Talking About Sustainability and Sex at the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative

This morning, the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative hosted a breakfast at Lafayette to announce the winners of its latest Micro Awards challenge. The 10 finalists included Brother Vellies, Dezso by Sara Beltran, Erin Snow, K/LLER Collection, Nicholas K, Prabal Gurung, Svilu, Tome, Wwake, and Zero + Maria Cornejo; each designer (or team of designers) was tasked with outlining their key goals—and plans of action—for continuing to prioritize sustainability in their collections. For Gurung, that means limiting his company’s environmental footprint in Nepal through the implementation of the NRDC’s Clean by Design program; for Beltran, it’s using natural elements like found shark teeth and polki diamonds and employing local artisans (mostly women) in India and Mexico. Wwake’s Wing Yau is committed to making her jewelry brand as traceable as possible, and has gathered tons of industry information in the hopes of creating an online database to highlight her supply chain.
“I think this is one of the most important programs that we have in the CFDA,” Steven Kolb said. “Sometimes it’s the least recognized or acknowledged, because there’s so much glitzy stuff happening [elsewhere]. Sustainability isn’t sexy enough, so we need to figure out a way to make it sexier.” He also reminded us that our president-elect is “basically a denier of climate change,” and perhaps that will galvanize designers and consumers to fight harder for the issue. Awareness is the first step, and the three winners of the challenge—Prabal Gurung, Erin Snow, and Wwake, who each received a $10,000 grant from Lexus—are getting out the message in their own unique ways.
If you aren’t a ski bum, you might not be familiar with Erin Snow, designed by Erin Isakov. A lifelong skier and former merchandiser at Elie Tahari and Theory, she left the fashion industry in 2003 to start the outdoor sports line. Back then, no one was really talking bout “sustainability,” but it was central to Isakov’s vision. “I’ve always done things the right way, using Bluesign-certified fabrics and incredible factories in North America,” Isakov explains. It’s fair to say she was ahead of the athleisure curve; her breakthrough happened when she introduced retro-inspired stretch ski pants, which were intended to be worn on the slopes and on the streets. Now, she’s focusing on expanding her outerwear, which is “the hardest garment to design,” she says. “It’s like building a house.” Launching in January, her new coats are just as warm as a down puffer, but are completely animal- and chemical-free. The insulation was the trickiest part: “There are a lot of synthetic insulations out there, but they also look synthetic,” she explains. “They don’t have that soft cloud feeling of down.” The new type of insulation she’s using is fluffy, waterproof, and made of recycled polyester. It’s also what she calls “a circular garment,” meaning the entire coat is biodegradable and won’t sit in a landfill for hundreds of years.02-cfda-sustainability

Isakov’s customers might not be concerned with how “sexy” the message is; they’re outdoor sports enthusiasts who prioritize function over cool factor. But the other winners, Gurung and Yau, have both cultivated a distinct, luxurious vision without compromising their ethos. Gurung’s latest collection included a sensual bias-cut slip dress printed with famous speeches by women in history, plus fluid embellished gowns that looked fun—not crunchy! Meanwhile, Wwake jewelry is delicate and arty, and has garnered a cult following of fashion editors, jewelry obsessives, and even Rihanna. “We felt it was responsible to invest in these ideas,” Kolb added, addressing all of the designers in the room. “These are critical lessons that are not only impacting your businesses, but [they] create a case study or lesson for your fellow CFDA members and designers in the industry.” You can read more about the program on the CFDA’s website.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *