How 3 NYC Designers are Combating Climate Change this NYFW
By: Jamie Schneider
Beyond all of the trends this NYFW — think mix-and-matched pops of neon, sportswear, and cozy puffer coats — one trend seemed to be a constant conversation throughout younger brands: eco-friendly fashion. While sustainability and fashion usually fall on the latter side of the friend vs. foe scale, it looks like brands are starting to take the initiative to recognize how the industry finally needs to change. And while I’m not sitting front row as models strut down runways sporting upcycled fabrics and bottle cap hair pieces, I’m certainly all for it.
The most notable of the eco-friendly runways this fashion week were brands Chromat and Collina Strada. These brands are relatively young (they were launched in 2008 and 2009, respectively) and had similar endeavors to involve show-goers in their sustainability agendas. Hillary Traymour, owner and head designer of Collina Strada, wrote in her show-notes: “I will be the first to admit that I buy a plastic water bottle at the airport when I travel. I am an avid Amazon user, when I could be shopping locally. But this year I am vowing to stop. I want to make choices with an environmentally conscious mindset and realize that every purchase we make affects our future." A bold statement for a newer label trying to maximize sales, but an effective one when paired with the brand’s bright colors and chic aesthetic. According to Bailey Calfe from Nylon, the runway was littered with trash (pun intended), until the models— carrying reusable water bottles that perfectly matched their ensembles— picked it all up during the final walk.
Chromat designer, Becca McCharen-Tran, had similar environmental themes woven into her show. "How important is eco sustainability and/or environmentalism in what you buy?" and "Do you think sustainability and environmentalism as a brand is white-washed?" were only some of the thought-provoking industry questions on her show-notes, according to Nerisha Penrose from Elle.com. The clothing itself featured black fishing nets, plastic bottle caps, and even a large water jug, paying homage to the increasing amount of pollution in our oceans and McCharen-Tran’s Miami hometown.
The sustainability initiatives this NYFW seemed to reach its culmination with Mara Hoffman’s REPREVE Champions of Sustainability Leading the Change Award, where the brand was commended for its commitment to sustainable fashion. Mara Hoffman, herself, said, “It’s encouraging to know sustainable practices are being celebrated by our industry partners. When we began our sustainable journey four years ago, we did so with the goal to generate awareness about the industry’s impact on the planet and subsequently to design and manufacture our garments with greater care. We’re honored to be receiving this award, which continues to drive awareness, and look forward to continued progress in the apparel industry.”
Even before the United Nations stated that we may only have until 2030 to decrease our carbon emissions until the effects of climate change become irreversible, millennials had become increasingly passionate about environmental issues, especially when it comes to fashion. Shopping for pre-loved items on vintage e-commerce platforms, such as I Am That Shop or Heroine, can help decrease negative environmental impacts wrought by fast fashion. I’d like to think that the younger brands and labels introducing sustainability initiatives into their business plans are reacting to this shift in millennial buying power and finally making strides towards environmentally friendly fashion. But even so, the cynic in me begs the question: are these brands trying to cater towards millennials who care about this issue simply to drive sales, or are these coveted labels finally starting to realize the power they have in creating a more eco-friendly industry overall?
Although the industry as a whole is definitely not near where it needs to be to truly combat our carbon emissions, one thing rings true this NYFW: even with the addition of deadstock fabrics and biodegradable packaging, these game-changing brands aren’t sacrificing an ounce of style for sustainability, an inspiring message for those apprehensive to hop on the eco-friendly fashion bandwagon.