Looking Back, Looking Forward: EcoSalon’s Top 10 Fashion Stories of 2011

2011 was a landmark year for eco fashion: EcoSalon had it covered.

From more mainstream designers exploring sustainability and declining fast fashion sales to record numbers of museum goers enjoying a non-consumer fashion experience, 2011 was a game changer in the way we consume and think about fashion. Recognition for the need to slow down the fashion juggernaut created by fast fashion, compelled new approaches to how we can become more connected to fashion as a way of improving our lives and the global environmental crisis. Our top 10 fashion stories encapsulate the year that proved, once and for all, that eco fashion is not simply a trend.

We got acquainted with bamboo’s true environmental impact. 

1. For years the eco movement centered around finding more alternative materials to cotton, the production of which accounts for 2.6% of annual global water usage. Grown without chemicals and as one of the fastest growing plants on earth, bamboo, in particular, initially seemed like the go-to eco fabric. “Bamboo seemed like a miracle fiber – and in a sense, it is. It’s turning it into fabric that’s the more complicated issue,” Kelly Drennan wrote in her article Bamboo, We Hardly Knew Yegetting to the bottom of an issue that’s responsible for the majority of greenwashing accusations leveled at the industry.


A condom hat may be great for clicks, but it’s bad for eco fashion progress.

2. A further image problem faced was the reliance on gimmicky “trash to treasure” designs and stories that trap eco fashion in its worst stereotype and ultimately, shortchange the production of clothing we do want to wear. Abigail Doan’s call to action “to move beyond the glorification of trashion and recycled art projects,” in Why Anna Wintour Won’t Green Vogue reminds us of the  need “to address long term solutions for waste reduction and sustainable economic development.”

Vilte’s February 2011 collaboration with designer Josephus Thimester for his AW2011 collection, illustrated the exquisite potential of recycled materials.

3. While the trashion has to go, recycled and found materials can be beautiful. In her eye-opening round up of designers using recycled materials to create unimaginably gorgeous clothing in The Wilder Side of Fashion Fashioning Self and Environment Abigail Doan shows us what is possible when we start looking at what we already have.

Luxury Shift: Recycled products that rival those from the best fashion houses in the world.

4. By the time summer was in full swing, reports of numerous eco initiatives and green clothing launches showed that eco fashion is an idea that luxury designers finally caught on to. In Hooked on Recycling we reported the “buzz is that fashion retailers are turning to reusable materials and some innovative techniques to get mainstream fashion consumers hooked on recycled fashion.” Our fashion forecast for next year: expect to read more stories about high end fashion houses recognizing the benefits of going green in 2012.

Shopping Made in the U.S.A. isn’t really so patriotic…or is it?

5. While luxury will always have an audience, the continuing concerns for the economy and high unemployment put the Buy Local/Made Here movement front and center. In her two part series, Made In The U.S.A. Isn’t Cause For Patriotism (Or Is It?) and What Goes On Behind The Business Of American Fashion industry insider, Louise Lagosi, dares to ask, “Aren’t there still values and standards that we as Americans believe are worth saving? If you can’t find what you want with a ‘Made in the USA’ label in it, is it wrong to buy it if it is made elsewhere?”

Feral Childe and EcoSalon partner to create a limited edition t-shirt designed to make you feel rebellious for fashion.

6. The increasing awareness of what has been lost in our appetite for fast fashion made by mass corporations turned to growing support for the “little guys” who fight valiantly against having their designs copied. In Amy DuFault’s passionate championing of an indie designer’s cause in Fashion Giant Forever 21 Steals Sustainable Label Feral Childe’s Design, EcoSalon drew readers into the discussion for greater protection of intellectual property rights in fashion.

Undercover writer Louise Lagosi helps us track our cast-off clothing.

7. Unlike traditional fashion which concerns itself chiefly with buying new clothes, eco fashion devotees consider fashion holistically. With roughly 75% of our discarded clothes ending up in the trash and in landfills, we lifted the lid on what happens when we throw away our clothes in EcoSalon Investigates: What Happens to our Castoff Clothing?

It became clear to cultural programming committees across the country that we want to see more fashion.

8. One of the most thrilling developments of 2011 was our culture’s deepening ability to enjoy fashion beyond the act of consumerism. EcoSalon covered the growing popularity of fashion exhibits in 4 New Fashion Exhibits Translate High Style For The Masses. Our coverage of the Alexander McQueen exhibit at New York’s MET included Abigail Doan’s thoughtful take on Why We Need More Savage Beauty in Life And Fashion which examined “those fashion conventions that genuinely stifle our creativity and ideas about self in relation to the environment.”

EcoSalon’s look at the art of  slow fashion launched a knitwear line, became required reading in some knitting groups, and even got a few off their meds.

9. Valuing the lost art and craft of fashion and its many psychological benefits was examined in a special 3 part series by Amy DuFault in her fascinating journey to inner peace when, Using Your Hands to Soothe The Brain.

What if all fashion runways were mossy paths through redwood groves?

10.  As the year draws to a close it’s time to think about the next steps towards a greener 2012. Alongside Amy DuFault‘s The Post-Recession Fashion Industry Series, which provides an excellent starting point, was EcoSalon’s report on a remarkable runway show in Flowering Of Fashion’s Consciousness. Reminding us that all the inspiration we need to make better fashion choices in 2012 is right outside our doors.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.