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Last Call: Eco-Fashion Show at FIT

Written by Timo Rissanen | Nov 12, 2010.

“Going green” is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of fashion. Due to many reasons, including political, economic, and cultural, the fashion industry could no longer shy away from the harsh effects of producing clothing, whether at the textiles level, final production, or at the end of the line, with the effect that shipping has on the environment. The Museum at FIT’s current exhibition “Eco- Fashion: Going Green”, ending Saturday, November 13, 2010, explores the new global trend from a historical perspective, often reaching into an abyss for something solid.

The show begins by highlighting some of the most important contemporary designers who are making it a point to focus on sustainability and eco-friendly fashion. The designers and their lines shown, including Stella McCartney, EDUN (Bono and wife, Ali Hewson’s fair trade line), Bodkin, Artecnica, and Organic by John Patrick, have all taken a unique approach to sustainable design whether it be rooted in renewable fabrics, or labor practices, or supporting fair trade production in Africa. The introduction gives rise to the potential issues of the fashion industry in relation to the current status of our environment.

The exhibit begins with the contemporary designers at the entrance, though the rest of the show quickly takes you back to the middle of the 18th century, then moves along progressing back towards the present day. Come prepared to read a lot, given the curatorial plaques are quite informative on a range of topics from technological and chemical innovations (not always positive) to labor practices of popular figures who campaigned against the use of fur and dangerous labor.

The show had a great mix of clothing, handbags, shoes, accessories, and textiles. However, I had trouble finding a consistency in the placement of why certain items were being shown. Some were there to reprimand the use of certain fabrics, such as a nylon dress by a well-known designer, but they’d be shown right next to a Balenciaga couture dress whose practice of custom-making pieces is considered to be an ecologically friendly method of producing clothing. Other items were there to show the early use of, and later backlash,of the use of fur.  However, when taken in the present context of our world, the information was unique and interesting. For instance, the use of fur was reproached by our very beloved Harper’s Bazaar in 1875, when it published an article railing against those who “decorated themselves with the spoils of the forest.” This same magazine now publishes editorials and ad campaigns with the use of fur when it is on trend.

The end of the show did present more contemporary and extremely unique fashions that are indeed of the “going green” nature – the use of faux furs, the creation of Martin Margiela dresses out of recycled sweaters to create a patchwork look, as well as sweaters designed from socks (also Martin Margiela). The museum stresses that from the trend of sustainability comes a desire to have one-of-a-kind pieces, and the show exemplifies that, with unique designer art that makes you think further about design and going green. All-in-all the show presents a look into the entire industry as a whole and into the entirety of the issues that affect eco-fashion. It’s important to know, especially as a student of fashion, and makes one more aware of the issues that the industry currently addresses, yet has always faced historically.  –Julia Stengel, AAS Fashion Marketing

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