Gallery: SANS: Is Eco Fashion an Oxymoron?


New York-based design house SANS wants to be perfectly clear – despite the fact that they use mostly eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, soy and wild silk — they do not consider themselves an ‘eco’ fashion line. In fact, in SMAC’s recent video profile on SANS featuring the brand’s new Home Made line of patterns (check it out above), SANS co-founder Lika Volkova asserts that eco-fashion doesn’t exist. “How can fashion possibly be good for the environment?” she muses. “You produce things – you make them.” Lika’s words may be a bit of a slap in the face for fashion brands that wear the badges of their sustainability proudly, but the logic behind her observation is difficult to dispute. Until a line can claim that there is absolutely no production, shipping or packaging associated with its clothing at all, eco-fashion, in the truest sense of the term, might be considered an oxymoron.

All of this begs the question: if SANS is not an eco-fashion brand, why is it getting so much attention from the sustainable design community? In an interesting juxtaposition, the video follows SANS’ statement that eco-fashion is an impossibility with Scott Hahn of sustainable lines Rogan and Loomstate saying “When I think about Lika’s work, I can’t imagine it being anything but green, for the lack of a better description.” Well, just like that kid in high school whose insistence that he wasn’t cool is precisely what made him so cool, it’s very possible that SANS’ denial of the eco-fashion label is actually what attracts us to them. Compared to most fashion lines, SANS is so inherently thoughtful, and kind (or at least kinder) to the earth – but doesn’t like to brag about it, which is quite the opposite from so many of those brands out their that have absolutely no eco cred, but lots of greenwashing hype.

Although the beauty of SANS’ ready-to-wear pieces is what garnered attention originally, the video points out that the brand’s Home Made line takes the idea of leaving out excess to the next level. Instead of selling expensive clothing that has to be sourced, sewn and shipped, the home made line sells unique patterns — which allow the customer to choose their own material, download a pattern for as little as $6, and sew a garment themselves. SANS facilitates the reduction of cost and waste by linking the creator to their creation. And if this link is able to make people less likely to throw away their self-sewn garb, the experimental project will have achieved the ultimate success.

In the words Alessandro Do Vito, the other half of this dynamic design duo, SANS, which means “without” is “about the total absence of ambient noise.” The clothing is devoid of pesticides, sequins, and embroideries and the garments themselves are simple, sculptural and clean. The tendency to use holes as design elements is a (most likely) deliberate nod to the name and ethos of the brand and a testament to the idea that sometimes absence is a much more powerful design element than presence.

+ SANS Home Made Video by SMAC
+ SANS coverage on Inhabitat 2007


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  1. ChrisJ November 16, 2009 at 2:28 am

    She’s exactly right! “Ecofashion” is 100% bullsh*t. Most of the materials being used are no better than conventional materials, production still takes place half way across the world and everything is overproduced (see how much ends up in discount stores).

    Every single company pushing eco are doing it to market crap; pure and simple. So glad that inhabitat has exiled the “ecofashion” to it’s own site.

  2. jennine April 22, 2009 at 9:49 am

    hmm… this is all very interesting… but there is only three pieces you can download? i really love this collection, but what she\’s talking about in her video and what is available on the site are two different things.

    also, there are a lot of communities that make patterns free or cheap to download .. burdastyle is an opensource sewing community.

    i still like the collection anyway…

  3. Jake Lara April 13, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Industry can be no impact if the technology is right. Ants are very industrious, are everywhere yet their agriculture, industry and building complexes are totally sustainable and have been for 50 million years.

    Bit mind blowing really :)

    If they can do it, we can.

  4. Yuka Yoneda April 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Nber, I think that you have a point and it all depends on how we define eco-fashion. Is eco-fashion fashion that does not harm the environment at all? Or is it fashion that is better for the environment than other fashion brands?

    It’s like saying that low-fat ice cream is healthfood. It’s certainly healthier than regular ice cream, but calling it healthfood may be stretching it.

    I also want to say that in no way is this article saying that eco-fashion does not exist. It is just pointing out a different point of view.

  5. nberkopec April 12, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Who said the point of an eco-fashion line was NO impact?

    What’s wrong with calling a reduced-impact line eco-fashion?

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