into a downtown real estate building that had provided free gallery space for green artists. He started researching green fashion and worked with experts to come up with criteria for entrance into his new green fashion shows. Vetted by Eco designer and fashion expert Bahar Shahpar, designs at The GreenShows contained the following elements: Vegan/Animal-Free (meaning no leather, animal tissue, or animal abuse), Ethically Produced, Fair Trade, Organic Materials, Recycled Materials, Ethically Produced Wool, Natural Dyes, and Carbon Footprint Conscious (brands that are consciously taking action to curb their carbon footprint by limiting the resources
used to produce their goods.)
Dorfman also corrected me at one point, stating that The GreenShows was not promoting green fashion, but "fashion that happens to be green." You can be the judge of that after checking out the designers and their work below.
Fashion's impact on the rainforest
Olivia Zaleski, Kate Dillon, Michael Brune, Summer Rayne Oakes
Originally uploaded by Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) hosted The GreenShows opening night event on September 15, promoting their new campaign "Don't Bag Indonesia's Rainforests." RAN is reaching out to over 100 fashion and luxury product companies who, some unknowingly, are using custom paper packaging such as shopping bags, made from the pulp of trees felled in the endangered tropical rainforests in Indonesia. Driven by market demand from the United States, the rapid destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests is causing massive global greenhouse gas emissions, destroying Indigenous communities, threatening unique ecosystems and pushing species like orangutans and Sumatran tigers to extinction.
I spoke with RAN's Margaret Smink, who told me that model/activist Summer Rayne Oakes was the catalyst for their participation in the GreenShows, making the link between green fashion and the paper bags provided by the high-end stores that sell those fashions. She said that Indonesia is actually the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after the U.S. and China, because of deforestation.
As Summer explains in her blog post, "If the Fashion Industry were a Celebrity, she’d be scandalous...
I suppose that we can go with the age old adage (augmented with a little nip, tuck, and botox) that “Any press is good press,” but that’s not the case when the fashion industry’s pretty little digits get tarnished with a DOE (read: Destruction Of Environment).
So together we [she and RAN] reached out to fashion companies letting them know that they seem to be purchasing products (according to customs data and related information) from companies exploiting Indonesia’s rainforests. Tiffany, H&M, Levi Strauss, Gucci and others responded immediately - and our inaugural event in New York at the Green Shows helped bring more awareness to the campaign.
But what about those paper bags from Indonesia? What's the alternative? After all, don't all paper bags come from trees? Margaret Swink says that in addition to asking stores to switch to bags sourced from companies who can prove they are not using pulp and paper from the rainforest, RAN promotes a 3-phase program: 1) Reduce consumption in the first place. Encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags. 2) Use bags made from recycled paper. 3) Use FSC-certified paper bags.
Bring on the fashion!
The runway shows include eco-fashion designers Izzy Lane, Bahar Shahpar, House Of Organic, Lara Miller, Mr. Larkin, and STUDY by Tara St James.
Izzy Lane by Isobel Davies is a leading voice of animal welfare in the fashion industry. Its designs are made from the wool of 600 rare breed sheep that have been rescued from slaughter as lambs and are protected at its own sheep sanctuary in the Yorkshire Dales.
In 2007, Treehugger wrote about Izzy Lane:
Some of the knitwear is made from the wool of Wensleydale sheep, an endangered breed, with only about 1800 left in the world. They have 250, most of which were destined for the meat markets before they saved them. The clothing is made locally by neighbouring craftsmen--the last of worsted spinners and dyers in the Bradford area. The cloth is woven at an ancient mill in Selkirk using Victorian machinery that has been operating for over a hundred years. In an Izzy Lane garment, the full provenance, from the fleece through the whole manufacturing process to the garment itself, is known.
Bahar Shahpar's designs are produced locally in New York using only ecologically sound materials, minimizing waste and overall energy consumption in every instance possible. Fibers are evaluated according to the methods used for their cultivation, processing, and finishing, and vintage trims, natural buttons, and unbleached organic cotton linings are incorporated into most pieces.
One of the first designers to have elevated green fashion above organic cotton jeans and tee-shirts, Bahar's looks remained true to her aesthetic of "combining turn-of-the-century femininity with a sharp playful edge." Bahar took a daring turn this season, turning up the color to full volume and introducing vibrant chunky knits alongside shimmering accent pieces that have been become somewhat of a signature for the designer.
Check out Treehugger's slide show of all the looks presented by Bahar Shahpar at The GreenShows.
House Of Organic (Ekovaruhuset), created by Johanna Hofring, "self-elected godmother of the eco-nerds," houses several designers under one roof. Creating all of their designs from organic materials, Johanna writes that
at Ekovaruhuset we don't believe that style need ever be compromised for the sake of sustainability. We are changing the stale, patchouli-scented perception of organic fashion through our cutting-edge European collections, as well as hand-made, one-of-a-kind creations crafted by local, up-and-coming designers who are exclusive to Ekovaruhuset.
The designers worked with -- you guessed it -- organic fabrics -- including linen, cotton, hemp, and wool in natural colors hand-dyed with plants -- with woven, crocheted, and embroidered detailing crafted by hand. The sustainable clothing designs were reflected in the natural hairstyles; models sported a running-through-the-forest look created by john masters organics' green team.
Check out Treehugger's slide show of all the looks presented by House of Organics at The GreenShows.
Lara Miller from Chicago has researched extensively the environmental impact of her designs. Steps she has taken include using only low-impact reactive dyes, using the least amount of petroleum by products and water possible; incorporating SKAL certified organic cotton, hemp, vegan ahimsa peace silk, organic wool, linen, lyocell, flax and soy fibers, hand-loomed bamboo, and recycled organic cotton; working with Jimtex's recycled cotton yarn; sourcing fibers from U.S mills whenever possible; and employing knitters and seamstresses at home in Chicago for fair wages.
Of the bamboo fabrics that she uses, Miller writes:
there is some controversy surrounding the actual “green” benefits of bamboo and soy fibers. This is a topic that Summer Rayne Oakes and I have talked about since I began my line. The controversy is because many manufacturers use a chemical process that requires toxic solutions to break down the PH of the fiber.
The bamboo and soy fibers that I use are not manufactured using these caustic solutions. I have made sure that the soy and bamboo fibers that I use are made by a hydrogen peroxide manufacturing process versus a caustic chemical manufacturing process. There is quite a lot of information available on the web about the differences in these processes – please visit the following site as a jumping off point. http://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/09/bamboo-facts-be.html
Check out Treehugger's slide show of all the looks presented by Lara Miller at The GreenShows.
includes sweaters made of soy, organic bamboo, cashmere-like milk fiber and Cupro sateen made from cotton byproducts. But for the elastic used in certain pieces, Larkin says all embellishments and trims in the line hail from recycled or vintage sources, while dyes used to create the clothing’s muted pastel hues are locally-made with plants and vegetables as part of an ongoing collaboration with Berkeley textile artist Sasha Duerr. Even the clothing tags Larkin uses are eco-minded: when planted, they sprout into delphiniums.
Of this week's show, TreeHugger says,
A relative newcomer on the eco-scene, the San Francisco-based designer (a.k.a Casey Larkin) wowed the GreenShows audience in New York earlier this week with beautiful garments that managed to be at once ethereal and eminently wearable.
Check out Treehugger's slide show of all the looks presented by Mr Larkin at The GreenShows.
STUDY is a creative collective based in Brooklyn, NY and run by fashion designer, Tara St James. Their first collection, The Square Project, consists of sustainable clothing based on "a study of shapes in relation to the human form, starting with the square." The collection includes 9 styles (a square number), each of which is sewn, folded, shaped and manipulated differently. The goal is to create a sustainably developed collection that can be worn in several different ways, using the most basic shape possible.
Check out Treehugger's slide show of all the looks presented by STUDY at The GreenShows.
So, do you think The GreenShows was a success?
Here are what a few bloggers have to say:
Lindsay Block from Elephant
The GreenShows hopes that eco-fashion will become mainstream and that all designers will commit to helping the environment by taking on more responsibility to protect our natural resources and achieve zero waste.
But FashionAbledo wonders if this hasn't already happened. In her lukewarm assessment of designer Izzy Lane, she writes:
There were definitely some promising pieces, particularly in the above purple knit dress (btw, they were all made with wool from rescued sheep) but if you want to talk luxury clothing that is still ethical, what's to stop me from going for one of the pieces shown by Costello Tagliapietra (who saved 90% of water normally used in production, by using AirDye in their collections this year) or Yigal Azrouël (whose collection featured tons of sustainable textiles)?
Vanessa Brunner from Green By Design writes:
After seeing “green” label on everything from peaches at Safeway to jewelry at WalMart, it’s easy for an eco-fashionista to be wary of greenwashing and cynical of big events/companies. But what’s important about things like this is not only that they speak to the core of the movement, but they’re getting the word out to so many people! And right now, that’s an incredibly important and very daunting job—the Green Movement could use all the help it can get!
What do I think? I wish I had been there in New York to see these beautiful designs for myself!
Beth Terry writes about finding creative ways to reduce her plastic consumption and plastic waste at Fake Plastic Fish and
encourages others to join the fun. We only have one planet. Let's enjoy
it instead of cluttering it up with more plastic crap!