Sustainability within the fashion industry requires a system of accountability. As a consumer, this requires a re-examination of the ethical issues behind all our fashion purchasing decisions.
In order to give the consumer the tools to re-examine fashion, I’ll be asking questions of apparel companies about intentions, products, design, production, operations, marketing, and more. My goal is to gauge which trends each designer deems important, and to gain a working understanding of any initiatives that consciously honor “people” or “planet” and brand.
In this first installment of the Eco-Fashion Q & A for Greenster, I caught up with Daniel Silverstein of 100% NY:
What’s the mission of your company? How does it relate to your sustainability initiatives?
At 100% NY, our mission is to create forward thinking, responsible fashion using zero waste designs, sustainable fabrics and local production. And for us, being sustainable means not making our planet any messier than it already is! From design to postage, we focus on minimizing our eco footprint.
Our design aesthetic is driven by our commitment to reducing waste in fashion production. We created a unique draping technique that keeps fabric waste close to zero. In fact, our name “100% NY” refers to our desire to use one hundred percent of the fabric! We also strive to use sustainable fabrics, natural dyes and are strong believers in local production.
Though we know we won’t be perfectly sustainable in all ways all the time, this is our goal. We keep tabs on the latest innovations and we regularly review our practices to see if we can make them “greener”.
Of the myriad sustainability challenges that we face in the apparel industry (waste both in materials and in consumer habits; toxins in both agriculture and production; distribution and fossil fuels; workplace and community safety; water use; etc.), which are of main concern for you, and why?
Fabric waste in the fashion industry inspires my design aesthetic. On average, 15-20% of fabric used in producing a garment is wasted, a problem with far-reaching environmental consequences. Not only do the scraps pollute landfills, but the resources used to create the fabric, like water and energy, are wasted as well.
When working as an intern in the industry, I saw first hand the piles of cut fabric abandoned on the factory floor. After successfully tackling a zero waste design challenge while a student at FIT, I knew that great design and zero waste could co-exist. Not long after graduating, 100% NY was launched. With unique draping techniques and skillful appliqué work, I not only keep fabric waste to a minimum but bring women edgy, comfortable designs.
In order for sustainable fashion to make a difference, consumers have to want to buy it! Can you share some of your design initiatives that appeal both to my critical eye and to the average consumer? What are the hallmarks of your signature style?
At 100% NY we know that most women aren’t buying clothes based solely on a collection’s ethical production practices. They want fashion forward, high quality designs. And, that’s our first priority. Our focus on zero waste differentiates us from other contemporary designers. With 100% NY, we give women the chance to not only look good but to feel good as well.
Zero-waste design has inspired 100% NY’s signature look. “Spine” details and special embellishment wrap around the body to use the full yardage of fabric put into each piece. Simple clean lines and bold raw details, such as black bindings and zippers, also define the collection.
What fabrics do you use? Are there any that particularly excite you this season?
100% NY produces most garments with sustainable cut and sew knits. We love the stretch, resilience and comfort of these knits. When 100% NY designs call for fabrics that are not sustainable, such as mesh, we keep production responsible by staying zero-waste. Here’s a brief description of some of the fabrics used to date
- Cupro: A fabric made from the byproduct of cotton ginning. This material has the look and feel of washed silk charmeuse, an extremely luxurious fabric, however maintains the cost and properties of a cotton product being both affordable, breathable and easy to care for, without dry cleaning.
- Repreve: This is a yarn made from recycled materials like soda bottles and other plastics.
- Mesh: Daniel has developed a signature style for layering and embellishing mesh on mesh. The garments with these designs have proven to be the best sellers in his recent collections.
- Organic cotton and domestic wool
- Tencel: A fiber made from recycled wood pulp cellulose.
100% NY sources its fabrics domestically whenever possible as this minimizes the carbon footprint. Our proximity to NYC’s Garment Center leaves us well placed to choose from a variety of different suppliers and materials.
Part of the battle of encouraging consumers to shift their purchasing power is in the messaging. When someone asks you why you are working in sustainable fashion, what is your answer?
For me, the answer is simple…”why wouldn’t I”? When starting 100% NY, I knew that I could create a collection with minimal fabric waste and felt there was no reason I shouldn’t. In fact, given the negative impact fashion production has on the environment, there was every reason I should. I didn’t see zero waste as a challenge or sacrifice but as an opportunity. My “why wouldn’t I” approach extends beyond zero waste design to our packaging choices, marketing materials and office practices.
At 100% NY, we think the look, quality and fit of our clothes speak best about the merit of eco fashion rather than our eco message. If the look of the line doesn’t appeal, the fact that it is eco won’t inspire customers to buy.