When the Afingo Fashion Forum asked Jill Fehrenbacher, our editor-in-chief, to curate a panel on sustainability and philanthropy in fashion in April, she jumped at the chance. The panelists included fashion consultant Julie Gilhart (formerly of Barneys New York), eco-model/entrepreneur Summer Rayne Oakes, Starre Vartan of Eco-Chick, jewelry designer Lisa Salzer of Lulu Frost, Melissa Kushner of Goods for Good and Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra of Costello Tagliapietra. Watch the video above to hear what some of the hottest names in fashion have to say about the future of green, and whether we should ditch the “eco” prefix.

Afingo Fashion Forum, Starre Vartan, Lisa Salzer, Jill Fehrenbacher, Costello Tagliapietra, Summer Rayne Oakes, Julie Gilhart, Lulu Frost, Melissa Kushner, Goods 4 Good, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style


Although the panel only lasted an hour, it proved to be a great example of what a morass sustainable fashion—let alone “fashion” fashion—can be. On the one side, we had green perfectionists who balk at calling anything with a carbon footprint “sustainable,” and on the other, folks who concede that even small steps contribute to a greater whole. We had eco-activists who want to shout their mission from the rooftops and stealth advocates who prefer to slip their sustainable ways under the radar. For every panelist we questioned, we received a different definition of what sustainability engendered, as well as myriad ideas about how to push the movement forward.

Some choice quotes:

Julie Gilhart: “It’s not about sustainable fashion, it’s just the future of fashion. I think that to move away from terms, like ‘eco’ or ‘green,’ in the consumer part is probably a good idea. [The industry] is going to have to up its ante and not take from the world but give it back.”

Lisa Salzer (Lulu Frost): “[‘Eco’] is something that people like to buzz about. It is that word that people love to throw around, but in my opinion it is the future.”

Summer Rayne Oakes:“The next step is to build an infrastructure for designers to be able to ‘plug and play’ and going beyond what we see as the traditional modes of sustainable fashion, like materials, into dyestuffs and the whole life-cycle approach.”

Starre Vartan: “My dream for how clothing could be labeled is more along the lines of LEED, which has Gold, Silver, and Platinum [ratings]. Moving forward, we’ll definitely have some kind of standard, either a label or an organization that is going to oversee this third-party certification of organic clothing that will also entail looking at where it has come from and where it is going…more companies will jump on the bandwagon as soon as there is some kind of certification.”

Robert Tagliapietra (Costello Tagliapietra): “The problem is there are so many ways that you can do things that it kind of becomes overwhelming. The reality is that you’re never going to do everything perfectly. People lose sight of the fact that ‘if I [just] change this,’ this makes a huge impact.”

+ Afingo Fashion Forum