With all the fashion-forward inroads made at The GreenShows at New York Fashion Week, it’s obvious that today’s eco-fashionistas are savvier than ever about the alchemy of eco-couture. What they may not be privy to, however, are the custom recipes that go into hand-dyed garments like those of standout label Mr. Larkin. Thanks to The Permacouture Institute’s slow textile-dyeing methods, eco-friendly fabrics can now be artfully imbued with a rich palette of organic materials that are readily available at your local farmers’ market or garden.
Sasha Duerr, a San Francisco-based artist, designer, and the founder of The Permacouture Institute, collaborated with designer Casey Larkin on Mr. Larkin’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection. Their “fashion from the ground up” synergy added a very real dimension to New York Fashion Week. How impressive is it that acorns, Japanese maple leaves, mint, and iron can be as fashion-fortifying as they are environmentally sound?
How impressive is it that acorns, Japanese maple leaves, mint, and iron can be as fashion-fortifying as they are environmentally sound?
Permacouture is a slow-steeping, hands-on process, which involves the use of sustainable plant-based dyes and recycled fibers to create textiles and clothing that are not only environmentally sound but also community-minded. Duerr’s outreach efforts range from her “Soil to Studio” courses at California College of the Arts to hands-on “Living and Dyeing” workshops for school and community garden groups throughout the Bay Area.
Duerr likens permacouture to the Slow Food movement, except that it also addresses regenerative-design concepts linked to food, clothing, and shelter. Besides cross-pollinating textile art and sustainability, she also looks for seeds of personal narrative in each carefully constructed garment.
“Clothing and textiles,” Duerr says, “have long been connected not only to material necessity, but also to celebration of culture, ethnobotany, creative reuse and innate sense of place. The Permacouture Institute explores fashion and textiles from a dynamic and ecological perspective, offering optimal solutions for change.”
Duerr likens permacouture to the Slow Food movement, except that it also addresses design concepts linked to food, clothing, and shelter.
While growing up on our family farm, my mother used to save onion skins for vats of home-brewed dyes for her handspun yarn and sweaters. She also gathered roadside plants to steep into rich colors, from buttery yellow to burnt siena. A sense of place definitely permeated this process. Perhaps it makes sense to consider the natural elements that color our lives in meaningful and environmentally sound ways. After all, we deliberate over these options for the food we eat, why don’t we do the same for the clothes we wear?