Eco-Fashion at FIT

Osklen in collaboration with Coopa-Roca

The Eco fashion panel at FIT presented a range of views from people discussing a quasi-artisanal approach to fashion such as Susan Cianciolo and Johanna Hofring, who produce small runs alongside one-of-a-kind handcrafted clothes to luxury store buyers like Barneys’s Julie Gilhart. Cianciolo, an unwitting early adapter of the slow fashion movement, lyrically described her production of entirely organic garments which involved going through the woods with her mother to find materials for her non-toxic dyes. She also highlighted the potential longevity of design by discussing how her clients often ask her to re-work her pieces after years of wearing them.

Gilhart came from the other end of the spectrum, working in the luxury corporate industry and its need of maximizing profit. However, she gave a compelling and honest talk on the ways in which the sustainable fashion movement is encroaching in the buying practice of Barneys, where buyers started to ask about sourcing and compliance, while the store produced an eco-fashion line in collaboration with Loomstate. She stressed the importance of good design both in terms of echo-fashion which should stand on its own as a design piece, as well as in terms of fashion more generally, where good design could hopefully supersede a trend-driven consumption.

Another perspective was given by Sass Brown who focused on social ecology and discussed the work of a Brazilian women-run co-op Coopa-Roca which collaborates with fashion designers (i.e. Carlos Miele), product designers (i.e. Tord Boontje) and artists (Ernesto Neto). What went undiscussed was the way FIT addressed sustainability in its teaching and its practice, besides the singular experience of Brown, who is also a professor at FIT.

Attention to sustainable issues, I believe, is sorely missing from the school, where a few years ago, upon asking about the need to use toxic substances (i.e foorwear glues and various dyes) in the classroom, I was told that it was just the reality of the industry. Hopefully that will change—yet for this change to occur, the impulse does need to start within education institutions like FIT.