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International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

As I write, judges across the globe are deliberating on the regional winners of the International Woolmark Prize, a competition so extensive it is divided into six localities: Asia; Australia and New Zealand; British Isles; Europe; India and Pakistan; U.S.A. Nominating bodies here at home include Vogue and the C.F.D.A. and past winners have been Public School and Gabriela Hearst. This year’s judging panel includes André Leon Talley, formerly of Vogue, Stefano Tonchi of W Magazine, designer Thom Browne and Laura Brown, editor-in-chief of InStyle. In the words of the Woolmark Company, the “prestigious award connects the decision-makers of the future with today’s leaders in retail and trade to ensure the inspiring and ongoing use of wool.” Woolmark’s strong focus on emerging talent goes back to 1954 when a 21-year-old Karl Lagerfeld and an 18-year-old Yves Saint Laurent both won the then-named International Wool Secretariat award.

Let’s briefly meet this year’s selected candidates and glimpse something of their submissions before learning the winners.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Menswear

In a stylish utopia imagined by Death By Tennis the homeless are taken care of in society in which the designer supplies convertible ‘utility ponchos’ and padded and quilted companion items to facilitate sleeping anywhere. ‘Welcome human,’ is the tenet of his philosophy.

DYNE designer, Christopher Bevans, was an avid child skateboarder and usually the only African-American on the slopes so he grew accustomed to standing out. He re-envisions his favorite wool bomber from his youth as one of the pieces in his submission.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Kenneth Ning was inspired by the design process itself and his submission is a deconstructed suit whose jacket can be worn 2 ways: on the bias or on grain creating draping on one side. His graphic print is based on fit notes made during the prototype stages of the garment’s creation.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

N-p-Elliot chose to focus on the history of merino wool as a tradable commodity that financed wars, outfitted Royals through to its role in the Industrial Revolution and arriving at present day and the Australian wool farmer.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Palmiers du Mal offer an evening wear interpretation of elevated luxury resort, targeting a “Kinetic Creative” who will appreciate their blanket-wrapped comfort and surf-inspired elastic-waisted ease.

Womenswear

Andrea Jiapei Li looked to pioneering minimalist Mies van der Rohe and the Less Is More aesthetic choosing to place her focus on function, incorporating different constructions, finishings and techniques on one single type of fabric.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Claudia Li has an affinity for the overlooked and under-appreciated, celebrating the “humble” and “inexpensive” details of clothing: “Those details to me are exquisite and when well-made…are what makes it so special.” She cites denim overalls, fishermen’s sweaters and farmers’ aprons as starting points.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

PH5 were inspired by the hyper-real series of paintings by Marc Quinn in which he places pieces of fruit amongst flowers, creating unlikely still life arrangements not to be found in nature. This “corrupt beauty” fuels an image of a jet setting woman with no time to pack a suitcase who layers for her needs, and even led to the creation of a special yarn for the IWP submission, called SheerWool.

Protagonist cites aviation pioneer, Jacqueline Cochran, founder of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corp as inspiration and her quote, “I might have been born in a hovel but I am determined to travel with the wind and the stars.” Combining military influences, mid-century couture references and a strong feminine silhouette, their submission is a new take on the ‘power suit.’

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Zaid Affas chooses to juxtapose manmade and natural beauty with architectural structure into what the designer hopes will strike the perfect balance of timelessness and understated luxury.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Winners

And the U.S.A. finalists for the 2017/18 International Woolmark Prize are: Dyne for Menswear and Zaid Affas for Womenswear.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

The designers receive an initial prize of 70,000 Australian dollars, plus the opportunity to compete in the prestigious international finals, followed by a further 200,000 dollars to assist with fabric sourcing and marketing of their collection. For the next six-to-seven months, the winning designers will develop a six-piece capsule collection in Merino wool, to be showcased at International Woolmark Prize finals, alongside the other regional winners from around the globe.

International Woolmark Prize U.S. Finalists and Winner Announcement

Another of this evening’s judges and C.E.O. of the C.F.D.A. Steven Kolb says, "American fashion is well represented with this year's winners of the Woolmark Prize. I'm extra excited to see both brands coming from the West Coast. The support and opportunity The Woolmark Company provides young talent is significant and is providing real business advancement for the designers."

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All imagery designers’ own; winners Photo Credit: BFA.

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

Project, the bi-annual contemporary menswear trade show, is in full swing at Manhattan’s Javits Center and dropped in the middle of this bustling three-day event in which dapper dressed men meet vendors, negotiate, haggle and ultimately place orders for boutiques across the U.S. is a a group of individuals shiny and new to the scene: five graduates from Parsons have been selected to display their menswear collections on this high-profile platform. We first became aware of them at Parsons graduate show which Fashion United reviewed in May so it’s an opportunity to check back with them as they take their talent out in the world. Project bills itself as creating “destinations where innovation, commerce and service converge” so these young designers find themselves at a three-way intersection that could offer them their first industry opportunity. Let’s see what they have brought along to catch a passerby’s keen eye:

Qiangxin Kou

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

Kou’s collection brings attitudes of Chinese philosophy to the New York hustle. Merging Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, she seeks to remind us that we must slow down and remember who we are in the crazy busy metropolis. An afternoon spent sitting in Union Square taking in her surroundings was the inspiration for a print which follows the gentle weaving journey of a squirrel going about his daily business. “There is purity in this,” she explains calmly, and her collection reflects this serenity in soft cool pastels with delicate textures and hours of hand embroidery. They say working with one’s hands is therapeutic, I comment. She confirms, “No machine has touched these clothes. Everything is hand done.”

Rika Konishi

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

Konishi also took a dive into philosophy to begin her collection focusing on Sigmund Freud’s words “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” She incorporated a slashing technique that led to her creating her own fabric, a loopy nubby textile which spills forth from openings in sleeves and legs, from quilted bombers, eventually creeping over entire garments. She likens the detail to scars, and mentions that she felt like a surgeon, explaining, “We shouldn’t have to hide these parts of ourselves. We should question the surface impressions of things,” As she says this, she flips open a pocket flap to demonstrate there is no pocket there, then demonstrates an elaborate trench coat which is completely reversible so there is no wrong side. Because what you hide one day you choose to show the next.

Yuner Shao

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

This bold fun streetwear-influenced range does not wear its inspiration literally. Child-like scrawls in crayon hues take their start from the Chinese propaganda Shao grew up with which promoted the Chinese Dream despite society’s turning away from the building blocks of that dream. Shapes are derived from school uniforms and the customizing tricks the young designer used to differentiate herself from others in society. She describes her portfolio and garments as her own “tools of propaganda.”

Alexa Chia

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

Chia was thinking of reincarnation as she began work on her all-white collection and as a result of extensive and exciting fabric experimentation her range is perhaps the most highly conceptual of the five but with minimal tweaks could also become the most commercially innovative. On vinyl she took imprints of classic apparel details––zippers, cable knit, denim jacket pockets––from which she developed prints. She fused vinyl with denim to create a satisfyingly sturdy fabric for pants and jackets. Pieces seem to be embodied with ghostly traces of former garments. Etched plexiglass dickies are the most conceptual items while other garments are split down the middle between commerce and concept with one side a classic jacket and the other framed in plexi rods so that one half seems already framed for posterity while the other continues to exist among us. Inkeeping with this art school mindset, she says, “My monocolor palette was to suggest an empty canvas. Color would distract.”

Sunghee Yoon

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

Yoon’s design philosophy evolved from her dislike of littering. She attempts to inject new life into recycled clothing using wire which pleasantly distorts the fabric of her father’s discarded closet staples––like a military khaki and plaid hooded utilitarian overcoat. In this way she imbues the garment with a reformed silhouette and personality, but with a pleasant yet lived-in appearance, to compliment its new owner.

For Three Days Only: Project x Parsons; Next in Class

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All images author’s own part from lookbook images from Qiangxin Kou and Yuner Shao.

HAW graduate wins Designer for Tomorrow award

A recent fashion graduate from HAW Hamburg University of Applied Sciences has been named the winner of Peek & Cloppenburg and Fashion ID’s 10th ‘Designer for Tomorrow’ 2017 award at Berlin Fashion Week.

Lara Krude, was awarded with the fashion talent award after showing her ‘What remains’ collection at the Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week on Thursday. Krude’s collection is said to have a world without tailors, where men have forgotten how to dress themselves properly, wearing eg. pyjamas over their jackets.

HAW graduate wins Designer for Tomorrow award

The jury board, which included patron of the award Stella McCartney, was impressed with Krude’s innovative tailoring skills. “Lara Krude impressed me today with her talent for tailoring. Her concept is great and very relevant in a changing fashion industry” said McCartney.

The award will see Krude receive a sustainable, individual sponsorship program from Peek & Cloppenburg and Fashion ID, which includes an internship with Stella McCartney’s design team. McCartney, in a conversation with presenter Johanna Klum said she was “truly honored to be the Patron of this award again. Especially as it is the tenth round of the DfT.”

HAW graduate wins Designer for Tomorrow award

Finalists for this years award were Fanny Varga from London College of Fashion, Fatima Danielsson from Istituto Marangoni Paris, Lara Krude from HAW, Hamburg, Lisa Haas from MD.M, Munich, and Marcella Lobo from Amsterdam Fashion Institute.

The ‘Designer for Tomorrow’ award (DfT) was established in 2009, with a mission ‘to provide individual, professional support to up-and-coming designers over the long term.’ Offering a visible platform for young designers to gain attention from the fashion industry and the general public.

Photos courtesy of Peek & Cloppenburg

Photos: Award winner Lara Krude with Stella McCartney, courtesy of Peek & Cloppenburg

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

Graduate students from Jean School are hosting an exposition of their graduate work in Denim City, in Amsterdam. Under the guidance of Jean School coordinator Mira Copini, the graduates developed a two-piece outfit from their graduation showcase, which focused on serving the mid-segment of denim wear.

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

The graduating students completed a three-year denim education, earning the official title of Junior Stylist.

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

FashionUnited highlights three projects:

Hover your mouse over the pictures to learn more about their work.

Graduate project of Bas Vos:

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

Work of Stef Reijnierse:

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

Joery Winkel:

In Pictures: Graduation exposition of Jean School 2017

Denim City, the denim hub in Amsterdam, will be filled with the final projects of graduating international students over the next few weeks.

'Alvanon's Fit Movement fits right into our Master Tailor Story'

INTERVIEW Amsterdam - “Everything that happens within these doors is part of the world of tailors. This is where people come to discover the true potential they have at their fingertips or improve on the skills they already have,” explains Nannet van der Kleijn, board member of the Master Tailor Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The sprawling hallways and ateliers of the school, which is nestled in the city’s West side are remarkably quiet for such an immense educational institute. But this level of silence is common, adds Nannet, as everyone who steps through these doors shares a single passion: becoming the best possible tailors they can be.

“A master tailor will fit things on themselves, so they can see how a garment will look and feel. They want to understand it’s construction and how it's made.” This attitude is reflected in the level of focus a final year student pays when making minute adjustments to her corseted evening gown. The Master Tailor Institute is the only school in the Benelux-region which offers certifications for all tailoring levels. Offering both full-time, as well as part-time courses, the institute aims to safeguard the industry’s tailoring skills and breath new life into this slowly diminishing craft. Which is why they have joined forces with Alvanon, global consulting firm, to offer students, brands and companies alike a safe space to hone their skills and practice their craft on full form mannequins, namely The Fit Studio.

"The tailor is the person between the producer and the designer - they have to take somebody’s design and re-engineer it so that it can be produced. They are the bridge - it’s very special piece skill - and once you identified what that is, it’s practically like the architect of fashion"

Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon

The Fit Studio in the Master Tailor Institute is the first of its kind to open outside of Alvanon’s offices in New York, London, and Hong Kong. Featuring a full line of Alvanon Fit Models, for women and men, the studio can either be rented out by brands who are looking to test out the fit standards of a garment, or used by the students practising their skills on a realistic mannequin. “We started the Fit Studio with the aim of making it accessible to all who may need it,” explains Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon to FashionUnited. “With the number of brands in the Netherlands needing such aid, the studio lends it out in different ways.”

'Alvanon's Fit Movement fits right into our Master Tailor Story'

The newest Fit Studio uses the same booking system as those located in Alvanon global offices, making it easy for both parties to keep track of who is renting the studio and when. “We are trying to figure out how to tailor each one of these studios to a specific need that they have,” notes Wang. “Each Fit Studio meets a different need depending on their location.” Which is why the Master Tailor Institute was such an appealing location for Alvanon to open a Fit Studio, as not only does it attract a range of companies, it’s also attracting apprentices. “It’s attracting a certain type of student. They are all highly interested in this engineering and making aspect.” As the Master Tailor Institute focuses on tailoring in the purest sense, the school ensures its qualifications are up to the highest standard and skills set and do not offer any other types of fashion courses. “Students taking our courses will always know they can become a master tailor,” says van der Kleijn.

Alvanon and The Master Tailor Institute team up to protect future fashion skills

This focus on the future tailors of tomorrow is why the Fit Studio at the Master Tailor Institute is part of Alvanon’s educational initiatives alongside its annual mentorship scheme, which sees the company giving back to the industry. “In order to be able to aid more people, we decided that we needed to be able to open the Fit Studios to all designers. We asked what we could do to help those already working to improve the industry,” explains Wang. “Then we realized if our Fit Studio was located in an educational institute, we could take the money earned from the studio rentals and give it back to them in the form of a bursary...The whole thinking behind it all is to be able to give back to the industry itself - in whichever means we can.” Some may wonder why a company like Alvanon, which is best known for its data and consultancy services, is so focused on improving fit while giving back to the fashion industry. But that goes back to the company’s roots.

“My father had this vision, he was both a doctor and a garment manufacturer.” Alvanon was originally a spin-off business launched by Dr. Kenneth Wang in 2001. After failing to sell clothing online, he began looking at other ways to help standardize the selling of apparel online. “He said ‘let’s look at the body’ that we are actually designing the goods on. So we started looking at the mannequins and saw they were not standard at all. Then we asked ourselves how we could make a better mannequin.” The result was Alvaforms, mannequins based on real human anatomy, created with an understanding of pattern making and garment production in mind, to help brands, designers and companies ensure their products achieve the best possible fit. “That’s how Alvanon started.”

'Alvanon's Fit Movement fits right into our Master Tailor Story'

Alvanon and the Master Tailor Institute open debut Fit Studio

Fit remains a central focal point to both Alvanon and the Master Tailor Institute. “The Fit movement story from Alvanon fits right into our master tailor story and the current job market,” says van der Kleijn, who is very pleased to be working together with Alvanon to help safeguard the future of hard fashion skills. “We are partners in craft and fit. We feel like Alvanon truly understands the real DNA of a tailor and the important role they have within the industry.” Both Wang and van der Kleijn speak of the loss of hard skills the industry has suffered over the years since fashion brands first began moving their ateliers out of their companies and overseas into factories for mass production. “Back in the day, you were able to walk into a store and see the tailors at work in the atelier, physically making clothing. The tailor had a face. But now, the employees of most fashion brands don't even have direct contact with 'the people of the atelier' anymore.”

'Alvanon's Fit Movement fits right into our Master Tailor Story'

As the visibility of these hard fashion skills, such as pattern skills and tech design, which may not sound very appealing roles but are crucial to the future of the fashion industry slowly began to fade from sight a gap began to emerge in the industry. The rise of fast-fashion and the democratisation of fashion has also been taking away attention from the old skills, while simultaneously promoting the importance of fashion design. Unsurprisingly schools around the world began taking notice of this increased interest in fashion, and eager to get their slice of the pie, began offering numerous courses. This, in turn, has led to the watering down of the real skillset needed to become a true clothing craftsman as well as the dilution of fashion education, argues van der Kleijn.

“It’s always the tailor who knows what makes the real difference in how a garment will look and feel to ensure it has the right fit"

Nannet van der Kleijn, board member of the Master Tailor Institute

“This is not a criticism of the schools at all - because the schools can only do so much - they are also business enterprises at the end of the day,” points out Wang. “And the things they are going to teach are the things that give students a basic foundation. But what they can’t teach is experience and technical expertise. We feel in general that the apparel industry has not sufficiently trained enough people - especially new blood. That’s part of the reason why you are seeing the things that are happening overseas, [Like Rana Plaza], occur,” she adds. “Unless you actually make the goods yourself then it is very difficult to know all the different aspects that go into making it. If you do not have any access to mass manufacturing then you don’t know how your decision may impact those in the factories and have no way of empathising with the workers.”

Fortunately for the Master Tailor Institute and Alvanon an increasing number of companies are recognising the lack of hard skills and the growing gap in the market and are willing to work together to make a change. But for now, the two are pleased with the results of their partnership. “We all speak the same language and all want to preserve something and we all think it's very important. We haven't taught it well for very long,” concludes Wang. “It’s lovely feeling when you think about how the fashion industry is known to be such a cut throat industry. As an entire industry, we are facing a problem. So it’s just a matter of getting like minded people together and doing things together. Each party may have different needs or ways of handling these issues, but at the end of the day the mission is the same.”

Photos: Taken by Willem de Kam, courtesy of Alvanon and the Master Tailor Institute

Homepage photo from left to right: Nannet van der Kleijn, board member of the Master Tailor Institute; Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon; and Han Bekke, President of the International Apparel Federation, Chairman of the Board at Meesteropleiding Coupeur

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

On the heels of the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, as members of his administration continue to demonstrate an immunity to science or knowledge on matters that effect our planet, members of the fashion industry gather at FIT for its annual Summer Institute. Panelists of sustainability mavericks and leaders reveal the latest models to implement which will help our industry become more responsible. The goal of those in attendance is to cherish Mother Earth, while still operating businesses that are successful and profitable. As those in Washington continue to turn in circles and peddle the idea that climate change is a hoax, those in this room press forward with urgency, speaking in terms of recovering, renewing, preserving, never withdrawing. As knowledge is power, and even more so when shared, I will report on the program’s highlights in this three-part series.

“I founded a spacesuit company by accident”

So says Ted Southern of Final Frontier Designs who went from designing costumes and props in NYC to creating spacesuits for NASA. Working in the theatre world involved a lot of what he calls “making water go uphill” which is a fun way of saying he had to solve complicated demands quickly, around building body armor, and working with unusual materials such as inflatables. Along the way he developed an obsession with the anatomy of the human hand, partly due to having two surgeries, and decided to enter NASA’s Astronaut Glove Competition. He won the prize of $100,000 and founded his company. His knowledge of spacesuit engineering––“You’re basically building an entire life support unit on the astronaut’s back” allows him to see performance garments and, more specifically, materials, in a unique way. Fun fact: there were 21 layers in the Apollo spacesuit that went to the moon––so issues of bulk, range of motion, thermal regulation, C02 washout, personal hygiene take concerns of regular performance-wear manufacture to a whole new level.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

New Generation Textiles

NASA has a repository of materials (MAPTIS) that he says will be the foundation for new generation textile technology. NASA almost never uses natural materials for multiple logistical reasons (even the astronaut’s basic undershirt is polyester) but he believes there are trade-offs that make the case for using long-lasting synthetics that outperform industrial-farmed cotton.

His forecast of textiles, both natural and synthetic, that will soon be used here on earth is as follows:

“Naturals”

Bolt Thread synthetically produces the natural but extremely expensive spider silk by harnessing proteins found in nature to make fibers. Wood fiber (which has been around since rayon’s invention) is now being transformed into textiles that have the feel of cotton, and at the head of the game is Finnish company Spinnova. Waste coffee grounds are now being woven into a yarn by S. Cafe; fibers made from milk by German company Q Milch. BioCouture is pushing forward in the developing area of growing materials out of bacteria for apparel. Metals such as silver, copper, stainless steel will be incorporated increasingly in apparel, specifically Chromel R, a steel used in astronaut gloves.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

Synthetics

Synthetics are also set to be transformed by space-age technology. Hydrophobic down will be used instead of feathers. Southern believes industrial fabrics such as Teflon, common to firefighters’ uniforms for its chemical and toxic resistance, and Kevlar used in bulletproof vests for its anti-puncture qualities, are ripe for innovation in the apparel industry especially when blended with natural materials. We’ll be seeing more of Nomex, a naturally flame-resistant fiber that feels like cotton. New age alternatives to nylon and acrylic (which are essentially from gasoline) are Dyneema, which Levis is already incorporating into its denims for its strength, and Spectra. FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech Fiberglass and carbon fiber when blended with rubber becomes safe on the skin, and has already been used in race car clothing; CNT (Carbon Nano Tubes) are desirable for their conductive properties and strength. We should look out for Graphene and Vectran. Aerogel, not a fiber but can provide an interesting thermal barrier and insulation properties, is being explored by companies Aspen Aerogel and Blueshift. There is also an increasing number of companies focusing on the recycling of synthetics, led by Unifi and Repreve, and Adidas has just its Ocean Waste 3D printed sole shoe.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

No Water In Space

If you’ve ever wondered what intriguing challenges still must be met in spacesuit-wear, sustainability is at the heart of the matter there too: As clothes can’t be washed in space when even breath and urine are recycled, Final Frontier Design have proposed to NASA a program called Knit in Space where clothing is actually made via seamless knit technology in space and then disassembled after use. Currently all undergarments and traditional textiles are simply “burnt on entry.”

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

Make friends with microbes

Daniel Grushkin of Genspace started off completely grassroots as a science journalist playing with microbes in his apartment. This led him to found his company which encourages microbes as a medium for human creativity and to break down the barrier between art/design and science thereby creating a groundswell of creativity. To this end he launched the BioDesign Challenge with the nation’s schools and now seven countries participate. Students work under both fashion and science professors to engineer apparel using bacteria. FIT won last year’s top prize with their spaghetti-like yarn made from algae and fungi which they used to knit garments. While the idea is circular in that you wear a garment then throw it in the back garden and let it decompose back into nature, Grushkin is well aware that the energy required to grow the materials is the challenge to truly closing the loop. “I really believe everything should be cradle to cradle,” he says. “In nature, nothing is wasted and all creativity should take its cue from nature.”

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

What’s next for 3D printing?

“It’s not 3D printing, it’s additive manufacturing,” explains designer Silvia Heisel, wearing a shirt that was 3D printed with filament made out of recycled corn. “You are adding to, never cutting away as in traditional apparel manufacture, so there is zero waste.” Although she says 3D printing will not replace traditional sewn garments, it should be considered an alternative. It has a much shorter supply chain which can be modified, customized, quantified, in a way that the industry struggles to with its current model.”It’s fully transparent and traceable.”

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainability Part 3: Future Tech

Adidas will release 100,000 of its Carbon Adidas 4D Futurecraft sneaker next year. A recent Kickstarter campaign by Blackbelt far surpassed financial expectation to create the first 3D printer with conveyor belt for ”mass” production. Along with corn, other materials being recycled for use in 3D printing include sugar, cellulose, molasses. “My shirt took approximately 20 hours to create from beginning to end, “says Heisel,”which might seem like a lot until you realize it would have required 80 hours a short while ago.” She says there has been more development in hard industrial materials rather than soft flexible ones, but that is down to demand from certain Industries. “We’re behind the automobile and medical industries. But eventually, the hope is that you get sick of your clothes, they return to being a tree or a leaf in your back yard.”

Now that would be one small stitch for man, one giant leap for Mother Earth.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos: finalfrontierdesign.com; genspace.org; heisel.co; adidas.com

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

On the heels of the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, as members of his administration continue to demonstrate an immunity to science or knowledge on matters that effect our planet, members of the fashion industry gather at FIT for its annual Summer Institute. Panelists of sustainability mavericks and leaders reveal the latest models to implement which will help our industry become more responsible. The goal of those in attendance is to cherish Mother Earth, while still operating businesses that are successful and profitable. As those in Washington continue to turn in circles and peddle the idea that climate change is a hoax, those in this room press forward with urgency, speaking in terms of recovering, renewing, preserving, never withdrawing. As knowledge is power, and even more so when shared, I will report on the program’s highlights in this three-part series.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

Farm To Fashion

We are what we eat has become an accepted belief, and food is now considered a form of healing from the inside. Lydia Wendt of the California Cloth Foundry, argues that our clothing, which enrobes our largest organ, our skin, is a way to heal from the outside. Not only does our skin, like the earth, absorb everything and therefore needs to be handled with care, but carefully made clothing can be a way to heal our notoriously toxic industry. Wendt worked for years in the fast fashion industry and says, “I was actively contributing to the problems; I was negotiating pennies right out of the suppliers’ and farmers’ pockets. It was a race to the bottom of the market. Eventually I saw the light.”

The Next Big Fashion Movement

She believes that transparency is the next big fashion movement. The California Cloth Foundry works with Californian farmers, who receive sponsorship under the Clean Water Act, and an entirely American supply chain which she lays out like this: Gary Murray grows the cotton in California, Mark and Mike spin it into yarn, Kenny and Caroline scour it in Seattle, Jason dyes it in Maine and May cuts and sews it in California… Although there is still a carbon footprint involved in the transport, Wendt cites an example of a conventionally made pair of jeans that made its way from China to Pakistan, India, Peru, the USA then to Europe, and asks us to consider the difference. “Fast fashion is design for obsolescence, ours is premium product designed to last.” Avoiding conventional dyeing which means no fossil fuels, only plant and protein-based colors still has its challenges at consumer level, and she hopes that color variation and fading will soon be considered a beautiful feature, not a defect. Imminent developments according to Wendt will be hemp is making a return; new threads already being produced from yeast and bacteria, vertical farming eliminating the burden of land use. In the meantime, she throws down the gauntlet to everyone: “Be my competition. That way everyone wins.”

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

The Cotton Club

Up next is a crowded panel whose members have spearheaded a variety of initiatives, all with one thing in common: to ensure the cotton does not lose market share to synthetics. Cotton is grown in 80 countries and according to Darren Abney from the Better Cotton Initiative, while there is no concrete definition of sustainability and growing methods vary widely worldwide, there is agreement on key points: the importance of pesticide, fertilizer and waste management, soil care, good labor practices, and profitability. “Cotton is a cash crop, it’s a business like any other,” says Abney, and whether conventional or organic, the 1000+ members of BCI, including Gap, Burberry, H&M, are committed to developing the best farming models. Currently BCI works in 24 countries accounting for 12 percent of global cotton production, but its aim is to account for 30 percent by 2020. Its motto is simple: be part of something Better.

Watching A Seed Grow

Brent Crossland of Bayer Crop Science started out growing cotton but when he was approached by a major company to help them develop cotton growth sustainability, he developed his e3 program which has traceability at its core. Farmers voluntarily sign up and from the point of sale of the seed, it can be traced through to the farm and beyond, with all stewards of the seed subject to random third party audits.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

It’s That Word Again: Transparency

Eric Henry of TS Design cites January 1st 1994 as a major turning point for the U.S. farming industry, the signing of NAFTA, and now with 98 percent of apparel made overseas, he is passionate that transparency is the key to the future of American production. His company’s “Dirt to Shirt in 600 Miles” philosophy allows him to put a human face beside each part of the process and says consumers need to demand that of their apparel manufacturers. He also predicts the return of hemp as soon as the laws are changed, and that young people, who are already interested in where their clothing comes from, will go elsewhere if companies don’t cater to those needs now.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

Cotton Folk in Cahoots

Mark Messura of Cotton Incorporated makes no bones about the choice between cotton or polyester. “Synthetics are not a sustainable option.” Polyester’s non-renewability and links to fracking are briefly mentioned before Messura makes a case for more education by brands and retailers to consumers who are still iunaware of what goes into their clothing. According to a Cotton Inc study, customers still overwhelmingly value price, fit, style, durability, and other factors over environment. Cotton Inc has introduced the practice of bringing retailers and brands to the farms in the same way they routinely visit their factories. “If customers don’t have confidence in cotton,” he says, “they don’t choose another cotton, say from another country, they choose another fibre, usually a synthetic.” In order to stop this happening Cotton Inc created their Cotton Leads program which shares information globally between its 100 partners.

“There are over 700 brands of denim in the US alone, so a lot of our cotton goes into denim,” he says, which leads into an explanation of Cotton Inc’s VSEP Technology which keeps the process of indigo dyeing clean allowing the water to be reused.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion Part 2: Cotton

Beyond Marketing

“The unfortunate reality is that many companies still use sustainability as a marketing campaign,” says Messura and the other panelists agree unanimously. “It’s actually a terrible thing when a company sells thousands of organic T-shirts on Earth Day” says Wendt, “It should be part of your DNA, contributing to your brand reputation.” LaReah Pepper from Textile Exchange who grew up on a cotton farm and married a farmer couldn’t agree more: “It’s up close and personal for me. Famers don’t grow a crop on a maybe. They respond to clear market signals. They need a solid business model otherwise they can get a five-year contract for growing peanuts which is better for them.”

Mother Nature Vs Crude Oil

The customer no longer knows what she wants as there is just too much out there and she needs guidance, is the opinion of the panel. Pepper says, “We need to change the perception of cotton as the cheap fabric, and market it like we do make-up or luxury items.” Wendt wonders how many consumers even know their favorite polyester T-shirt is made from crude oil, adding, ”Cotton is a luxury fabric. It’s nature.”

Messura concludes by describing the interesting recycling endeavors that have been happening. Cotton Inc created the Blue Jeans Go Green campaign which kept thousands of pairs of jeans from landfill by transforming them into fiberglass insulation. Up ahead, he predicts cotton fabric will replace hard structures, at first, the plastics of your dashboard, then eventually your car.

Check back for part three of the series entitled “Textile Innovations” on Monday June 12.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Images: ClothFoundry.com; BetterCotton.org; TSDesigns.com; CottonInc.com; CottonLeads.org

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion - Part 1

On the heels of the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, as members of his administration continue to demonstrate an immunity to science or knowledge on matters that effect our planet, members of the fashion industry gather at FIT for its annual Summer Institute. Panelists of sustainability mavericks and leaders reveal the latest models to implement which will help our industry become more responsible. The goal of those in attendance is to cherish Mother Earth, while still operating businesses that are successful and profitable. As those in Washington continue to turn in circles and peddle the idea that climate change is a hoax, those in this room press forward with urgency, speaking in terms of recovering, renewing, preserving, never withdrawing. As knowledge is power, and even more so when shared, I will report on the program’s highlights in this three-part series.

Closing the loop

The theme of the day is Circular Fashion, as illustrated using this pretty butterfly diagram developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is when the fashion system can operate in a 100 percent renewable way, and the concept of waste no longer exists. Instead what we currently consider waste is repurposed and becomes a resource, a food, replenishment. Consumption becomes something not to be frowned upon, but desirable again.

Cradle to Cradle

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion - Part 1

85 percent of textiles post-consumer still end up in landfills. Circular fashion redirects the potential landfill into new products. Annie Gillingsrud, from Fashion Positive describes materials (yarn, dyes, buttons, thread etc) as “ingredients” to be borrowed, and poses the idea of “stewarding and presenting them like a gift to future generations.” A T-shirt today can be disassembled, the garment reduced to fibre again and reassembled into a skirt for a new consumer. This system has led to the trademarked label Cradle To Cradle, a certified gold standard that guarantees the entire process of creating a garment is circular. In her work with the organization Fashion Positive Plus, she tackles the challenge of how to implement this system at scale so that profitability doesn’t suffer, and has encouraged major leadership brands to work together in common sourcing goals. Currently Stella McCartney, H&M, Kering, Marks & Spencer, Maria Cornejo, and Eileen Fisher are on board.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion - Part 1

Nudie Jeans

Ruari Mahon, former director of PR and Communications at Nudie, now of Loughlin Joseph Creative Communications, explains that Circular Fashion took off for them by accident when they offered free repairs in their first store in Gothenburg. Now it the nucleus of their brand. “We don’t believe throwaway and jeans are words that belong together.” Their philosophy in four steps: Break In: Don’t over wash your jeans initially but allow them to form to fit. Repair: Come to any of their 25 stores worldwide and have your jeans repaired for free. Re-use: Branding on shopping bags reads “I just got my jeans repaired for free” and a free repair kit is available online plus free shipping which contains patches, thread, buttons so that you can bring your old jeans to life. Recycle: A recent Nudie project involved creating a capsule collection of camper stools and rugs using 2700 pieces of discarded jeans. Although the luxury contemporary denims can cost $180, they are treated as a living breathing organism and imperfections of patching and stitch work often add to the desirability. Nudie carried out 21,000+ repairs in 2015.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion - Part 1

The Renewal Workshop

Jeff Denby, founder of The Renewable Workshop seeks to tackle what he calls “The Great Pile-Up” to be found in warehouses and in back of stores throughout the industry. He reminds us that only 20 percent of clothes sent to Good Will is actually saved; 80 percent is tossed, and some countries now ban import of foreign used clothing due to surplus. The Renewal Workshop’s vision is to return the value to recycled clothing. In their Oregon factory, they have a repair facility, (“we call our sewers apparel surgeons”) which reincarnates clothes, with a state-of-the-art Tercel cleaning service which is actually a pressure chamber that uses neither heat nor water to clean deep inside the fibers of the garment. It can treat cashmere, technical fabrics, mix colors, and when the makeover is complete the garments are as good as new, sometimes better, and sold back to the marketplace. Denby says that they calculated within a six-month period they diverted 20,000 pounds of landfill, saved 15,000 gallons of gasoline,100,000 000 gallons of water and 60,000 tons of chemicals. Current brand partners include Prana, Toad & Co, Indigenous, Coyuchi, Thread, Mountain Khakis, and they will be announcing the arrival of two large brands in the fall.

FIT Offers Bright Strategies for Sustainable Fashion - Part 1

Fisher Found

Fisher Found is an endeavor by Eileen Fisher which since 2009 has taken back 772,000 garments and remade them into desirable new iterations. It also began by accident as an effort by one store to resell perfectly good clothing. “We sell it but then we welcome it back like an old friend,” says Cynthia Power, who believes customers enjoy the emotional aspect of it. “It reminds us of the inherent value of clothing,” she says. In partnership with the CFDA, they created the Eileen Fisher Social Innovations Program which invited three students from Parsons to breath new life into the collected pieces with scale, profitability and beauty in mind. They created a 500-piece collection which was sold in a pop-up store in Brooklyn.

While it used to be considered somewhat unsavory to wear someone else’s cast-offs, now if you do, it is likely that you will be wearing a cleaner, better-made, and more up-to-date design as a result. How’s that for a paradigm shift?

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All images from RenewalWorkshop.com; FashionPositive.org; NudieJeans.com; FisherFound.com