Sustainable clothing is evolving rapidly both for consumers and the industry.
And public awareness of environmental issues is being generated at the highest levels. Former president Bill Clinton, for example, told building, design and environmental professionals at the International Greenbuild conference in Chicago on Wednesday that reducing greenhouse gas emissions represented "a staggering economic opportunity'' including the creation of jobs.
The William J. Clinton Foundation has formed a partnership with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to help cities buy "green" supplies and technology cost-effectively by bundling their orders with Wal-Mart's and purchasing bulk.
In the fashion industry, environmentally conscious players on Monday participated in "Rethinking Fashion," a panel followed by a question-and-answer session. It was the second in a series of discussions about how people view, buy and consume fashion.
"Things should be made to last," said Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director at Barneys New York. "I think it's really out of style and very untrendy to have disposable fashion. I don't believe in it. We should buy less and make better product and that is something that we're saying at Barneys."
Gilhart was among the panelists at the Theresa Lang Student Center of Parsons The New School for Design in Manhattan. The others were: Scott Hahn, founder of Loomstate; Helen Job, U.S. editor of Worth Global Style Network, and Marci Zaroff, founder and president of Under the Canopy, which manufactures eco-conscious apparel for women, men and children.
Each panelist spoke about their role in the green movement, how they got involved in sustainable fashion, and educating the public about making sound decisions about fashion consumption.
Gilhart, instrumental in the production of Barneys' green Christmas catalogue as well as harnessing talent to create sustainable collections for her store, is involved in more than 50 green-related projects with designers such as Stella McCartney, Phillip Lim and Douglas Little. She said eco-friendly fashion is a movement rather than a trend.
"Clothing doesn't grow in the boutique or the department store,'' said Zaroff, the recipient of the 2007 Socially Responsible Business Award. "There actually is a relationship back to nature and to farmer welfare."
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"