University of Fashion Blog

Posts Tagged: "sustainable fashion"

HONORING EARTH DAY- The Rise of Fast Fashion: How Did We Get Here, and Where Do We Go?

image of planet and with text Planet vs. Fashion

In honor of Earth Day 2024, on April 22, we thought we might take a look at the rise of fast fashion and what we can do about it. As fashion students, designers, educators, retailers and as citizens of the world, we owe it to our planet!

 

The Rise of Fast Fashion

Neutral-colored clothing hangs on a store rack (Photo Credit: Pexels/Rachel Claire)

Neutral-colored clothing hangs on a store rack (Photo Credit: Pexels/Rachel Claire)

Did you know that over 100 billion new garments are manufactured globally each year?

Unsustainable practices, like overproduction and unethical manufacturing, have become commonplace in the world of fast fashion. Today, fast fashion is a prevalent part of our world, but it wasn’t always this way.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to stay this way, either. In this article, we’ll explore how fast fashion rose to prominence, the issues that came with it, and how we can make change to create a more sustainable future for fashion, where ethical and sustinable practices become the new norm.

The Origins and Expansion of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion companies prioritize rapid production methods to make inexpensive, low-quality clothing. They typically copy popular styles of other designers and make them at lower costs through mass production.

Before the Industrial Revolution, new clothing was mostly handmade by skilled workers, accessible primarily to the wealthy classes. With the rise of new technologies in the early 20th century, fashion production began to see big changes. Manufacturers found ways to lower costs through new machinery and outsourcing to low-paid workers.

Men pull racks of clothing through the Garment District, New York City, in 1955 (Photo credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

Men pull racks of clothing through the Garment District, New York City, in 1955 (Photo credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

In the mid-20th century, fashion companies shifted to global manufacturing, leveraging overseas production to pay workers lower wages. This sparked a new wave of clothing production, where clothes were made faster and at a lower cost.

By the 1990s, this trend was accelerating rapidly. One notable player is Spanish fashion brand Zara. Founder Amancio Ortega began his company by making lower-cost versions of already popular designer looks, which were created in small batches to get them into stores as fast as possible.

Rows of jackets hang in a Zara manufacturing facility (Photo credit: Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)Rows of jackets hang in a Zara manufacturing facility (Photo credit: Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

In 1989, shortly after Zara expanded to New York, the New York Times referred to the company as “fast fashion,” thereby naming the movement.

In the years that followed, fast fashion would come to drastically change the industry: the clothing itself, the societal view of clothing, as well as the impact on the planet as a whole.

Environmental Issues and Social Impacts of Fast Fashion

As clothing prices changed, so did societal attitudes. The view of clothing changed from something to be cared for to something to be disposed of.

This leads to increased consumption and higher waste, which is especially problematic given the high environmental toll that fast fashion practices take: an estimated 2-8% of annual global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry alone.

Fast fashion also prioritizes the use of cheaper fabrics. While both natural and synthetic fabrics can be used sustainably,fast fashion companies opt for cheap and low-quality options. This often means non-organic cotton, which is referred to as the world’s dirtiest crop due to the high amounts of pesticides used, or cheaply made synthetics like polyester, which rely on high amounts of virgin fossil fuels and cause microplastic pollution.

Fast fashion is also harmful to garment workers. It’s estimated that only 2% of fashion workers worldwide are paid a livable salary, and many work in unsafe or unhealthy environments.

Transitioning Towards a More Sustainable Future

Though the current state of fast fashion may seem grim, as awareness begins to grow around these issues, times begin to change.

Advocacy groups like Fashion Revolution and Good On You bring light to these issues and highlight brands that produce clothing more ethically.

Woman holds a bag made from Econyl, a recycled textile (Photo credit: econyl.com)

Woman holds a bag made from Econyl, a recycled textile (Photo credit: econyl.com)

 

Innovative materials are having an impact as well. For example, Econyl and rPET (recycled polyester) are creating new fabrics from post-consumer waste, like recycled fish nets and water bottles.

Yellow jacket by Danish brand Ganni made in collaboration with Polybion from their bio-based textile, Celium. (Photo credit: Ganni/Polybion)

Yellow jacket by Danish brand Ganni made in collaboration with Polybion from their bio-based textile, Celium. (Photo credit: Ganni/Polybion)

Sustainable alternatives to leather and pleather are also on the rise. One example is Polybion, which is growing a plant-based leather alternative from fermented fruit waste.

As consumers, there are steps we can take to avoid fast fashion as well. From learning how to identify ethical companies to supporting small-scale designers, even a small step is a step in the direction of a more sustainable and ethical fashion future.

So, tell us, how will you choose to embrace sustainable fashion?

 

 

 

Spotlight on Sustainable Designer: Eudora Tucker

image of Eudora Tucker

Eudora Tucker – New York City sustainable fashion designer (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

This week’s blogpost is dedicated to Custom Collaborative’s latest success story, NYC-based sustainable fashion designer, Eudora Tucker. But first, a bit about Custom Collaborative (CC).

Custom Collaborative is a Harlem-based non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 2015 by Executive Director Ngozi Okaro. The organization provides free training and ongoing support for women from low-income and immigrant communities through their entrepreneurship and workforce-development programs. Their Training Institute teaches the art, craft and techniques used in sustainable garment-making, as well as ethical business practices in the fashion industry.

 CC’s mission is to help women professionalize their sewing and design skills, overcome barriers to employment, and, ultimately, bring greater equity and inclusivity to the business of fashion.

University of Fashion partnered with Custom Collaborative in 2020, gifting full access to our fashion education content library. Since then, Custom Collaborative has graduated 10 cohorts of ‘fashion-preneurs’ who are making their mark by starting their own sustainable fashion brand.

Last week, I had the chance to interview Eudora and learned about her studies at CC, her design philosophy and her career aspirations. Here goes:

 Eudora Tucker’s Graffiti dress

Eudora Tucker’s Graffiti dress (Image credit: Camila Falquez)

Francesca: Tell me about your journey into fashion. Are you NYC born and raised?

Eudora: I was born and raised in Brooklyn. As a Native New Yorker, fashion has always been on my radar. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer early on and attended The High School of Art and Design to study fashion illustration and then went on to study at FIT. Unfortunately, life happened, forcing me to pivot, but fashion has always been a huge interest. I started seriously getting back into fashion when my idol, Prince, died in 2016. As a lifelong fan, I was devastated when he passed away and I started making Prince themed jean jackets and outfits as a tribute to him. I wore them to different Prince related events that I attended. People seemed to love and admire my designs and complimented me on my creativity. That reignited my passion and pushed me to seriously pursue my dreams of being a fashion designer again. I was hand sewing and using adhesives to create my designs, which meant there were constant repairs and maintenance needed. I knew finding sewing classes would be the next step if I wanted to seriously start making custom designs for others.

Eudora Tucker’s Embellished Purple Vineyard Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: Can you tell me about the program at Custom Collaborative? How rigorous was it and what types of things did you learn?

Eudora: The program is a 15-week course that meets Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm. It was a serious commitment, and it was truly intense. I had never used a sewing machine before so when our instructor, Delia Alleyne, showed us how to thread the needle on the first day, my head nearly exploded. I didn’t think I would ever be able to thread the machine, let alone sew something together. Fear and self-doubt overcame me, and I was questioning why I ever signed up. Delia encouraged and helped us overcome our fears and by the end of the day, I was able to successfully thread my machine. I knew it was going to be a tough road ahead, but I was up for the challenge. During those 15 weeks there were many tears shed out of frustration, but also with happiness when I was able to get through another tough lesson. In the end I completed the course with the ability to design and sew; a portfolio of work including illustrations for two collections, which included inspiration, mood and fabric boards; an awesome business plan that I wrote, and most importantly, the knowledge and confidence to go forward in pursuit of my dream.

Eudora Tucker’s Rocket Man Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: How were the University of Fashion lessons utilized at CC?

Eudora: We constantly referred to the University of Fashion lessons while studying. We used them to reinforce lessons that Delia taught us and to complete projects on our own. I am a visual learner, so it was a tremendous help and resource for me. The videos that were the biggest help were the lessons on the invisible zipper, pattern making and layout, and draping. These were life saving for me. Due to time constraints, and the amount of projects we covered, it was impossible to learn and complete everything in class. The videos allowed us to review the task, step by step, on our own time to complete the projects correctly.

 

Eudora Tucker’s Incomparable Lady Day Shirt Dress

Eudora Tucker’s Incomparable Lady Day Shirt Dress (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: Can you tell me about your capstone project at CC?

Eudora: My capstone project was a hand painted, full length gown with a train. My design was inspired by the feelings of fear, uncertainty and sense of lawlessness in NYC post Covid-19. With the closing of so many businesses, the graffiti artists had once again transformed our city’s landscape with their artwork, reminiscent of the late 1970s and 80s. Using donated fabric that I treated to create the Ombre effect, the design ascends from darkness to light, reflecting the transitioning of Oppression and Anarchy, rising out of Out Rage and Despair, through Faith and Unity, to ultimately arrive at Love and Peace. My design was chosen as the finale of Cohort 9’s graduation runway show and was also featured in both Vogue Business and Harper’s Bazaar articles. Not only were these very proud moments for me, but they also serve as a testament that my perseverance and hard work are truly paying off.

Eudora Tucker’s Queen Bee Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What made you want to focus on upcycling and sustainable design?

Eudora: Custom Collaborative is an organization that is built on the principles of fashion sustainability. I never heard of fashion sustainability and, to be honest, I was a consumer of fast fashion without even knowing it. I had never heard of the term “fast fashion” until I came to Custom Collaborative. Once I found out what it was and how it affects the planet; coupled with the unfair labor practices that affect the seamstresses that work in the factories, I quickly got on board. I started changing my purchasing habits and decided to focus on upcycling and sustainable design. I truly enjoy taking a “pre-loved” garment and repurposing it into something new and creative. It allows me to create one of a kind, statement pieces that make my clientele feel special when they wear it.

Eudora Tucker’s Dear Mum Jacket (Image credit (Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What is the hardest thing about being a sustainable fashion designer?

Eudora: The most challenging aspect of being a sustainable designer is figuring out how to alter an existing garment. When you are locked into a design it is sometimes hard to come up with creative ways to change the garment to fit your new design. You have to use your imagination and become an out-of-the box thinker and really think about the techniques to use in order to execute your new design with the least amount of complication and in a timely manner.

Eudora Tucker’s Ode to Jean-Michele Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What is your ultimate goal, or goals, as a designer in the fashion industry?

Eurora: I would like to continue creating one-of-a kind statement pieces and growing my fashion sustainability brand, Princess Arabia’s Atelier. I also plan to partner with environmental agencies in NYC to offer fashion sustainability workshops to teach others what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint through more mindful fashion practices. My ultimate goal is to travel around NYC and neighboring states to educate as many people as possible and bring awareness on how the fast fashion industry continues to proliferate the amount of waste in our landfills and how it is fueling the profound negative effects of climate change. This is my small way of giving back to the planet and carrying out my duty as a good global citizen.

 Follow Eudora on Instagram: @princessarabia9

The Rainbow of it All Vest

Eudora Tucker’s  The Rainbow of it All Vest (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Are you a woman from a low-income community interested in starting a career in fashion? Apply to our Training Institute.

If you are interested in providing paid internships for their students write to us at: CS@UniversityofFashion.com

Are you a small or start-up clothing business? Apply to their Business Incubator. They provide services including manufacturing, technical assistance, and consulting for those who need it.

Want to volunteer? Sign up here. They’re always looking for folks to help as teacher’s assistants, guest speakers, graphic designers, special event coordinators, or fabric inventory sorters.

Want to donate fabrics, machines, or supplies? Complete this form.

To support their work in supporting striving women. Donate today.

 

MEET PARRON ALLEN

- - Sustainability

THE BROOKLYN-BASED SUSTAINABLE DESIGNER WHO IS

SAVING THE WORLD – ONE GARMENT AT A TIME

Parron Allen (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

From Mississippi to Brooklyn…you’ve come a long way baby!!

Parron Allen Edwards-Stimola is a Brooklyn-based apparel designer and founder of the eponymous brand, Parron Allen. Parron’s design vision is inspired by his childhood in Lexington, Mississippi. His grandmother, Momma Ruth, expressed her spirit, love, and faith by sewing dresses for the women in her family. Parron witnessed these women shed some of Jim Crow’s burden in the simple yet thoughtful dresses that Momma Ruth made for them – smiling, twirling, and bantering about good things on days of rest. Momma Ruth made dresses as so many Black women did—with whatever materials were available—creating beauty from remnants long before upcycling began its march toward the mainstream.

Upcycled vest/shirt by Parron Allen (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

Parron’s designs echo this joyous harmony of whimsy and practicality in a voice for the present moment, reclaiming the art of upcycling for his ancestors and creating inventive collections using fabric remnants, discarded textiles, and thrifted garments. Prior to founding his brand in 2021, Parron Allen studied design in the US and UK and honed his skills at Vera Wang, Ellen Tracy, and Rebecca Taylor.

Here’s a preview of the interview, but to watch the full 30-minute version, subscribe to University of Fashion (unless you are already a subscriber). Parron shares his journey: his design process; inspirational and rag resources; his connections and mentors; and the ups and downs of working for himself. You are going to absolutely fall in love with this guy!!!

If you are thinking of creating your own sustainable design brand, then you MUST watch this video interview. The interview is conducted by Noor Bchara of Upcycle Design School, a sustainable designer and former FIT student of UoF’s founder, Francesca Sterlacci. Noor has also contributed three lessons on sustainable design for University of Fashion.

Upcycled trench by Parron Allen (image courtesy Parron Allen)

Parron and one of his mentors – designer Rebecca Taylor (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

In the interview, Parron answers the questions that all upstart sustainable designers want to know:

  • What inspired you to become a sustainable designer?
  • How did you get started?
  • Do you have a mentor?
  • Where do you get your materials?
  • Do you have funding?
  • What are your production resources?
  • How do you cost your designs?
  • How do you market your work?
  • Where do you sell your collection?
  • What are the challenges of being a sustainable designer?

Parron Allen in his design studio (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

When asked about his production capabilities, Parron responded that he loves his ‘little sewing machine’, which he uses to do a lot of upcycling with garments that already exist. But when it comes to production, especially his newest pieces, he uses his friend Anita and her small-scale production facility. Parron’s knowledge of draping, pattern making and sewing, is one of his most important assets.

Parron Allen at his famous ‘little sewing machine’ (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

Parron credits his sharp Instagram marketing skills, @parron.allen, and his sales acumen for the success he’s had in getting his collection into stores such as Art to Ware and Granru. He will also be announcing his own pop-up shop soon.

Art to Ware – one of Parron Allen’s retailers (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

Granru – one of Parron Allen’s retailers (Image courtesy: Parron Allen)

Once you watch our interview with Parron Allen, you will see how not only is he a very talented designer but that his personality, passion and drive are the key to his success.

For more about Parron Allen:

Instagram: @parron.allen

Website: www.parronallen.com

A NEW ERA IN SUSTAINABLE FASHION: THE RISE OF NATURAL & VEGAN MATERIALS

Stella McCartney Summer 2022 Substainability Campaign. (Photo Credit: Fashionography)

As temperatures soar, breaking records in one of the hottest summers to date, it’s only natural to think about climate change and what more can be done to reduce our collective carbon footprint. This week saw the U.S. Senate poised to approve the most significant climate bill, at a whopping $369 billion (yes ‘B’ as in billion), that will sharply reduce carbon pollution. If it passes, this landmark legislation promises to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent – below 2005 levels – by 2030. It’s at least a start. Our fingers are crossed.

The fashion industry is also committed to doing their part, with prominent leaders such as Stella McCartney being one of the strongest voices in sustainable fashion. But what really is sustainable fashion?  The answer is broad. Within the fashion industry it’s a combination different facets that include: ethical business practices, fair trade, supply chain transparency, minimal impact policies, give-back programs, upcycling, recycling, downcycling, circularity, and, arguably most important of all, sustainable materials that make up an ethical collection. The subject of this blogpost will focus on what’s new in sustainable materials which has become the newest and most high-tech approach to the future of fashion.

Sustainability in Fashion. (Photo Credit: Bibalex)

Designers know that one of the most effective ways to create an eco-friendly collection is by choosing sustainable fabrics. Thankfully today, sustainable fabrics have come a long way and technology is at the forefront of this change. Just think of the innovation that went into creating fabric made from a mushroom, an apple and a pineapple.

The type of fabric used to create a collection determines how much environmental degradation it ends up causing — or the practices that reverse it. Just keep in mind that the fabric choice directly affects the raw material sourcing (farming and petroleum drilling impact), water consumption and waste, material processing (chemicals needed to turn it into fiber), and end-of-life prospects (ways a garment can be disposed of) like can it be recycled or composted?

Luckily, environmentally friendly fabrics are pretty easy to find — if you know where to look. And the brands that use them are staking their claim for a better fashion future. And that, in turn, is good for people and the planet.

We are planning to cover advances in fashion sustainability for the next few months and will be featuring designers who are making a splash with their sustainable collections and what’s new in the world of natural, organic and vegan textiles.

ORGANIC COTTON

Organic Cotton Field. (Photo Credit: The New Fashion Norm)

Organic cotton is one of THE most natural fabrics you can find. It is grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and is processed without chemicals. Organic cotton farming uses 62% less energy and 88% less water than conventional cotton (which is surprisingly one of the single dirtiest crops around).

There are several certifications used with sustainable and ethical cotton to authenticate that a particular cotton was grown without pesticides or machine harvesting and processed without chemicals, leaving the final garment chemical-free. Other certifications ensure fair pay and safe conditions for farmers. Certifications include: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Better Cotton Standard, Fair Trade, Bluesign, and Oeko-Tex 100.

RECYCLED COTTON

Recycled Cotton Denim. (Photo Credit: Cottonworks)

Recycled cotton is manufactured using either post-industrial or post-consumer waste. Plenty of slow fashion brands use recycled cotton and for good reason. This means that the fabric used is made from industry fabric scraps or other recycled cotton garments. Recycled cotton helps to prevent fashion waste from ending up in landfills. Be sure to watch our 3-part series on sustainable design by Noor Bchara, designer, CEO, founder of Upcycle Design School.

UoF’s 3-part series on sustainable design by Noor Bchara, designer, CEO and founder of Upcycle Design School

Recycled cotton certifications and regulation are difficult to determine, due to the inability of knowing the source of the materials used in the recycling process. However there are certain certifications and standards that exist and they include Global Recycle Standard (GRS), Recycled Content Standard (RCS) and Oeko-Tex 100.

It is also difficult to know whether recycled cotton is pure cotton (and therefore able to be composted) because a fabric can be recycled into recycled cotton even if it holds some synthetic blend (as long as the blend is less than 4%).

ORGANIC HEMP

The Complete Cycle of Hemp Clothing Manufacturing. (Photo Credit: Hemp Foundation)

Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly natural fabrics around. It’s high yielding and growing hemp is healthy for the soil, due to the process of phytoremediation. Another feature of hemp is that it requires much less water than growing cotton.

Organic hemp is considered a carbon negative raw material. What this means is that the material actually absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Its certifications and standards include USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

While organic hemp has many benefits as mentioned above and is naturally sun protective and antimicrobial, the downside is that it more difficult to grow and therefore tends to be somewhat more expensive than other sustainable organic fabrics,. Despite this, we can expect to see more of it in the future.

ORGANIC LINEN

Organic linen dresses. (Photo Credit: The Filtery)

Linen is almost identical to hemp in terms of sustainability and it is extremely light and breathable. Derived from the flax plant, linen’s growth requires very little fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation, but unlike hemp, linen isn’t as high yielding. Linen is a popular and reliable fiber and can be used to create everything from clothing to bedsheets.

Certifications and standards for Organic Linen include USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

ORGANIC BAMBOO (AKA BAMBOO LINEN)

Sustainable, Organic, And Antibacterial – The Benefits Of Using Bamboo in Fashion. (Photo Credit: Bamboodu)

Like hemp, bamboo consumes more CO2 than some trees. When bamboo is harvested, it can be done without destroying the plant itself. Translation, bamboo can renew itself at incredible speed (it’s one of the fastest growing plants on the planet) and can survive on rainfall alone. Bamboo’s certifications and standards include the Forest Stewardship Council, USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Fair Trade,  Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

Organic bamboo is one of the most sustainable fabrics, but depending on how it is processed, it could involve chemically intensive processes — and all the harmful impacts that come with it.

Mechanically processed bamboo is a better-for-Earth way to utilize bamboo, but sadly it makes up just a tiny amount of what is found in the market. Make sure to look for organic bamboo fabrics in its raw form, as opposed to that which is plasticized into bamboo rayon/viscose blends.

CORK

Cork handbag by Eve Cork. (Photo Credit: Eve Cork)

Cork has left the bottle and is now used to create fashion! Made from Quercus suber, commonly called the cork oak, a medium-sized, evergreen oak tree, cork is made by shaving the bark from the tree. In fact, the bark  can be harvested—and should be harvested—to extend then tree’s life. While the tree regrows its bark, it consumes more carbon dioxide than most types of trees (and therefore another carbon negative material). As a result, cork plantations can actually act as a carbon sink.

Once cork has been harvested (which can sustainably happen to a tree every 9 to 12 years), the cork can be laid out in the sun to dry, and only requires a bit of water to transform the cork into a fabric suitable for fashion. The material has become a fashionable choice for vegan bags and shoes… and for good reason.

A LIST OF SUSTAINABLE FABRICS

Fashion created by nature. (Photo Credit: Grailed)

Here is a list of highly recommended eco-fabrics for all you sustainable-minded designers out there:

Sustainable Semi-Synthetic Fabrics (mostly vegan)

Lyocell

Modal

Bamboo Lyocell

EcoVero

Pinatex

Scoby Leather

S.Cafe

Qmonos

Brewed Protein

Apple leather

Woocoa

Cupro

QMilk

Vegan, Synthetic Fabrics

ECONYL

Recycled polyester

Animal Derived Natural Fabrics (sustainable depending on source)

Sheep Wool

Merino Wool

Alpaca Wool

Cashmere

Camel

Yak Wool

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Down

Silk

Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about sustainable fabric choices that you should be considering for your projects! Also follow us on Instagram uoffashion, and on Facebook University of Fashion.

SLOW FASHION & THE CONSCIOUS EDIT – 4 Basic Principles of Slow Fashion

“Slow fashion” is on everybody’s mind at the moment as consumers are becoming more and more aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions.

If you are interested in diving a little deeper into this worldwide movement, read on for the four basic principles of slow fashion.

 

1. It is all about mindfulness.

The most crucial aspect of slow fashion is that a consumer works to become more conscious and mindful of what they are consuming. It doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all your old clothes and refill your closet to the brim with ethical brands. Instead, it means switching your mindset about clothing and thinking more deeply about the daily purchase decisions you do (or don’t) make.

When looking to embrace slow fashion, you want to start differentiating between need vs. want. Therefore, before you purchase anything new, have a look through your closet and identify any gaps. Then, you can create a wish list of items that can fill the holes in your wardrobe, as well as a couple of other pieces that’ll add a fresh injection to what you already have (like a pair of Balenciaga shoes).

By being more mindful with your shopping strategy, you will find that you are increasingly rewarded as you become more content with your closet.

 

2. Always opt for quality over quantity.

The second basic principle of slow fashion is to always opt for quality over quantity.

In other words, if you have $100 to spend on clothes this month, don’t buy ten items for $10; instead, buy one high-quality piece that you need (principle #1) for $100. While this may seem like a massive investment at first, what you are actually doing is choosing to appreciate the items that you bring into your life. The well-made item that you select is going to last you a lot longer (years!) than any item you find in a cheap fast-fashion store.

That being said, don’t assume that you are going to have to take out a second mortgage to buy a few quality pieces. Perhaps you can choose to add one or two pieces to your closet each season and slowly grow your collection of high-quality basics.

Generally, sustainable brands offer similar basics each season, so you can take your time when saving up. Additionally, you can also find quality items in vintage and secondhand shops. Keep your eyes peeled for reinforced seams, lining, extra fabric on a hem, and natural fibers  – these are all indicators of quality. Or, find something from Farfetch’s ‘The Conscious Edit’- their pre-owned section on their website. For example:

 

4. Support sustainable slow-fashion brands.

Last but not least, when you do decide to shop, you want to look at the offerings from sustainable slow-fashion brands. The brands that have adopted the “slow-fashion” mantra are conscious about the environment, their social responsibility, and the effect that their business and creations have on the planet. Farfetch offers ‘The Conscious Edit’ a series of designers who are dedicated to taking positive steps across three areas: environmental, social and animal welfare. ‘Positivity Conscious’ Reformation garments are made from eco-friendly materials with sustainability at the core of everything they make. Stella McCartney is known for her uncompromising stance on using cruelty-free, organic and recycled materials in her designs. In fact, her sneaker collaboration with Adidas boasts that more than half of their range of apparel and footwear is made with recycled materials.

By supporting sustainable slow-fashion brands, you are helping to reduce the negative repercussions of clothing and textiles on the environment. Also, you are ensuring that your hard-earned money is going to a company who, in turn, pays fair wages and provides better working conditions for the people who make your clothes.

What do you think about slow fashion? Is it something that you are looking to incorporate into your life?

Let us know your thoughts and any relevant experiences you have in the comments below!

All Hail the Queen of Raw

Nothing makes us happier at the University of Fashion than featuring power players who are making positive change in the fashion industry. And little did this designer realize I would have my design and production mind blown by the incredible woman you are about to meet.

Enter Stephanie Benedetto, self-proclaimed Queen of Raw.

This former corporate attorney on Wall Street and descendent of an Austrian immigrant turned Lower East Side master furrier is realizing her mission of turning pollution into profit. And maybe more importantly, she’s contributing to a world in which her son can grow up and thrive by breathing in clean air, enjoying access to clean water and wearing non-toxic clothing.

Benedetto suggests turning our traditional design process on its head in an effort to make design sustainable by powering design with dead stock fabrics.

Benedetto explains: Pen to paper or stylus to screen, designing a garment can be one of the most special and intimate experiences an artist can have. It’s no mystery why designers want to start their process with this creative expression. But it’s taking its toll on our world. Where is the business or environmental sense in designing a garment with a fabric in mind without having secured the specific material, figuring out the quantity available, knowing where it’s located, and the ethics in its production? The funnel is broken. Starting with design leaves the rest of the battle uphill.

Have you ever had one of those designer a-ha moments, where everything you’ve been taught somehow goes out the window, and suddenly you see your craft in a new light? Keep reading…

The Queen of Raw continues: The back and forth of swatching and communicating shipping, confirming color, managing orders, the possibility of the material becoming unavailable in the midst of communication – it happens all too often. What if (just trust me for two seconds), what if we started with a material? What if there was a way to see that something was already manufactured and ready to go?”

Once again, a-ah. I’ve faced this production quandary and it wasn’t pretty. On the flip side of things, as an emerging designer with only small orders to fill, I found myself wanting to use fabrics that I could only get by meeting the manufacturer’s minimums. This unfortunate situation left me with all kinds of extra fabric for some garments in my collection and running out of the right fabric (as Benedetto describes above) for others. Had I of started my design process with specific, available fabrics in mind, oh my, how things would have turned out differently.

As if reading my mind, Benedetto continues: You have all the information on where it’s [fabric] coming from, how much is available, how it was made, and it’s cheaper at the same quality you’re used to because it’s “dead stock.” What if designers began with what’s available instead of creating all the problems (for themselves) that slow production down by using/creating new? 

Benedetto will tell you exactly how a fledgling (or seasoned) designer’s business could benefit from this fabric-first design model, and this designer will concur.

Bottom lines would improve.

Price points on finished goods could be more accessible with production costs severely lowered.

Billions of gallons of water would be saved in using already existing excess (700 gallons per yard repurposed).

And fashion could move to the forefront of the sustainable mission instead of being the second biggest contributor to climate change.

Take in those last few words…fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change. As responsible designers and global citizens, it’s important for all of us to consider all the design and production resources (and options) we have at our fingertips, thanks to thought leaders like Benedetto. If sourcing existing fabric options first makes sense to you, waste no time visiting Queen of Raw. As a bonus benefit, Queen of Raw will calculate the environmental impact of your order free of charge and you can pass the good news (and the savings) on to your customers.

Finally, we couldn’t write a post on responsible design and sustainable uses of fabric without giving a shout out to our friends at FabScrap. This incredible resource transports unused fabric from designers’ factories and warehouses to its sorting location. Then FabScrap either recycles scraps or prepares them for sale at a lower cost for designers and crafters. FabScrap even offers fabric sorting volunteer opportunities where you can earn fabric in trade. If you are in NYC, take advantage of one of two FabScrap locations!

If you have sustainable resources of your own to add, please don’t hesitate to comment and share what you know with our community below!

To sell or to rent? A sustainable business model for independent designers?

Via Bag, Borrow or Steal Instagram Account @bagborroworsteal

The buzz phrase “ethical fashion” has been tossed around for some time evoking concerns regarding fair labor practices and wages, processes that take the preservation of our environment and animals into consideration and supply chain transparency.

Often ethical fashion is confused with sustainable fashion, and yet there is no doubt the two are interrelated. Ethical practices lead to more sustainable processes which in turn mean healthier workers, an environment that can support generations of fashionistas to come and of course, clothing consumers can feel good about wearing.

But what if emerging and independent designers could take all that we’ve learned about both ethical (and sustainable) fashion and roll it into a business model that is growing in popularity and in my humble opinion, might be a way for young fashion businesses to stay afloat?

Hear me out…

The other night I was at a dinner party where several of the guests were talking about how much they loved their clothing subscription/rental services. The conversation went like this:

“I love your skirt.”

“Thanks! It’s from Le Tote.”

“Le Tote? I’ve never heard of that store. Where is it?”

“Oh, no! It’s not a store, it’s a subscription service, you know, like Rent the Runway. If I stay on top of wearing items they send and sending them back, I can get up to 4 new pieces a week. And if I really like something, I can keep it, pay for it and it’s mine. Otherwise, I wear it once or twice and send it back for the next person to try!”

Via Le Tote’s Instagram Account @letote

As the two talked, I started thinking of all of the sustainable advantages of renting a wardrobe. On behalf of the consumer, subscription services mean fewer unworn clothes packing closets and eventually ending up in landfills. And by giving clothes a “test run” and only keeping those items that the consumer is partial to (or as one guest mentioned, “get a lot of compliments from others”), more thoughtful purchasing choices can be made. Then, of course, there is the option to rent special occasion garments you may only need to wear once…

As a subscription service retailer, there are fewer risks of unsold inventory (and therefore waste in terms of dollars and garments), not to mention real time data revealing what consumers want which can guide future purchasing, order by order. Like the consumer, the retailer enjoys a more thoughtful way of approaching buying and selling in the fashion industry.

When it comes to ethical standards, it is still up to both rental services as well as the consumer to find out how the clothes they rent out (or in) are produced. After my subscription service curiosities were peaked, I did a bit of research only to find companies that curate plus sizes (Gwynnie Bee), bags (Bag, Borrow or Steal), just about any fashion item your fashion-loving heart desires from a wide variety of designers.

Via Gwynnie Bee’s Instagram Account @gwynniebee

But what I did not find is an independent designer who follows this model.

What if (on a smaller scale) independent designers could create a scenario where they could design and produce adhering to their own ethical standards and then rent their pieces in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable, but spares their business from the pitfalls that often cause independent designers to close their doors?

Feeling like I had to be missing something, I tried to create a real life scenario using the wide variety of samples I’ve created and are now tucked neatly away in my storage unit. I could photograph them, write product descriptions and create a website, but instead of selling these samples, I could rent them, earning income, while I designed additional styles. True, I would have to figure out shipping and how to protect myself against damaged garments. I’m sure I might get some pushback for not having a full size range in most styles, but wouldn’t it be amazing for these styles that I still love to see some light of day?

I wouldn’t have to worry about retailers placing an order for my most current (hypothetical) collection and subsequent production, and with the power of a social media following, I could advertise availability of garment rental to those who I already know are fans of my work.

I’m a firm believer that good design is timeless. Just the other day, I was admiring how Thom Browne posts pieces from collections past periodically on Instagram and I can rarely decipher which suit is from 2014 and which suit is from his most recent collection. Does this make me a bad fashionista? Probably. But I believe that we as a culture are trending away from the incredible amount of stress put on designers to produce season after season. Instead, wouldn’t it be incredible to generate revenue, which for a new designer could mean designing and producing the next collection, from styles past that we still love through a rental option?

Emerging designers, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Are there additional benefits of this model you can think of? Perhaps pitfalls that I haven’t considered? I’d love to know…