Sustainable Design Shouldn't Be an Option, It Should Be a Given

Last night I attended a panel at Pratt Institute featuring Barneys' fashion director Julie Gilhart, Slow & Steady Wins the Race designer Mary Ping and
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Last night I attended a panel at Pratt Institute featuring Barneys' fashion director Julie Gilhart, Slow & Steady Wins the Race designer Mary Ping and

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Last night I attended a panel at Pratt Institute featuring Barneys' fashion director Julie Gilhart, Slow & Steady Wins the Race designer Mary Ping and Uluru designer Caroline Priebe. They talked about sustainable design, but it wasn't your typical marketing spiel. Indeed, these three women are passionate about design with a conscious. But their cause is less about being 100% organic or 100% ethical and more about making an effort to simply "do better." The panel agreed that while the fashion industry is far from creating a community of wholly sustainable products, it should be a future goal. And instead of assuming that's what the consumer wants, fashion designers and retailers should be dictating to shoppers that's it's a necessary development. Some interesting tidbits from the talk:

  • Priebe doesn't advertise that she focuses on sustainable design. Why? Because, well, she doesn't believe it should be the selling point. "I want it to be a given. I want people to eventually expect that all clothes are made in a conscious way," she said
  • Stella McCartney's organic line sold better when it wasn't labeled "organic" because many consumers associate organic with more basic--despite the fact that it often costs more money to produce eco pieces--said Gilhart.
  • Ping is creating a top-secret leather collection made from scraps from Slow & Steady's black and white leather t-shirts.
  • Gilhart believes that some day there will be a group regulating what can and can't be deemed "sustainable fashion." She also wishes that there was a label on fur indicating that the animal from which the fur was culled was treated humanely.
  • The hardest thing about designing sustainably is finding materials to use. Luckily, the sustainable design community is tight knit and willing to help newcomers with sourcing.
  • There are so many ways to be more conscious, whether that's buying an item manufactured in your hometown or a piece of organic cotton. Do what you can. Be more thoughtful about your purchases.
  • Gilhart also made a good point about how people are shopping in the recession. It's not that they want basic and simple stuff, they want value. If that's a simple tee, they don't want to spend a lot. If that's an extravagantly beaded dress, then they're willing to fork over the cash.