I work with many sustainable designers and one of the more common questions I’m asked is usually about who another designer uses for manufacturing or dyeing. I will never forget the loss of a U.S based non-toxic dyeing facility that one of the designers below regularly used – and eventually had to close its doors.
Another designer had asked me to ask her (as if we were in high school) where she did her dyeing and I suggested, “She’s really nice and will tell you. Just ask her.”
That designer never did and so the business went under.
I wonder how many more stories are out there where designers were too nervous to ask about production and so stayed mum.
Mom always told me, the dumbest question was the one that never got asked.
I caught up with six top sustainable designers to ask them a simple question: Do you think the more sustainable designers share their sources, the stronger their field will become?
Here’s what they had to say.
Nicole Bridger, I think it’s great for us eco designers to work together and help each other out. We are stronger as a collective for sure. The only thing to be careful of is that we don’t all end up using the same fabrics and colors, the different lines can end up looking the same. So for that reason it is important to keep your individual aesthetic. But I think its possible for us to work together and be mindful not to have the same fabrics.
Celeste Lilore, RESTORE Barriers for entry become points of “cooperation” when sourcing is shared. It takes a village and building community will help move sustainable fashion to mainstream.
Davora Lindner, Prairie Underground Most designers in this category share a short list of resources. Sourcing unique sustainable textiles is more about buying power than availability. Purchasing greater quantities increases your options and makes the price per yard less expensive. The ability to source overseas expands your options a good deal, but again these are custom production orders with high minimum yardage. We focus on textile categories in our small collection to ensure that we can move forward with new fabrications in a manner that is realistic for production.
Alice Wu, Feral Childe Yes, if designers collaborate on sustainable sourcing, the field will be stronger. Currently the variety of sustainable fabrics available to independent and emerging designers is fairly limited since not only is there not that much variety in color and fabrication, it can be difficult to meet a 1,000 yard opening order minimum that some suppliers demand. If suppliers see that sustainable designers have staying power in the marketplace it may encourage them to lower their minimums and offer greater product variety. There is a golden opportunity out there for a U.S-based independent sustainable fabric sales rep to connect the dots – someone who’s got the relationships both with designers and suppliers who can help us pool together our needs for new fabric production orders as well as find takers for production overrun fabric.
Tara St. James, Study NY My short answer is yes. Absolutely. To elaborate, I am a huge proponent of open source material and transparency in manufacturing. Luckily most sustainable designers seem to agree with me and are very forthcoming with their resources and ready to share their contacts. It allows independent designers to share resources without the burden of production minimums, while affording them lower costs and share shipping. If only the rest of the fashion industry were to adopt the same philosophy, it would allow for not only larger exposure for sustainable textile vendors, but more demand on traditional manufacturers to implement sustainable practices.
Gretchen Jones Yes and No. Collaborations are all about the partners. Is each artist bringing to the table some new perspective and referential material? Can the collaboration maintain each others individual voices, while supporting the complimentary elements?
To me, as a designer whom struggles with the connection to sustainability and ethical business practices vs. my high fashion, yet independent aesthetics. I believe the success of a collaboration would and will only be successful [and heighten the eco movement] by walking the tight rope between style and morals. I want to diversify, I want to diffuse. I know my strengths, and am very aware of my weaknesses. Collaborations are about building each other up. I think, when done thoughtfully and with intention to elevate, collaborations can certainly lead to progression for sustainability.
I personally believe the only way we will make a change, is to create and manufacturer competitive, forward and quality goods. The sustainable design community must produce with the focus on ‘fashion first,’ after all, we are a part of the fashion industry, we will always be able to do so ethically, the challenge is in creating at the high caliber design of those competing with out their environmental in mind. We change minds through changing perspectives. Collaborations could and will, create opportunity to express with support, deliver with quality and produce competitively. In turn – we change minds and grow our community through shared experience and story – not just a dress.