The words eco-friendly, sustainable, and green have all entered fashion industry lingo as buzzy terminology in recent years. However, what’s really going on when it comes to those terms as real-world applications? Are any of these practices truly entering mainstream style? More importantly, is even possible for them to do so? In order to get a closer look at what’s happening now, and where these practices might be headed in 2012, we sat down with Amy DuFault, the Managing Editor of conscious culture site EcoSalon. She filled us in on the real nitty gritty of the current and potential status of “eco” in fashion’s near future.
The High Low: In what ways do you see fashion’s more ecologically-conscious players incorporating themselves into the mainstream in 2012?
Amy DuFault: I think it’s going to be a hard road for them unless they really have something they’re known for, or they know lots of the right people. The past two years I’ve seen lots of designers just drop out and the boutiques that specifically support them close their doors. The sustainable designers that are surviving, like Prairie Underground, Loomstate, and Stewart +Brown (who are really eco-conscious) made a name for themselves early in the game and all make clothing that is versatile and appeal to women who have money as much as to women who want quality.
Stewart + Brown successfully pairs style with ethical fashion.
HL: And in your opinion, what would be the best ways for these brands to accomplish getting into the mainstream?
AD: I think designers need to take a hard look at what type of profits they’re making and looking forward (and honestly), see that to succeed and become more mainstream is to totally rethink their business strategy. That might mean working for a mainstream designer that needs help understanding the language of “eco,” putting out only one or two really well-thought out collections, or partnering with a heritage brand, like what we just saw with the Portland Pendleton Collection, which did so well.
HL: When it comes to alternative fabrics, do you think any might take off in particular this year (compostable, milk fiber, bamboo, organics, etc.)?
AD: I think for so long the fabrics were what everyone focused on and now it’s the story behind the fabrics, the collection, and where the designer is manufacturing. Consumers are getting smarter and realizing that bamboo has problems, organic cotton isn’t the end-all solution, and all the lesser known fabrics are still being explored.
Source4Style is a new site dedicated to sustainable fabric sourcing, so we’ll keep an eye on them to see if they can make a real impact.
HL: When it comes to fashion, words like sustainable, green, and eco sometimes seem to exhaust the audience. What do you think are the best ways for labels that embrace those practices to keep doing so, while staying as relevant as possible across the fashion industry?
AD: Designers just need to produce the most thoughtful collections they can and let people see design first, story second. The design needs to be the invitation because it’s simply too beautiful to pass up. I co-owned a “conscious clothing” boutique up until last year and some people would come in and ask what conscious clothing was and some people just came in because they heard we had really “different” clothes. I NEVER told them about the lines being organic or made in the U.S. unless they asked. That was the bonus. They’d made a decision to shop local, buy something beautiful and support a young designer. It makes people feel good to know as they walk away that a purchase did something more than just take space in their closet. We need more consumers to feel this way.