Gen Art: Will Sustainability be the Future of Fashion?
Will sustainability be part of the fashion industry in 5 to 10 years? Do the up-and-coming fashionistas feel the green movement is even important? These were the questions running through my head as I drove to the edgy and sexy Gen Art: Fresh Faces of Fashion Show at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles on October 22, 2011. With scantily cladded bikinis with animal prints, a full Native American headdress, topless models in leather and a staging fist fight, the event didn't disappoint by delivering a power punch to the tame-at-heart. But determining if any of the designs should be called sustainable was much harder to decide.
Photo Credit: Neil Chambers
Gen Art is a premiere non-profit focused on helping young artists and creatives breakout of the crowded startup pack. Fresh Faces of Fashion Show was sponsored by such organizations as JetBlue, Smart, Moroccanoil, Fred Segal and others. The event was a complete package of red carpet and A-Listers such as Zoe Saldana, Valerj Pobega, Mattia Biagi, George Blodwell and Clint Catalyst.
It featured the Spring 2012 collections of We Are Handsome, Dear Creatures, Odylyne, Chambers, 71 Stanton, Funktional and Stage & Deliver. It was as much a happening as an event as fabulous urbanites, fashion nobles and hipster-wannabes milled about the former cathedral while sucking down cocktails, free beer and bottles of water waiting for the show to start.
Smart displayed several cars with inventive colorful wraps inspired by the Fresh Face designers. One car flaunted a peacock from a bikini by Handsome. Other swimwear by Handsome included a wolf and a black stallion. A photo booth was setup so you could get your picture taken in a smart -a popular spot with a queue 5 to 10 minutes long. Smart was the most obvious sustainable part of the event. Beyond that, there weren't many other indications of green. For example, no sign of a recycling area could be found for the hundreds (if not thousands) of empty containers being created by the guests taking advantage of the open bar.
Fashion is not known for its social- or environmental-mindedness. It's more infamous for anorexia, cocaine, sweatshops and child labor. That's why we need more young designers committed to both high art and high sustainability. It's a short list of designers that take sustainability to the realm of Gucci or the Meatpacking District. I was eager to see a quality performance from this class of Gen Art'ers pointing toward hot-lickable- garments that redefine fashion for the world.
I did see lots of leather and even some fur (a faux pas within the green design community). Some of the fabrics could have been sustainable - but quickly reviewing the designer's websites didn't say so. Funktional blending of Native American colors and themes with accent pieces such as a turquoise belt worked. But as one model paraded down the runway with a full-feathered headdress, I prayed it was not made from the plumage of real birds.
The collection by Chambers was a Men's set of styles of early 1990's grunge meets early 1990's grudge - complete with Nirvana playing as the male models walked along the jetty stage. Their online collection reveals a play of the retro topic in an extended creativity way.
71 Stanton made me homesick by bring the look of hipsters of the Lower East Side to LA, but with a thrilling twist and even a dazzling tuck. I read the collection as attitude with a mission - the mission exactly, perhaps to bring urban style to the people of suburbia?
Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion was a cutting edge event. The emphasis on individualism coupled with an engaging and unique format. For designers wanting and needing the exposure to take their careers to the next level, one couldn't ask for more. The org and its sponsors are doing a great service by introducing young minds to the mass public.
The vision of Gen Art to encourage fashion designers to be unconventional and bold thinking is a great fit for brands like smart and Moroccanoil that incorporate quality into every aspect of their products. It would serve the non-profit well to deepen their focus on sustainability. Not as an add on, but as an intimate and integrated component by selecting designers that push against the preconceived notices of what green design "looks" like as well as what fashion can be and do for the planet.
It is easy to fall victim to the trappings of the fashion world. Few other arenas in society are coated with the sexuality and excitement. Gen Art captured those qualities in spades. The only weak spot is sustainability. Having talked with thousands of young people around the country during my book tour, one thing has become obvious - they want everything to have a sustainability factor that is both quantifiable and comparable. As companies (and sponsors) incorporate more sustainability into their messaging and products to cater to the growing influence of millennials, being stylish, forward thinking and green are a MUST HAVE. Any organization ignoring that will feel the pinch of dying support of the next generation, or in the case of clothing, might get stuffed into the bargain bin.
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