On 24 April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Because of this horrific event, and countless other factory disasters fueled by fast fashion, a global movement has sparked and it’s called Fashion Revolution Day.
Fashion Revolution Day raises awareness about where our clothes come from, who is making them and encourages human rights in the fashion industry.
With this movement on our mind, we are reminded of the fashion revolutionaries among us, currently making moves for a more conscious, sustainable fashion industry. In particular order, here are 10 individuals revolutionizing the fashion industry as we know it:
In a controversial interview with Deborah Orr, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood talks heavily about the need to dismantle capitalism – for the sake of the environment. With consumerism encouraging us to buy, buy, buy – Westwood makes the suggestion to “buy less, choose well and make it last.” With this mindset, spending more in the moment can save loads of resources and money over time.
Summer Rayne Oakes
Author, designer, model, Cornell graduate and activist Summer Rayne Oakes has made huge waves in a wide variety of industries. In the last decade, Oakes has worked with many brands in the fashion and beauty industry particularly to encourage greener materials and production. She has been involved with companies ranging from Toyota Prius to Forbes to Good Eggs. Oakes has been listed as a “Top Environmental Activist,” “Top Trendsetters under 40” and “10 Best Green Entrepeneurs” – and rightfully so.
Tara St James
Montreal-based designer Tara St James started the seasonless womenswear line Study NY in 2009, upon moving to the US. The contemporary brand focuses on zero-waste pattern making, open sourcing materials and ethical production. On their website you can find full sourcing maps that show how and where each garment is produced. Their belief says it best: “that the hands that manipulate the materials are just as important as the quality and sustainability of those materials.”
Zandra Rhodes, often known for her neon pink hair and theatrical makeup, has revolutionized a zero-waste technique of pattern making. Constructed solely from a series of squares and rectangles, all fabric present in the beginning of production are included in the end result. Certain sections of the square that are removed for shaping area like the neckline are later added to other parts of the dress, such as cinching waistline. In traditional pattern making, about 15-20% of the textiles go to waste during the production process. Rhodes has collaborated with several designers to encourage the reuse of these often discarded leftovers.
Titania Inglis’s clothing is described as lush minimalism – less, but better. Each garment is sewn in a small, family-owned factory in New York – contributing to the local apparel industry. The geometric, contemporary clothing is made up of low-impact, high-quality fabrics like organic cotton, vegetable-tanned leather and local deadstock wool. The contemporary-meets-ethical approach rings true not only in the impeccably wearable clothing and accessories, but in the production and overall business model of the brand.
Singer turned fashion designer Pharrell Williams has taken a stance on the needs of our global community. In partnering with G-Star Raw and Bionic Yarn, Williams has started RAW For the Oceans – a clothing line made out of post-consumer fabric. This fabric, mainly yarn and denim, is actually produced from recycled plastic bottles that are found in the ocean. They acquire the plastics through their work with various marine debris organizations and recycling companies around the world.
Natalie “Alabama” Chanin
The signing of NAFTA left many seamstresses and textile workers in United States unemployed. To contribute to the local economy of her hometown, Natalie “Alabama” Chanin founded a design company and school dedicated to preserving the quilting and embroidery techniques of the South that have been passed-down for generations. Rooted in “slow fashion”, Alabama Chanin utilizes locally sourced 100% organic materials and is committed to zero-waste design.
In response to the decline of the textile industry in Northern CA, as an effect of globalization, Rebecca Burgess founded Fibershed. What began as a commitment to wearing a wardrobe made within 150 mi radius of her own Mill Valley home, Fibershed became an organization and movement designed to rebuild the local textile business consciously by connecting farmers and artisans within a specific bio-region. Founded in 2010, the Fibershed prototype has now inspired more than 20 similar projects worldwide.
Due to high demands for cashmere, Mongolia’s land is suffering from desertification and severe damage. With a goal for social impact, Nancy Johnston founder of Tengri, introduced the fashion industry to yak wool, an environmentally friendly alternative that provides a sustainable way for traditional Mongolian nomadic herders’ to preserve their traditional way of life. Tengri is a “a collective movement where design, fashion, ethics, business, environmental activism and individual consumer choice come together and do good.”
Eco Fashion pioneer Lynda Grose has been at the forefront of the slow fashion movement since the beginning. As the head designer at Espirit in the early 1990’s, she launched campaigns against over-consumption as well as the first completely green, mainstream clothing line. Grose has acted as consultant for companies like GAP, Patagonia, Green Peace; Marketing Outreach for the Sustainable Cotton Project; and is the Co-Founder of the Centre for Sustainable Design. She currently serves as Associate Professor for CCA’s Fashion Design Program, of which she developed curricula.
Andrea Plell is EcoHabitude’s Director of Communications and the Editor-in-Chief of the EcoHabitude blog. Since 2007, Andrea has been on a mission to support a paradigm shift in the fashion industry. She currently runs her own PR and ethical fashion production company in San Francisco, CA.
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