The shift in thinking about sustainability and the environment is sending ripples of change through all business sectors including the fashion industry, and Woodbury University is staying ahead of the game. This year, The University’s Department of Fashion and Design for the first time incorporated an eco-conscious theme into its curriculum, with seniors developing their own lines of “green” couture using sustainable or recycled materials. The designs will be showcased at an upcoming fashion show, part of the University’s Gala scholarship benefit. The theme this year is & #260;Viva Verde! What’s Green, What’s New, What’s Green with You? Department Chair Louise Coffey-Webb said the move to go green followed the global trend sweeping the world of fashion. “There are more and more designers working in the “eco” end of things, it’s really becoming mainstream now and anybody who thinks otherwise is going to be behind the curve,” she said. Thinking “green” can give future designers an important edge, she said, especially as synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, that once revolutionized the textile trade, are slowly being replaced by renewably sourced fibers such as organic cottons, hemp, bamboo and even nettle. More businesses big and small are looking at using less polluting technologies, low toxicity processes and sweatshop-free factories. “I think a lot of companies have been discovering that it just makes sense all around, that it’s not really about a choice. It’s the way we have to do business if we’re going to survive at all,” Webb said. Despite some initial moaning and groaning from the students, some who did not want to be limited or restricted in their senior projects, the resulting green fashion designs are “some of the best work I’ve ever seen,” Webb said. Fashion Design Instructor Suzanne Fessler, said students let their imaginations soar as they explored new materials and new ways of doing things. They learned that while cotton may be a natural fabric, it’s got a terrible carbon footprint due to all the toxic pesticides used. At the same time, they learned that reusing or repurposing regular cotton is “green” as well, she said. Students interpreted and incorporated the green theme in their designs in different ways, some by using cleaner or organic materials, others by recycling old clothes. Student Efi Green, for example, created garments that she hoped people would want to keep for a long time not only for their quality but also for their emotional value. “We’re so used to fast-paced manufacturing and really cheap disposable clothing that we kind of lose track of really good quality things that are long lasting,” she said. Recycling history Her garments, inspired by the 1920’s, used all natural silks and wool fabrics, some that she recycled from materials that would have otherwise been disposed of or turned into cleaning cloths. She strived to attach meaning to the pieces through historical references in the designs, which are reminiscent of the 1920’s. “These are not disposable garments, they’re meaningful and they have history linked to them. It’s almost like recycling the history,” she said. In addition, she incorporated inner construction details on the outside of her garments (such as stitching) to add versatility to her clothes. “The idea is that instead of replenishing your wardrobe when you get sick of your clothes, you just reverse them and make them new again,” she said. Other students followed the same reduce, reuse and recycle mentality. Through vintage reconstruction, 25-year-old Jade Yee-Gorn created a one of a kind line, using all donated silk. Student Mai Sato cut out flower prints from old T-shirts she used to wear as a kid for her fashion line called “Recyclable Geisha”, which incorporates the concept of the Japanese kimono as a way to infuse her garments with a sense of tradition. “We should preserve tradition the same way we need to preserve green space, nature, the environment. They’re all things we shouldn’t lose,” Sato said. A greener future This year’s Viva Verde theme, and the student’s creations, set the tone for the future of fashion education at the school, said Webb, the Fashion Design Department Head. In line with the university’s educational goal of social responsibility, Webb has plans to incorporate new sustainable awareness into all the courses in the program. She’s also revamping one of the more important courses called Professional Practices so it educates students on all new environmentally conscious developments in the fashion industry. Webb said the Department was recently awarded a grant that will allow faculty to travel with more than 50 students to a cleaner cotton farm next fall. The farm is part of the Sustainable Cotton Project, an organization that encourages the production and demand for California grown cleaner cotton, which uses considerably fewer chemicals and is better for the environment. At the farm students will have an opportunity to understand first hand, the beginning stages of the cotton supply chain, and how this later connects to retailers. “It’s about trying to raise the consciousness, “Webb said about the university’s efforts.
The Future Looks Green For Fashion