Industry Backs Book Touting Green Push

Members of the fashion industry have rallied behind a new book, "FutureFashion White Papers," that champions sustainability.

Members of the fashion industry have rallied behind a new book, “FutureFashion White Papers,” that champions sustainability.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Diane von Furstenberg, Barneys New York’s Julie Gilhart, Steven Kolb of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Tim Gunn and models Shalom Harlow and Elettra Wiedemann are among those who have made contributions to the book. The 287-page tome is part of a series addressing sustainability that has been published by Earth Pledge, an environmentally minded agency that works with government, industry and community groups. The aim is to promote renewable, reusable and nonpolluting ways to design.

In an interview Tuesday, Earth Pledge’s executive director Leslie Hoffman said she is encouraged by von Furstenberg’s and the CFDA’s commitment to the project and to working with Earth Pledge down the road. “I think it’s a real harbinger of good things to come,” Hoffman said. “The fashion industry is showing the world, ‘We are up for this.’ The industry is up for the challenge and is excited about this.”

More than anything, Hoffman hopes readers of the book (Chelsea Green, $23), will be motivated to take action. More specifically, “Retailers should see the opportunity of making environmentally friendly products available to consumers because a lot of consumers are crying out, ‘Where do you get green products?'” she said.

In addition, Hoffman hopes textile companies will start to produce more environmentally friendly fabrics, materials and concepts for designers to use.

Just back from staging an eco-friendly fashion show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she noted how piña — fiber made from the leaves of a pineapple and dyed with jackfruit — is an environmentally friendly option for manufacturers there and one that will be added to Earth Pledge’s sustainable materials library. Another option many are not familiar with is color-grown cotton, which has seeds with naturally inherent hues. When Earth Pledge started its fashion initiative three years ago, there were only 50 or 60 green fabrics and now that figure is 600 and increasing every day.

Gilhart won Hoffman’s praise for helping to make sustainability a priority at Barneys. This year, the Madison Avenue flagship has devoted its holiday store windows to a green theme. Earth Pledge’s leader noted she hopes others will catch on to the trend. “I hope people in the industry are inspired to take action and will see how sustainability affects their roles in the fashion industry. And they will take a glimpse up and down the supply chain — dyers and weavers will consider what retailers need, and designers will think about what farmers grow,” she said.

A recent study in the U.K. determined the care of a garment requires twice as much energy consumption compared with its production, Hoffman said.

As von Furstenberg noted in the preface to “FutureFashion White Papers,” “We cannot only learn about these developments abstractly, but should implement them as well.”