This NYFW was the return to in-person shows as well as a chance to demonstrate new sustainable aims for designers so inclined.
Following an inaugural report from the CFDA and Boston Consulting Group in October last year, the producing organization affirmed: “NYFW generates immense attention in the media…Its success in meeting its sustainability goals will have an outsize effect on the industry’s global commitment to sustainability.”
The report estimated that each NYFW generates anywhere from 40,000 to 48,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and outlines six areas for improvement. Everything from transportation, on-site recycling, venue selections and digital formats were stressed as ways to curb impact — and designers embraced these methods as well as other tricks.
Some 21 designers (or roughly 23 percent of the 91 designers on the fashion week calendar) planned digital activations, including Zero + Maria Cornejo, Harlem-based denim designer Oak and Acorn, Adeam and one-to-watch Colin Locascio, among others.
With show themes like ascension, survival and community — and green spaces as backdrops — designers this season are bringing higher meaning and lower impact further into fashion’s fold.
Sustainability as Survival
As the pandemic proved, even for sustainable brands and designers — business is a matter of survival. Designers surveyed for the CFDA report cited tight budgets and lack of clear goals as top challenges for making NYFW more sustainable. Thus, financers like Afterpay (a presenting partner at NYFW) and Cash App (presenting partner to labels such as Collina Strada) bolstered the production of NYFW shows so designers could focus on lessening their impacts.
Eponymous designer Maria Cornejo said in the CFDA report that shows will always have “immense value,” because of “their ability to emotionally connect individuals.”
Other designers agree. “At the end of the day, we always say nobody needs another dress,” said Adi Gil, cofounder and co-creative director of Threeasfour, the avant-garde design collective known for employing geometry, sustainability and biomimicry into designs. “What we do is our tool to promote a higher message. We believe something sacred like the chakras are a theme that is promoting unity because we are [all] connected to that.”
Threeasfour’s special avant-garde collection titled “Kundalini” touted “higher meaning” and more sustainable solutions. The collection was a collaboration with Israel-based Kornit Digital, employing Kornit’s new “waterless” printing solution — one that claims to use 95 percent less water, while halving the energy use with its NeoPigment solution.
Pointing out the rising call to social movements, Gabriel Asfour, Threeasfour’s cofounding partner and co-creative director, said, “We picked the theme of ascension because that’s what we feel humanity is going through right now. There’s a big awakening….We think humans should be reconnected back to nature for a thousand reasons. In terms of understanding the future of humanity, we feel that [the climate crisis] is an extremely urgent matter.”
In another case, the Yeohlee spring collection was literally designed for “extinction.”
Namesake designer Yeohlee Teng said her spring creations were “a real mashup of everything — thoughts, ideas, fabrics, color.” In Teng’s signature outerwear hallmarks and elements of utility, the designer repurposed emergency Mylar fabrication as well as what she categorizes as “vintage plus Yeohlee” in the form of T-shirts, box-sleeve blouses and bias-cut offerings.
“I really feel, in a light way, that life as we knew it is gone, over. So that’s where one has to begin. If life as we know it is over, what is life today? I have mixed feelings because I think that we have a lot of things that are in crisis mode, and then you can’t look away, so how don’t you deal with it? One day at a time,” Teng told WWD during a showroom walk-through of her spring collection.
Back to the Gardens — and Farms
As the pandemic saw a surge in green spaces among citizens, many designers turned to garden backdrops for spring 2022, with handmade, deadstock and recycled fabrics.
With one of the first shows on the official calendar, designer Hillary Taymour of the just over 10-year-old label Collina Strada held her show Tuesday atop Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm. Brooklyn Grange is one of three rooftop locations contributing 100,000 pounds of organic produce a year with a chunk of it (30 percent) going free of cost toward communities in need.
Fitting to the environmental ethos, the brand employed deadstock lace, velvet and plaid fabrics as well as choice natural materials like recycled spandex, Lycra and “sylk” formed from rose petals in spring 2022 designs. German singer-songwriter Kim Petras and Vice President Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter and model Ella Emhoff were among the A-listers seated in the front row.
“I think we really focus on speaking to a broader audience whether they’re young, old — and embody what family and community means to us,” said Taymour at responsible retailer Maison De Mode’s “Future of Fashion” summit on Friday. “Our show notes were a letter to give to your landlord on how to advocate for your own rooftop farm on your own building. It’s about giving people the proper information and small teaching moments….I think overall, we and everyone in the world — needs small, positive reinforcing steps to continue to be a better person.”
Ulla Johnson was another label that took to the gardens last Wednesday, with the collection being shown at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in a moment of zen amid a fountain of flowers.
Maintaining a personal intimacy with the venue, Johnson endeavored to tell a story with this collection about “pauses, the chaos and cacophony and wild feelings and these oases.” To communicate this, the designer incorporated pieces like a bustier sundress embodying slow fashion with its indigo shibori hand-dyed in India.
Jason Wu and Phillip Lim’s 3.1 Phillip Lim spring 2022 collection also embraced the ideals and beauty of a garden in bloom. For Lim, recycled materials, natural blends and reimagined resources made a bigger appearance than past showings. Lim, for one, has been candid on his moves as his business rebalances to better reflect the sustainability imperative.
“Here, I go back to the garden: you need a balance of color, texture and a strong foundation with strong soil. From a conceptual point of view, I think that’s where we’re headed,” Lim said at his collection walk-through. His familiarity with and the wearability of fabrics like textural cotton, nylon blends and jacquard weaves aid Lim’s vision of “one-step-solution” dressing and cutting down on trial-and-error waste throughout the design process.
Lim captured the zeitgeist for how many designers seemed to have felt this NYFW: “We’re not apologizing to make fashion, it will always be here, but how do we go back and clean up the soil?”