Is the Eco Moniker On Its Way Out? Julie Gilhart, Summer Rayne Oakes Hope So


AFINGO Fashion Forum in New York. Photo: Emma Grady

Are you tired of the eco fashion moniker? Bored with green marketing? Is fast fashion on its way out or here to stay?

These are just a few of the questions industry insiders, including fashion consultant Julie Gilhart, model and activist Summer Rayne Oakes, address, below.

In New York City Friday, the AFINGO Fashion Forum hosted "Sustainability and Philanthropy," a panel discussion moderated by Inhabitat.com founder Jill Fehrenbacher. Also on the panel: Melissa Kushner, founder and ED of Goods for Good; Lisa Salzer, founder of Lulu Frost; Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, designers of Costello Tagliapietra, and Starre Vartan, publisher of Eco-Chick.com. Read on:

Is the Eco Moniker On Its Way Out?

Following introductions from each panelist, Fehrenbacher kicked off the discussion by asking if the eco moniker, using "green is the new black" as an example, had reached its peak. She asked, is there a value to the consumer or are we over saturated with the description?


Summer Rayne Oakes, center, with Melissa Kushner, at left, and Lisa Salzer, at right. Photo: Emma Grady
Summer Rayne Oakes jumped on the question, agreeing that we are definitely over saturated with it, noting that it was enough for the FTC to acknowledge there was too much green marketing.

Oakes chose to leave out any green marketing speak when she named Source4Style, an online sustainable sourcing marketplace she founded with Benita Singh, because "the design should stand on its own," she said.

VIDEO: Measuring Fashion's Environmental Footprint with Summer Rayne Oakes

Fashion consultant Julie Gilhart was in agreement with Oakes, saying, it's a better idea to move away from the "green" and "eco" marketing, a point she discussed with me further in a video interview at last year's Christie's Green Auction.

"Not enough philanthropy in the world to change the world." - Julie Gilhart

Gilhart addressed the meat of the issue, the question of how we can improve the state of our planet. Fashion is just one way, she said, but even so it's the major players like Walmart, Nike, and H&M; who have major impact.


Julie Gilhart, center. Photo: Emma Grady

She recognized the work of the NRDC's Clean by Design initiative, stating that their market-based approach to improving the textile industry is "an economic model that's working." She stressed that nothing is going to happen unless people can make money from it, saying there's "not enough philanthropy in the world to change the world."


Costello Tagliapietra, Spring 2010. Photo: Greg Morris / Insight Visual

In response, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra acknowledged the stigma, saying that marketing their high-end RTW line, Costello Tagliapietra, as green would never be helpful.

Their line employs AirDye fabrics, a dying and printing technology that uses 88-95% less water than typical textile industry water consumption, and they can attest to the fact that it's not hard; sometimes you just need to change the company that you work with, they said.

SLIDESHOW: Costello Tagliapietra Slashes Water Consumption For Fall 2011

Their hope is for a widespread shift in mindset where people pay more for quality clothing. A good point which leads us to Lisa Salzer's remarks on an creating an emotional connection to clothing. She described how no two pieces are the same in her jewelry line, Lulu Frost, which uses primarily vintage materials.


Lulu Frost, Spring 2010. Photo: Lulu Frost

Is Fast Fashion Here to Stay?

Bringing the discussion back into focus, Jill Fehrenbacher asked if the fast fashion model, i.e., H&M;, is here to stay or are people becoming willing to pay more for items. Gilhart, drawing on her 18 years experience at Barneys New York, jumped in: fast fashion will definitely continue, people don't care as much, she said, high end fashion has to set the example, as it feeds into the low end markets.

A LEED-Like Certification for Clothing

Fehrenbacher directed a question directly to Starre Vartan on how to navigate the different green claims and certification. Vartan said that she dreams of a LEED-like certification for clothing where its awarded different levels, i.e., gold, platinum, based on specific criteria. This was a great idea to come out of the panel discussion as it's difficult to rate how fashion companies. Vartan gave the example of her wardrobe: her shirt was made locally, but it was made from silk.

Though the Eco Index is currently a great resource for designers to measure the environmental footprint of their product, a LEED-like certification could help consumers make sense of it all. Maybe then the eco/green fashion moniker can be gone for good.

Emma Grady is TreeHugger.com's resident fashion expert; she is a stylist and the founder and editor of PastFashionFuture.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter, too.
More Green Fashion Discussion
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Eco-Luminaries Exclaim that Slow Fashion Will Save Us, Eco - Chic Fashion Exhibit Now Open in NYC (Video)

Tags: Clothing | Summer Rayne Oakes

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