As Fashion Editor of EcoSalon and owner of an eco-boutique I talk to a lot of designers. This was my first time going to Market Week in NYC as both and it was as thrilling as it was tiring.
Market Week, if you haven’t been, is where clothing designers worldwide show their seasonal collections in New York City. Buyers from stores large and small come here to buy what best represents their brand. It is a tough, tedious job and forges a deeper appreciation for the fashion industry beyond hitting the shops with a girlfriend to check out the newest duds.
D&A, Coterie, Train, NOW Showcase and two individual appointments in studios kept my boutique partner, Amanda, and I busy as devil’s advocates representing an eco-boutique. (I admit, it surprised me how many people raised their eyebrows when we said that.)
Since we knew we’d really have to grill the designers about their knowledge of their lines for our eco-minded purposes, we anticipated this process was going to be a hard pill to swallow for some.
We were right.
If the price is too low, somebody’s getting paid to make it with rice.
On at least three occasions when we asked eco-designers why their price was so low, they didn’t have a real answer except, “We just like to keep the prices low.”
One designer in particular, looming over me at 6’2″ in her super chunky platform heels, couldn’t offer me much in terms of information and fumbled with sheets of paper as I inquired. Her heavily made-up eyes and fierce Frankenstein eyebrows finally communicated the message loud and clear: get the hell out of her booth. (I’m not kidding about the eyebrows.)
But cheers to my two new favorite eco-designers, Ethos and Toggery, who seem to keep it all in balance, designing truly beautiful pieces as well as producing at amazing prices. I’ll be telling you their fantastic stories soon – can’t wait.
Some eco-designers think just tossing up a sign that says you’re a sustainable designer makes you part of the eco pack.
Note to designers: one organic piece out of many does not an eco brand make. Thank goodness my partner and I scrutinized each and every label to make sure we stood by our boutique mission, which is to sell 100% sustainable materials. 10% soy and 90% conventional cotton? Thanks, but no thanks.
A caveat, though. I actually believe a compromise like that is fine if you’re just starting out with eco manufacture, because it takes time to learn and test. But for experienced designers, claiming eco status when you’re really not is just greenwash. (I wish I had the cojones to name names.)
To that point: Evolving into a sustainable designer is not a bad thing!
In one vendor’s booth (many of you would recognize the label) they’d pushed all their eco-apparel into a corner that was being dripped on from a malfunction in the ceiling. When asked about the eco-friendly part of their line, they were timid to show us what they had. Sensing their embarrassment, we walked away.
– Meeting Howard Brown of Stewart & Brown and getting to hear about his and his partner’s (Karen Stewart) passion for their line. And the fact that they were actually there instead of letting reps do all the hard work!
– Meeting Doucette Duvall in their studio and their offer to search remnant fabrics for us to create the pieces in their line that are not yet eco because they “love going on a hunt.” (Hunt more, ladies, and make it all eco!)
– Meeting Kate D’Arcy of Toggery, who designs from the perspective that every woman deserves to wear sustainably designed clothes made in the U.S. (that means beautiful and fairly priced).
– Learning from the ever-exuberant Celeste Lilore of Restore Clothing just how the plastics used in her line are recycled and made into fibers with touch bowls and great literature.
– Meeting the one and only Starre Vartan, founder of Eco Chick, editor of Greenopia and author of The Eco-Chick Guide To Life. Thanks to all her great social media head shots, she was easily identified.
– Eating as much delicious ethnic food as possible.
– Sitting and spending time with eco-designers I love and support.
I write all this and wonder if it’s interesting to you, this behind-the-scenes detail. I hope it is. I want you to understand how much work goes into those shops you love. All those online eco-boutique shop owners were there in the throes of Market, picking out some really great things for you.
You see, it’s not just a shopping free-for-all. They’re personal shopping for you.
Image: The Train New York