NY Salon Asks "Is the Future of Fashion Green?" (Video)

"Is the future of fashion green?" The NY Salon asked in a panel discussion with VP of Merchandising for Barneys New York Julie Gilhart, The New York Times' Senior Editor Sandra Ballentine, fashion retail architect Jeffrey Hutchison, and UK author and commentator James Woudhuysen. Moderated by NY Salon Director Alan Miller, the panel inevitably raised more questions than could be answered on green fashion and consumption. Held at New York City's Soho House on Monday, July 20, 2009, NY Salon and Soho House members, and select media were welcome.

Find out why Woudhuysen doesn't think fashionistas should be "po-faced about saving the planet", why Gilhart would disagree with him, watch Ballentine's take on vintage fashion, and Hutchison, as he talks about retail architecture and sustainability, after the jump. The forum's title "Is the future of fashion green?" brought me back to William Chameides, Dean at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, who said "This cannot be a fad. It's going to be a disaster if everybody gets all excited about being green for a year or two and then says okay we're done with it," in an interview on Barneys with NPR's Mike Pesca. The panel discussion did not focus on how to make green fashion the future, as Chameides suggests and as Vice President of Merchandising Barneys New York Julie Gilhart would say "green is the new black", but instead challenged the idea that saving the environment is the responsibility of the consumer.

Barneys' Julie Gilhart on Consumer Products

Julie Gilhart's green initiatives at Barneys include Keds, Loomstate & Barneys partnership, Philip Lim's Go Green Go, YSL's New Vintage, and Theory for Barney's Green. Clearly reflected in her work, Gilhart believes a "greater level of consciousness" is needed in the development of consumer products in terms of "fair trade, cultural preservation, philanthropy and the overall environmental impact of making, shipping and marketing a product." To further support this point Gilhart outlines the following example.

I'd planned on bringing a zip locked bag filled with sugar in an amount equivalent to the quantities of known/regulated harmful chemicals--dyes, detergents, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used in developing a single pair of denim jeans...I believe that as other people learn about and acknowledge these facts, they too will seek more enlightened products and more trusted retailers with whom they want to give their hard earned dollars."

Author James Woudhuysen on Innovation

Gilhart was expected to attend, but had a family emergency, so couldn't come. Her absence was felt in the lack of opposition to Woudhuysen's view on green behavior and consumer trends. Woudhuysen, who looks to Mrs. Biden as the antithesis of fashion, views its purpose as "excessive, to provoke, to give a whole lot of fun and sexiness, and not to be po-faced about saving the planet." He continues below.

Greens generally want to solve the climate problem insofar as they exist - and they do exist, but they're not at the edge of a precipice yet - by you running around and exerting yourselves to develop 110% perspiration. Greens lack technological inspiration. They want you to work harder and to run to every dinner party and every store wondering about, asking about, and then proclaiming about how you're greener than the next person.

After Woudhuysen stripped the possibility of the power of the purchaser, he argued that there is little innovation in the real world of production, a point he expands upon in his book Energise!. He continued by arguing that the only significant innovation in recent fashion is the Nike and Ipod collaboration and that what he would really like is a suit that doesn't make you sweat. Finally, Woudhuysen states that it is the textile, transport and energy engineers who must work to lower carbon dioxide emissions not the average consumer.

On to page 2, watch Ballentine discuss vintage fashion and Hutchison on retail architecture and sustainability.

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