Sustainability only entered the mainstream industry parlance in recent years. In fact, a comb through WWD’s archives reveals that the last big spike in environmentalism occurred in the early to mid-Nineties, when an eco-fashion movement sprouted. Efforts to create more planet-friendly clothing spanned cleaner dyeing and finishing processes, and more ecological raw materials.
Organic, naturally colored cotton, fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles, and natural dyes were some of the most widely adopted practices by early green fashion brands including Patagonia, Esprit, Ecosport and VF Corp.’s O Wear. Sustainable clothing manufacturer Tom Higgins of T.L. Higgins Inc. told WWD in 1992, “There is a whole generation of people much more in tune with how our actions relate to the environment. It’s an emotional thing.”
That same year, WWD published a special section, “Apparel and the Environment,” in observance of the 22nd Earth Day.
Groups such as the National Organic Cotton Council and the Eco Expo brought together like-minded green fashion proponents in 1993. At one of these gatherings, Noel Brown, regional director for the United Nations Environmental Program, talked about the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation: “Time is running out,” he warned.
Twenty-five years later, this sentiment seems more ominous than ever.