The start of a brand new year is always ripe with promise and countless possibilities. We asked 16 eco-fashion movers and shakers, including a vegan shoe designer, a model/entrepreneur, a book author, an eco-boutique owner, a textile artist, and several of our media comrades in the trenches to peer into the crystal ball and offer their forecasts for the year ahead. Discover what designer Deborah Lindquist believes we need to survive a challenging economy, why Leslie Hoffman of Earth Pledge thinks customers will become pickier, and which celebrity Ecorazzi’s Michael d’Estries thinks will be the Next Green Thing.
LESLIE HOFFMAN (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EARTH PLEDGE)
I expect the interest in all things green to continue to increase, but the superficial levels of interest to shed to a deeper and more technical level. I see manufacturers beginning to take a very serious look at their supply-chain impacts, and make efforts to understand where they can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, save money, and continue to refine their quality-to-environmental-impact ratio.
Designers will continue to learn how big a role they have to play in transitioning us to a sustainable future. New fabrics will continue to be born, larger quantities of fast-becoming favorites will be available, and more options in colors, weaves, and blends will be within reach.
Customers will become pickier—they want value, quality and lots of options. It is likely to take a generation or two, but I think most of us will begin to realize that we have more than we need or want to care for, can reorganize our budgets to spend more on the things that are truly life-enhancing, and begin to take pleasure in saying ‘no thank you’ to all of the things that don’t align with our values or newfound lifestyles.
SUMMER RAYNE OAKES (MODEL, AUTHOR, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR)
As our economy continues to suck air and flop spasmodically like a marooned fish, schools of sustainable designers will figure out ways to forge ahead, albeit in a new sliver of light. The economic situation unquestionably challenges sustainable design: It tests the elasticity of the independent designers who have paved the path over conventional design philosophies; it dampens enthusiasm of larger brands who have launched or sought to launch eco-collections; and it provides hurdles for aspiring newbies hoping to enter the market.
Such challenges will only reinforce a new, more-refined face of sustainable style. It’ll be a mature approach to design—and one that brings to light efficiency, vertically sourced designs, tighter collections, and zero-waste philosophies.
In essence, the world’s shrinking disposable income will force the overall industry to do more with less. This may include marco-trends like streamlining supply chains and reworking material sourcing. This year, a team and I will unveil a site that we hope will help designers realize their sustainable collections by giving them a place to search, compare, and purchase better materials for less. It the famous words echoed by Tim Gunn, “Make it work.” I’m absolutely confident that designers will continue to use new tools at their disposal to make sustainable design work in ways that will resonate and redefine the entire fashion industry.
DEBORAH LINDQUIST (DESIGNER)
My prediction for the fashion industry in 2010 is more of a wish. I don’t know what to predict. What I do know is that so many of us have been required to truly rethink what we are doing and how. Surviving challenging economic times takes a lot of creativity and, fortunately, that’s the job of fashion designers every day. So maybe we’re lucky as designers that we have to constantly create because it makes it easier for us to creatively recreate our businesses.
I think partnerships and joint ventures are important, as are collaboration of ideas, social media, and networking. I feel that its the perfect time to team up with someone to create a new idea. We need to help each other and focus on our individual strengths to make our businesses stronger and thereby create a stronger green community.
ELIZABETH OLSEN (DESIGNER, OLSENHAUS)
- More transparency in business practices, suppliers, sources, etc.
- Explanations of why things are being called eco- or green.
- A higher consciousness about all beings on the planet.
- More turning to vegetarianism and veganism, as well as more awareness of environmental issues.
- Mankind as a whole evolving into higher states consciousness, and our cause and effect on the world.
For Olsenhaus, I am continuing growth and development using recycled materials, while coming up with creative ways to combine sustainable materials. Fall 2010 for Olsenhaus is a very pivotal season: The main line is all recycled Industrial waste from television screens, mixed with recycled tires, wood, and cork. We with also be partnering with large chains, and large animal organizations to grow the brand and spread the word about what is going on.
CHRISTINE MARCHUSKA & BROOKE BRESNAN (CEO/DESIGNER & CFO, C. MARCHUSKA)
We hope that in 2010, the realization will continue to resonate that sustainable fashion is not a fad, but a way of life. We predict that “going green” will continue to be bigger and better than ever. The general public still has a lot to learn about the harmful effects of the fashion industry on the environment, and we plan to continue to spread awareness about what each of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint, while keeping up to date with the latest fashion trends.
As far as general fashion trends go, we see shorts as the new skirts. Although the short trend has teetered on the edge of blowing up for the past few seasons, we expect the explosion to be in Fall 2010. C. Marchuska has designed organic cotton twill and soy jersey shorts to walk the runway in February.
As we rock in to the new decade, we anticipate that the casual, yet chic trend will continue to escalate in 2010. We have designed a collection that mixes fabrics, combining bamboo jersey and hemp silk, to add a luxurious look that will still maintain a comfortable feel and fit.
It’s going to be an exciting year of progress for sustainable fashion in 2010. While attending New York Fashion Week for Spring 2010, I noticed that a lot of designers were mentioning the use of organic fabrics or sustainable practices, much more so than in years past. Refashioning is also getting more visibility in the mainstream, where vintage clothing, trims, or buttons are finding new life in new designs with unique twists.
These days, people want to consume less and have less waste in their homes. This trend has moved into the fashion world. Convertible outfits that can be worn in multiple ways are becoming fashionable because of this. Why just buy one dress when you can have a convertible one that can be transformed into numerous looks?
These sorts of creative design solutions and sustainable practices have recently become more celebrated. I’m hopeful that sustainable fashion will continue to soar in the coming new decade and I can’t wait to see all the exciting developments.
ZEM JOAQUIN (PUBLISHER, ECOFABULOUS)
Buying used is finally gaining widespread acceptance thanks to eco-approval and a strained economy. People are buying pre-owned clothing on eBay not just because it is cheaper, but because it is greener. “Used” is losing its stigma and being recognized as smart. You’ll see an increase in clothing swaps, too.
At the same time, you will see companies that manufacture in the U.S.—even in your own town. The popularity of American Apparel proves that consumers are inclined to buy U.S.-made, but I think it will go beyond that.
RACHEL LINCOLN SARNOFF (PUBLISHER, ECOSTILETTO)
What’s in the future for eco-fashion? I would have to say vegan clothing, shoes, and accessories. Many ecoistas who have limited their fashion buys to organic cotton, veggie-dyed silks, sustainably harvested wools, and chrome-free leathers are looking for ways to make even less of an impact. And once they realize the facts that support veganism as a lifestyle choice—an October 2009 study by the Worldwatch Institute shows that livestock and poultry production is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—they’re going to put leather and fur on their do-not-buy lists right along side meat, cheese, and milk.
But eco-fashion and vegan fashion can sometimes be at odds: For example, do you buy a pair of PVC shoes produced with non-fair trade labor in a third-world country just because they aren’t made with leather? I would guess for some people it’s all or nothing, but for me personally, I try to keep social and environmental responsibility in mind, as well.
STARRE VARTAN (AUTHOR; PUBLISHER, ECO-CHICK)
Now that it’s 2010, I’m hoping that designers are going to spend less time looking backwards. (I’m so sick of the continued rehashing of the ’80s and ’90s!) I’m still waiting for an aesthetic that is new and specific to this era—the naughts were all about celebrating what came before and not enough about crafting a strong style statement for the current time.
Forward-thinking design for this year and the future includes not only working with new fabrics, and experimenting with truly creative ways to cover the body, but is also about considering and then lessening the impact of clothing production and distribution. Any designer who’s not sensitive to the environmental and social impact of their work is just hopelessly behind the times.
Every industry is recognizing that it’s not just the final product that tells the story of quality and beauty of a product—whether a pair of shoes or a car—but the before (it’s used) and after (it’s not wanted) story, as well.
MICHAEL D’ESTRIES (PUBLISHER, ECORAZZI)
For 2010, I expect the interest and use of organic and sustainable fabrics to continue to increase. Eco-fashion is just hitting its stride in the mainstream circles and the quality of product that we witnessed in 2009 from people like Stella McCartney and Lauren Bush will inspire others to give green threads a second look.
I would also expect a bit of a push for more genuine animal-free products. I wouldn’t be surprised if singer Leona Lewis introduces a collection in this vein. Look for Victoria Beckham to also drop hints of a possible fake-fur collaboration with Marc Jacobs.
EMMA GRADY (WRITER, TREEHUGGER)
We will see a greater number of eco-fashion designers in 2010, or the International Year of Biodiversity, as declared by the UN. Students are graduating from fashion schools with an understanding of sustainable design, organic and emerging green fabrics, fair trade, and manufacturing processes, and this will inevitably influence their vision, whether they start their own labels or work with existing brands.
This, coupled with existing designers’ desire to “tap into the market” and appeal to environmentally and ethically conscience consumers, will create innovation in sustainable design, textiles, and processes that reduce waste, water use, and environmental impact. Emerging designers will spend more time in research and slow down production, whether it’s with limited-edition or one-off clothing.
We will also see an upswing in accessory collections; they can be worn numerous times, have the potential to turn wardrobe staples into trendsetting, season-appropriate ensembles, and have cheaper price points. Jewelers will not only reuse scrap metal, but they will also purchase only conflict-free diamonds, fair-trade gemstones, and 100 percent recycled precious metals from refiners.
AYSIA WRIGHT (PROPRIETOR, GREENLOOP)
Eco-fashion, as a concept and a practice, has come a long way in the past five years. We’ve seen it evolve from environmentalists designing clothes, to designers becoming environmentalists, and a little of both in between.
Progressive designers are starting…slowly…to break the vicious cycle of waste inherent to the fashion industry by breaking away from conventional market cycles, developing made-to-order collections, refraining from producing huge numbers of samples each season and overstock that exceeds demand.
It will be work to retrain the fashionistas and consumers of the world to relearn how to shop for clothes, reshape expectations, but it’s doable, and it has to be done. Cradle-to-cradle production, use of existing materials, and more slow fashion, along with a reshaping of consumer expectations is what I hope to see in 2010 and beyond.
KATE MCGREGOR (PROPRIETOR, KAIGHT)
I think the trend of upcycling fabrics will continue throughout 2010. Designers will continue to be price-conscious, so I think they will shy away from technology-driven fabrics and the more expensive blends and focus their attention on being resourceful and using what’s already out there.
This will extend beyond the traditionally “eco-focused” designers and emerge as a trend among more mainstream and established labels as a way to reign in costs.
Over the past year, I’ve been amazed at the progress of many designers. When I write that I mean how seriously their focus has become when it comes to being held accountable for every aspect of their collections and, consequently, how that affects their design process. Not only are they now expected to create, they’re now expected to market and promote themselves in a sustainable language that’s still being created. This undoubtedly has made their workload heavier.
Some have grown rebellious and now consider eco much more than the fabric. They’re right.
2009 collaborations like the NOW Showcase, Content 09, Sustainability Across America, fashion incubators, more presence during New York Fashion Week, and some heavy hitters like Stella McCartney and Diane Von Furstenberg venturing deeper into the eco-world inspired (and continue to inspire) the eco-community.
Looking forward, my prediction is that designers will collaborate more when it comes to sourcing fabrics, dye houses, and manufacturing because it will save them money. This in turn will help make eco-fashion more affordable for the masses. A personal pipe dream is that more manufacturing will be done stateside to further grow our economy and lesssen designer’s carbon footprints.
SYUZI PAKHCHYAN (MEDIA DESIGNER; EDITOR, FASHIONING TECHNOLOGY)
2010, I believe. is going to be a spectacular year for developments and curious experiments in wearable technology. 2009 was the year of sensors. Designers and tinkers alike embedded environmental sensors in garments that detect toxins in the air; biometric sensors that monitor the wearer’s pulse and levels of excitement; and touch-and-pressure sensors that allow user’s to receive virtual massages and hugs.
2010 will be the year of networked wearables. The XBee will take the stage and partner with the Lilypad Arduino in wearable projects. Our garments will not only gather data (be it environmental, biometric, etc.), but they will be able communicate this data to other wearables, environment, nearby objects, and mobile software.
As wearable technology becomes more and more technically sophisticated, we will also see small, yet considerable, improvements on the aesthetic front. This will require partnerships between fashion designers, interactive designers, and software and hardware engineers. Lastly, the current trend in the music industry to adopt illuminated and high-tech costumes for the stage will continue to grow and we will see more DIY versions of these high-tech outfits adopted by less mainstream bands.
ABIGAIL DOAN (TEXTILE ARTIST)
The sustainable-textile and eco-fashion frontier for 2010 is full of promise and new twists, albeit with the tight cinch of an ongoing recession and considerable retail shakeout from the past year. The good news is that tighter times seems to have fostered new models for doing business, both ethically and locally. Consumer savviness has also contributed to a greater appreciation for eco-fashion collections and accessories, with shoppers seemingly now more versed in green fabrics, the hazards of the textile industry, and labor practices that are less than fair.
Recycling and “upcycling” will perhaps be further improved upon during the next year with attention paid to the cradle-to-cradle life cycling of garments and the senseless waste generated in manufacturing. Interestingly, our fashion aesthetic has even shifted to incorporate formerly marginalized fabrics like African textiles or mundane uses of hemp to create labels that really rocked the runways in both London and New Your during 2009.
Eco fashion labels like Lalesso, Suno New York, Ekovaruhuset/House of Organic, and The Andean Collection, to name a few, serve as fine examples that ethnic and hippie chic have now been upgraded to couture quality designs.
The greening of fashion weeks will be an ongoing phenomenon, as sustainable style experts like Bahar Shahpar and the team at Estethica in the U.K. provide amazingly curated examples of what fashion can and should be. One trend that I am particularly fascinated by is the upswing in “adjustable fashion” and “convertible clothes,” as consumers demand that their garments are not only sustainable but have increased functionality and versatility. It is going to be an exciting year as Etsy gains momentum as the hotbed for DIY creativity and retailing. Between ethical sourcing and home-brewed fashion projects in the heartland, it seems as if the democratization of fashion is well underway.