For five weeks beginning January 13th, I’ll be working with a small group of 7th and 8th grade girls interested in fashion. My assistant is a fashion design student from the local high school, a 16 year-old honor student who has already showed me her 23-piece collection.
Together, we’ll engage the kids with recycling and reusing everyday items like milk jugs, candy wrappers, toilet paper rolls and cereal boxes, fashioning them into dresses, skirts, innovative hats and whatever else they come up with. It’s Eco Fashion 101 for budding designers.
Not only do I hope the class is fun and a refreshing change of pace from their regular academic routine, I hope they learn something about sustainable design and reusing.
While we have a multi-generational work force now in the sustainable design, field pushing the boundaries of fabric and form, these younger kids are our future. What they learn now matters.
I take inspiration for the course from a few fascinating people and groups working to make their own fashion mark.
In November, the British Fashion Council launched an ethical clothing initiative called esthethica. Six designers, including Ada Zanditon, Christopher Raeburn, Goodone, Minna, Nina Dolcetti and The North Circular were selected for a mentoring program to make their businesses greener.
All six designer businesses have been selected to receive one on one expert support from one of three industry mentors: brand consultants Susanne Tide-Frater and Yasmin Sewell and buying consultant Bev Malik.
Another grooming venue, the Chicago Fashion Incubator, which meets at the city’s Macy’s on State Street, provides six emerging Chicago-based designers with workspace and education about the business of fashion and mentoring. The Designers in Residence are provided office space, including computers and software, a workshop room with sample production space and a resource section as well as a showroom (not to mention the help of of Chicago’s eco-darling Lara Miller).
Just south of where I write, New York City’s own Nolcha has fast become the platform for emerging and independent fashion talent. Securing their inaugural Ethical Fashion Preview of Spring/Summer 2010 last September at New York’s Carlton Hotel (a true success for the participating eco-designers), Kerry Bannigan at Nolcha says, “We’re super excited about our first step into the ethical fashion world. It’s absolutely on trend in the industry, yet there’s never been a professional hub to showcase ethical designers in New York before now. This is a peak time to launch our Ethical Fashion Preview.”
Nolcha’s success linking the fashion industry has helped new fashion entrepreneurs learn what it takes to evolve in the challenging industry from all angles. Here’s to hoping they do even more in the sustainable design realm.
In the back rooms of high-end department stores, in the dusty brick buildings of cities and studios near and far, these young men and women are being groomed for big things. Seeing as we’re a society that defines ourselves through what we wear most of the time, we should pay heed.
My New Year’s wish? That we all make a conscious effort to support them. Take some time today to learn more about groups in your city or town that are engaging our future designers and see how you can help. It’ll be way easier than starting your new diet and exercise regiment.
Main image: esthethica