SUSTAINABLE FASHION SHINES AT NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

Prabal Gurung SS17

The Prabal Gurung name has evoked visions of luxury and glamour since he launched his eponymous label in 2009. He has outfitted everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Jennifer Lawrence to First Lady Michelle Obama and his loyal fans expect nothing but the best. So it may come as a surprise that nearly 85% of Gurung’s collections are produced sustainably in his hometown of Nepal. Gurung strives to reduce his brand’s carbon footprint each season, but his commitment to creating a sustainable lifestyle for residents of Nepal goes beyond just clothing production. In 2011, the Gurung Family established the Shikshya Foundation Nepal, which provides education to underprivileged children. In the same year, Prabal Gurung was named Goodwill Ambassador for Maiti Nepal, a Foundation established to prevent trafficking of girls. Following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Prabal raised nearly $1million in aid relief.

With all of this in mind, we were beyond excited to sit down with Gurung after his stunning Spring Summer 17 show to discuss his design vision and his latest efforts in sustainability.

What was your inspiration for the collection this season?
PG: The inspiration this season began with Gloria Steinem’s poignant My Life on the Road. Her strength and determination to fight for feminism without compromise embodies our ideal of femininity with a bite. I also found great inspiration in works by William Kentridge, Tracey Emin, and Taryn Simon. All three artists create incredible works with deep subtexts, and I was interested in unearthing what lies beneath the surface. It was important to me to celebrate the deep and layered complexity of a modern woman.  

You introduced Cupro, a Fiber made from reclaimed cotton waste, this season. What did you enjoy the most about designing with this new fabric in mind?
PG: We are a part of the CFDA Lexus Fashion Initiative. Through this program, we attend seminars and work with a team of wonderful mentors, who are educating us on how to minimize our carbon footprint and introduce more sustainable practices into the business. It's also crucial for our brand to do this without compromising luxury, which is more attainable than most know it to be. There are so many beautiful fabrics where sustainability doesn’t mean a sacrifice in quality. 

Your jewelry on the runway was also made using recycled metals by Tibetan artisans, is the use of recycled and reclaimed materials something we can expect to see as a mainstay for your brand?
PG: Working with more sustainable materials is a priority for the brand. For our jewelry, we were fortunate enough to be able to work with craftsmen in Nepal who specialize in working with recycled brass. Employing local artisans over there is part of our brand ethos and we will continue to explore ways to bring attention to the incredible craftsmanship and detail of their work.

Your brand is world renowned, revered by celebrities and the epitome of chicness and glamor all whilst contributing to important philanthropic and sustainable causes. Do you have any advice for young designers wanting to create an ethical brand without compromising their vision?
PG: My advice to young designers would be to follow your vision and passion, and to understand that sustainability doesn’t mean compromise. There are so many great resources and new innovations. Sustainability also comes in many forms—there is sustainability in materials that greatly affect the environment, in a social aspect, an economic one, the list goes on. When I first dressed the First Lady Michelle Obama I called my mother with excitement, and she explained to me, “now, you are more than just a designer, you are a voice for the people of Nepal.” That is when I first understood the magnitude of my platform. Nepal is my home, and a part of who I am as a designer, so I started my foundation Shikshya Foundation Nepal with my brother and sister, with the goal of bringing full and complete education to children in Nepal. We have since provided education to over 145 children, and have impacted more than 15,000 lives with our earthquake relief efforts. Helping Nepal is a passion of mine—I wasn’t even thinking about it from a sustainability perspective, however we are now creating a sustainable future for the people in Nepal and that will forever be a part of what we do here.  Definitely more to come.

 

Tome SS17

Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of Tome love women. And as the rapid growth of their 5-year-old label shows that women love them right back. How could you not? These two talented men from Australia have celebrated strong women from the very beginning not only in who they cite as inspiration each season but in their ability to design with an uncanny understanding of what women want to wear. Tome collections are filled with timeless pieces you had no idea you needed. A perfect example is Tome’s shirting, which reimagines classic shapes into something modern and unique. In 2014, Lobo and Martin used their skill at creating desirable classics to launch The White Shirt Project, an initiative that sees all proceeds from sales of select shirting styles donated to Freedom For All, an organization that works towards ending slavery and human trafficking around the word. Now a member of the CFDA Lexus Initiative, the Tome team has been introducing sustainable practices to their brand since 2015.

For SS17, their fifth birthday in fact, the mood at the show was joyous and celebratory, and the clothing perfectly reflected that feeling. Tome brings good vibes to women and to the environment and here they tell us about how they achieve that.

What was your inspiration for the collection this season?
T: For our fifth anniversary collection we are feeling nostalgic so our past muses - who have never really left our inspiration boards - are ever present. Louise Bourgeois, Piña Bausch, Georgia O’Keeffe, Shirin Neshat, Ana Mendieta, and of course Madonna (the singer, not the virgin)   

You're a part of the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative whose goal is to help brands to embrace and grow sustainable practices within their company. In what ways did you embrace sustainable and ethical practices for your SS17 collection?
T: Sustainability has become almost second nature to us at this point and it really runs top to bottom through the business. Choosing from sustainable fabrics is an obvious first step but production choices are a big part of the puzzle too. The single biggest commitment we make as a business is producing everything here in NYC under one roof which has a huge impact, especially in reducing pollution.

You also presented accessories on the runway in collaboration with Intel, can you tell us more about these pieces?
T: Absolutely. This season we debuted intuitive accessories in partnership with Intel. The device has a chip that measures environmental toxins, ambient temperature and air pressure. The bags we designed work with perforated leather to allow the device to measure these environmental toxins. The data is then sent to the wearer's smart phone where environmental updates can be managed.

Does consideration for sustainability change the way you approach the design process, if so, how?
T: It’s more of a production consideration to be honest. We try to keep design as unfiltered and focused on our woman as possible and then move downstream from there. Where sustainability really comes into play is with fabric choices and how you choose to bring those designs into the world. Many people don’t realize that fashion is the 2nd most pollution industry globally after fossil fuels so the pressure is on to address this at every level of the business. One of the things that keeps us really efficient is producing everything here in NYC. When you have a closeness to the collection and an immediacy with production, you bypass a lot of wastage, especially transport costs, which can be huge for designers who produce offshore.

Do you have any advice for young designers who want to create beautiful collections that are sustainable?
T: Do your research. Sustainable solutions are 100% out there, but are usually never presented to you as your first option. Keep looking, ask more questions and don't compromise.

 

Zero + Maria Cornejo SS17

Maria Cornejo has been committed to sustainability since she first launched her brand as an experimental store and atelier in Nolita, New York City in 1998. Her desire to create unique pieces that women cherished evolved from one of a kind pieces to the label it is today, worn by the likes of Tilda Swinton and Marisa Tomei and showing on the runways of NYFW. Zero + Maria Cornejo, a company run and owned by women, uses organic and sustainable fabrics as much as possible and 70% of the clothing is produced locally in NYC. Shoes and handbags are made by small independently owned factories in Italy.

This season Maria Cornejo wanted to focus on the integrity of the fabrics and the cut of the garments. To do this, she stripped the collection of color, sending all-white looks down the runway on ethereal looking, barefoot models. It was a refreshing approach and we talked to Maria about her collection after the show.

What was your inspiration for your SS17 Collection?
M: Discovering New Orleans – the sensual heat, hot-house flowers, the vibrant, soulful mix of cultures and people. Layers of history, memories, the music, the smells, the tastes, the languages and the rituals of a city surviving centuries of change were all powerfully evocative sources of inspiration for our summer collection.

You presented the entire collection unadorned, in only white, noting that for stores the collection will be in spring colors but for the show you had opted to focus on cut and form. What inspired you to present this way?
M: To focus on the new Eco Drape fabric to see it moving and unadorned and to make a point!

Sustainability has been at the core of your brand since it began, how important is it to you to continue the work of making each collection more sustainable that the last?
M: It’s very important and at the core of what we are doing now to move ourselves forward. That being said, it’s an ongoing challenge to have a luxury collection be sustainable. I always strive to do a little bit more each season by incorporating new, responsibly create fabrics such as working with a second women-run knitting co-op in Peru or working with recycled materials wherever possible

 What advice would you offer to young designers who wish to present beautiful collections that are sustainable but perhaps feel it could be limiting for them?
M: Sustainability can be a bit limiting so get creative and make it desirable! It should be a plus not a minus to a collection.