Nobody wants their clothes to look trashy—least of all, fashion designers—but amid the excitement of 2011’s New York Fashion Week, the pejorative might not be so much of an insult. Exhibits like that of designer Nancy Judd feature high-end garments made from cassette tape, junk mail, and plastic bags.
Indeed, designers at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, or New York Fashion Week as many call it, are making it abundantly clear that green is the new black. The models for John Patrick Organic’s exhibit strutted down the runway in pieces whose origins can be traced on Sourcemap, a web resource that provides information about supply chains. The designer said his adventurous spring 2012 collection, which derives influences from earthy archetypes like the scientist, the traveler, and the wanderer, “is a metaphor for the journey our planet is engaged in.”
Commentators have remarked that the juxtaposition of “artificial” and “natural” is a central theme to this season’s fashion week. Designers are pairing digital prints with flowing fabrics and silhouettes.
And speaking of natural fabrics, designer Samantha Pleet capitalized on sustainable fabric for her spring/summer 2012 collection, utilizing organic cotton and silks. Likewise, Leanne Marshall, the Season 5 winner of the popular television show “Project Runway,” structured cocktail dresses with bamboo jersey and hemp silk.
Suzanne Rae, known for designing with eco-friendly fabrics like hemp and wool, will also showcase silk in a collection that hearkens back to 19th-century Japan. In discussing her influences, Rae said she had been upset over the tragedies that had befallen the country, drawing attention—inadvertently or otherwise—to climate issues and nuclear safety.
U2 lead singer Bono and his wife have also gotten in on the action, founding Edun, whose aim is to improve trade in Africa. Edun’s collection features African-inspired prints, and this year Kenyan artisan nuns helped manufacture 37 percent of the collection in Africa. The line also flaunts organic cotton and silks, hand-dyed in Mali.
If one must accessorize—and one must—designers have stepped up to the plate to create beautiful jewelry from recycled metals. Ute Decker, Ash Hilton, and Jane Hollinger, among others, have crafted bracelets, necklaces, and earrings from recycled gold and silver. Andrea Bonelli goes so far as to incorporate ethically mined gems into her designs.
Green is definitely in, as top designers are broadening their environmental conscience beyond clothing and accessories. New Yorkers wishing to get around in an energy-conscious manner while remaining fabulous can ride bikes decorated by Betsey Johnson and Izaac Mizrahi. Attendees of New York’s Fashion Week can ride these bikes for free for one hour (after which there is a $1,100 penalty).
The fashion industry’s tilt toward greener practices might already be familiar to you: Last winter’s fashion week also emphasized greener designs, signaling a trend toward environmentally conscious high fashion. Hopefully, the continuity means that eco-friendly fashion trends won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Now, if only the price tags were wallet-friendly, too.