Why Green has to be the New Black

In May 2006, the International Herald Tribune published an article by the legendary Suzy Menkes titled “Eco-friendly: Why green is the new black”. Almost 8 years later, the fashion industry has evolved a lot in embracing environmental sustainability. However, despite our better judgment, the so called fast fashion is still being overly consumed, and brands like H&M and Forever 21 produce collections which might be judged both in terms of ethics as well as sustainability.

And yet, the notion of sustainability is nothing new to the fashion world. In fact, ever since Franco Moschino sent his models down the runway with T-shirts saying “Stop Using Our Oceans as a W.C.” back in 1989, there has been an on-going debate about eco-friendly fashion. Since then, many high fashion brands have been presenting different kinds of sustainable choices in their production, such as the grand Giorgio Armani who incorporated hemp in his suits back in 1995. The topic is constantly being discussed (albeit, with limited success) and brands such as Stella McCartney and Edun have taken a major stand in showcasing the ability to combine eco-friendly fabrics with high fashion flair.

Martin Margiela, on the other hand, introduced a leather butcher’s apron repurposed into an evening gown back in 1988, starting the deconstructionist movement aimed at raising environmental awareness in fashion. In fact, his particular choices offer an interesting frame of reference when discussing the concept of McFashion: to re-use can mean staying green as well as chic. Last week, it was Moschino, again, adding fuel to the debate about McFashion industries, with its typically humorous flair. Models dressed in bright red and yellow clothes walked its runway, clearly referencing the fast food chain.

Nevertheless, we are now in March of 2014 and much still has to be done. Thus, it only seems fitting to present a new headline “Eco-friendly: Why green has to be the new black”. If we should rely on the individual consumer’s sensibility and awareness, it might not bring us anywhere. While design industry has done a lot in supporting eco-friendly brands, we still have to become fully aware that buying the often unsustainable fast-fashion might condition what we will face in the future.

Victoria Edman 
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A (Fashion) Tale of Truth

A (Fashion) Tale of Truth

Unless you’ve resided under a rock for the past decade, it is manifestly clear that green, biosphere conscious fashions have become an all-pervading phenomenon in today’s fashion landscape. After a deserved flood of awareness that has been raised about the horrors of what goes on behind the fashion industry’s curtain, eco fashion has as such gradually evolved from an haute-nouveauté buzzword, into the new normalcy. By virtue of this, eco-responsibility is exploited as a vital marketing strategy for a growing group of fashion labels.

A number of these businesses, particularly some ‘old’ and established ones, have attempted to jump on the green bandwagon by disingenuously spinning their apparel as environmentally beneficial. This deceptive use of green PR, also termed as greenwashing, denotes to a diverse array of counterfeiting practices. 
Conspicuous labelling, through the iniquitous endorsement and certification of third parties, is one such thing. For instance, fabric with a mere 5% organically grown cotton is qualified for acquiring the virtuous stamp of Textile Exchange; a non-profit organization focussed on the responsible expansion of textile sustainability.

On a similar note, the Better Cotton Initiative – a multi-stakeholder’s initiative founded by Adidas, Gap inc. and H&M, among others – is deemed a reputed, eco-responsible organization and thus credible hallmark, while de facto, it has established minimum environmental requirements for growing cotton. 
Under meticulous examination, the green gloss of some of these companies is flaking in the heat. As such, the ethical alignments of fashion labels are increasingly watched with a critical eye.

Yet, in spite of these unjust ecological credentials made by some, the biggest environmental impact of the manufacture of clothing happens on the consumer end of the spectrum, after the production phase. In fact, a sweeping sixty percent of the consumed energy is directly correlated to the way we wash and dry our garments. 
The carbon footprint of a load of laundry is not to be underestimated: washing and drying every two days creates around 440kg of CO2e each year. Tons of energy can be saved there, by line-drying and washing our garbs in cold water. 
All in all however, the utmost smartest and greenest thing one can do is, radically but simply, cut down on shopping sprees. It’ll surely help reduce the clutter in one’s wardrobe.

Claire van den Berg

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Sustainable Fashion – An Impact For the Long Run

Sustainable Fashion – An Impact For the Long Run

Organic, ecologic, sustainable, fair trade, vintage, second hand, recycled, ethically produced – the list of words related to the environmental question in production as well as in fashion is long. The number of designers and brands taking environmental and social responsibility is growing, and organisations within the fashion industry are trying to start a movement of sustainability. Simultaneously, economical advisors like Jeremy Rifkin are asking the question: “Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?”

Sustainable design refers to production made with the consideration of how the product will affect its surroundings, both environmentally and socially, throughout its life span. Sustainability or “eco fashion” has been, and still is, a trending topic in the industry. It’s a complex matter and although many companies are seeking ways to change their customs, it’s really a question of motives. Making the production more effective or using methods kinder to the environment might be driven by the will to make an impact in the long run, but in some cases one could also talk about trends, market demands or economical forces.

For a development that meets today’s needs without compromising future generations, the fashion industry needs to embrace the concept and fully integrate a sustainable thinking into the way the business is done. Inspiration is to be found from famous concepts and ongoing discussions; Jeremy Rifkin created the concept of the Third Industrial Revolution where business owners become an important part of the energy game. Cross-industry relationships are creating new possibilities, and increased productivity also helps to ease the climate changes. Copenhagen Fashion Summit and the project NICE Fashion gathered last month many key stakeholders to one of the largest fashion summits, with the goal to enhance the importance of creating a sustainable future in one of the most polluting industries.

The discussion about CSR, sustainability and eco fashion has reached the point where scattered voices have to become collective initiatives. The industry stands before the challenge to find smart ways in production, and to create a business system that consciously and effectively decreases the negative impact on the surroundings. Like Kirsten Brodde from Greenpeace International puts it, it is a question of turning “eco fashion into simply fashion”.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Image courtesy of Copenhagen Fashion Summit

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Christien Meindertsma Knows Sustainability

Christien Meindertsma Knows Sustainability

Although sustainability has become quite a catchy word when speaking about design, it seems rather difficult to understand what it should actually mean. As the undiscussed master Dieter Rams said already in 1987 “Good design conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product,” it is rather difficult to accept the expression ‘sustainable design’ as a 21st century neologism.

Fortunately not all designers apply sustainability as a marketing etiquette. Christien Meindertsma takes the fact for granted, as an obvious quality of every designed product. Since her first projects Christien has put particular accent on the importance of understanding the whole industrial process, from the recovery of raw material to distribution and the final cost of the product.

One of Christien’s most acclaimed projects is the book “PIG 05049” that catalogues 185 worldwide products which contained various parts of a single dutch pig. The book can be taken as a manifesto of Christien’s work as she always tries to make visible the link between traditional local production and contemporary industrial design; the relationship often considered taboo in design culture. As Christien declares “I’d like to make transparent the product that also makes sense. It’s kind of a documentary way of designing, and that’s become my working method”.

Taking this path isn’t as simple as it seems, though. Selling locally produced objects often doesn’t walk hand in hand with the capitalist market. In order to avoid that the work of designers like Christien becomes just a utopian dream, while we as consumers should become more aware and finally stop falling off our feet hearing the word ‘sustainability’.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Christien Meindertsma

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The Editorial: Sushi or Spaghetti?


The Editorial: Sushi or Spaghetti?

Sometimes it pays to be late to a party: after missing out on the early years of fast food, the now global Slow Food movement is wholly a product of Italy. And after mostly missing out on the dehumanising, smoke-belching factories of the Industrial Revolution which plagued the UK and other countries through the twentieth century, Italy’s fashionably late arrival to industrialisation saw the country become the world’s foremost producer of design goods (illustrated brilliantly in the Triennale’s current exhibition, Dream Factory), and it is one of the few western nations to maintain a solid manufacturing base. Still, at an ever increasing rate, the fads of the northern countries and the USA inevitably make their way here one way or another.

The country’s food culture has been particularly slow to change, with Italians generally sticking steadfastly to their simple, fresh and delicious food. Not coincidentally this inherent locavore attitude once made for one of the most sustainable (and healthy) food ecosystems on the entire planet. But with shifts of population, and shifts of taste (and for fear of being seen as provincial) Italians have begun to demand variety beyond the kebab and occasional dodgy Chinese restaurant. You can now find almost any ethnic food imaginable in some form around Milan, and while nowhere near as cosmopolitan in terms of food as Paris or New York, the food landscape has been altered drastically.

Sushi is among the most visible recent arrivals. While Los Angelenos and New Yorkers were eating the neat little morsels en masse by the mid 1980s, it was impossible to find it in any medium sized Italian cities even five years ago. Slowly but surely, though, sushi has arrived. Very recently, several all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurants have been springing up around Milan (the latest is a tacky black-lacquer affair in Porta Ticinese loudly proclaiming its unlimited sushi to passersby in an 80s kung-fu movie typeface). Sushi has gone mainstream in the Bel Paese, and despite its late arrival, chances are even your nonni have tried it.

But this fad has far-reaching consequences. The simple fact is, the food (especially the seafood) that is sustainable to eat when you live on an island in the Pacific is not the same food that is sustainable to eat when you live on a peninsula on the Mediterranean. Full stop. And with exponentially increasing demand from industrialising countries on the ocean’s reserve, there is bound to be a massive collapse that will leave millions without any fish unless drastic steps are taken. Fish populations are dwindling – entire species are in danger of extinction – and sushi’s liberal use of shark, snapper, swordfish and all sorts of unsustainable tunas is a major source of the problem. As another country of tens of millions embraces the cuisine, demand will only increase. Not to mention the peripheral damage caused by irresponsible hunting: countless dolphins, sharks, octopi, fish, crabs and others killed as “bycatch,” destruction of coastal habitats and coral reefs and a general loss of equilibrium in the sea.

Fish are the last wild animals we hunt commercially for food, and as we approach the limits of their resiliency we must become much more responsible, lest we find ourselves with ruined oceans and no fish within a generation. Quite simply, the world cannot sustain a planet of several billion sushi eaters. This is by no means only an Italian problem, but with with any luck, the country’s late arrival to the sushi party and exceptional food patrimony can help transform it into a voice of reason.

Call it provincial, but while in Italy, doesn’t it sound much nicer to have a nice branzino al forno caught just off the coast than a frigid piece of tuna flown thousands of kilometers to your plate?

Visit Seafood Watch for a wealth of excellent information regarding responsible seafood and other initiatives for preserving our oceans.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy Seafood Watch

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