Before I dipped into the fashion industry, my work in the field of sustainability took many shapes. From researcher to scientists to consultant. I researched MNCs, worked with NGOs and all acronyms in between.
Green building was an area of interest, and when LEED certification came out, builders on LEED certified projects used to charge more to build under this criteria. Not because it was actually more expensive, but because they were incorporating risks. Their uncertainty in the process led to increasing costs. But as the years went by and familiarity with LEED increased, costs slowly began to plummet more and more each year. And once constructions teams realized all LEED was was putting it ‘this’ window vs ‘that’ window or laying floor A vs floor B, the fear dissipated and the cost for building reached ‘conventional’ levels.
Currently, the fashion industry is divided into fashion and sustainable fashion, much like green building was only a few years ago. There’s a divide between the two as if it were right against wrong. And yes, considering each step in the process while designing a clothing collection is a newer concept for the mass industry, but let’s not encourage a blockage between the two. Rather let’s encourage integration. After all we are talking about the same thing, the same process, from sketch to pattern to fabric to sample to production. There is no one right way, and it’s a spectrum of ideas and actions.
Architecture and fashion are paralleled in that fashion becomes our first architecture, our living architecture as Yoehlee Teng said. And the pieces that go into making clothing matter from farming and harvesting the fibers to processing the raw material and making the clothing–social and environmental considerations are tightly knit.
Studies show consumers are willing to pay a little more for value (which is really what we are talking about with sustainable fashion) and they also show marketing a garment as green holds little substance with the average consumer. It’s about personal style, comfort, practicality but most of all design!
When I visited the USGS headquarters in DC the building felt beautiful. The entryway’s running water wall, the wood side panels, the abundance of nature photographs, the ginkgo leaves imprinted on the ceilings all increased the beauty of the experience. And as I learned that the water wall balanced the humidity in the space and drew particles out of the air; that the wood side panels were reclaimed from the bottom of a near by river and the difference in coloration indicated the stratified depths of the planks; that the nature photos were proven to increase work productivity; that the ceiling was actually made of gingko leaves, my admiration for the space increased exponentially. I loved it’s beauty first, and then I fell in love with the story and value of the craftsmanship.
We need consumers to fall in love with the craftsmanship of thoughtfully made clothing, and we have to tell that story, not at first, the design comes first, but the story must follow closely behind.
When we choose better (either as people or in our work roles) what we are really saving–no matter what industry–is human integrity. Wether that takes the form of capital gains, preserving cultures or environmental balance, we save. And create something truly beautiful.
So for those of you who feel sustainable fashion is this other thing, this other way, it isn’t. It’s thought and consideration. And for those of you who are immersed in sustainable fashion, let’s make it available for everyone and continue to tell the story.
“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi
feature image by Kandinsky