Concern for the Environment Prevails at NYFW

The planet’s health is at stake and some of this season’s designers made it their mission to prioritize that concern when creating their collections. As obvious of an effort as it may seem, it’s an essential part of what designers, particularly those working with bigger labels, should take into consideration, now more than ever. In our day to day, it’s relatively easy to forget about how detrimental to the planet our choices can be as creators or as consumers, but as a society it’s not one of those problems we can ignore, hoping it will just go away. While waiting in line for a show, I was reminded of all this when my eyes drifted on the back of a shirt worn by the person standing in front of me. Produced by a local brand called Querencia Studio, the garment’s graphic listed statistics regarding the fact that fashion has become the second most polluting industry in the world. Something to ponder…

 

Collina Strada Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

A pressing issue that is affecting our lives in ways we might not even recognize as directly stemming from climate change (constant frustrating flight delays and disturbing sudden shifts of weather come to mind), the environment is a concern that is regrettably often swept under the rug in favor of other sexier issues. Yet, the core problematic is that making fashion more sustainable and regarding it as a core part of tackling global warming should no longer be viewed as a seasonal theme or an occasional point of interest. New York based designer Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada said it best when we spoke after the show: “Every change we make is for or against our future and if we’re going to keep making more products for the world, we need to be more conscious about it.”

 

Focusing mostly on sustainability and upcycling, brands such as Gypsy Sport and Collina Strada continued to champion the cause while others, like 3.1 Phillip Lim and Tibi joined the movement by adopting environmentally sound alternatives in the design of their collections.

 

Phillip Lim 3.1

3.1 Phillip Lim Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.


Phillip Lim was feeling matter-of-fact and to-the-point this season. Inspired by Marie Kondo’s philosophy of doing away with clutter and all things unneeded (or that don’t “spark joy”), the designer was intent on creating a versatile, practical, and lasting wardrobe. He applied this no-nonsense approach in various ways, starting with the colors. With the exception of the zebra print motif and a few looks in olive and navy, Lim limited his palette to grays, blacks, and whites. Lim’s Fall 2019 collection, featuring mostly sturdy-chic looks, focused on proportions and volumes, layering and utilitarian tailoring. On the runway, this translated to cozy jackets and vests, full skirts, a cocoon jacket and sweater, flowy trousers, and woolen coats, which Lim described as armors (a concept I’m sure the show’s attendees agreed with considering this week’s freezing temperatures).

 

The designer seems to be following a discovery trail that many have been following lately. In addition to finding inspiration in Kondo’s cleaning advice, he’s also been learning a few things from environmentalist Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s pioneering and charismatic co-founder. This resulted in Lim’s decision to design a fur-free collection and to do away with exotic skins. Nothing revolutionary per se in this day and age, especially considering how many designers made the move a while ago – but the fact that other important brands like Lim’s are joining the movement is a great thing. Searching for other alternatives, the designer also stuck to using shearling and leather sourced as byproducts of the meat industry and partnered with a company called Woolmark to produce most of the collection in natural fibers and recycled materials.

 

Collina Strada

Collina Strada Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.


Collina Strada’s Hillary Taymour is a versatile designer. Often using her collections to carry messages, more so abstractly than literally, and doing the same with the space she invites her guests to, her shows tend to give you food for thought. Other traits that makes her a unique designer are that she is earnest, sensitive, and unafraid to include herself in the issues she addresses. This time around, Taymour was dealing with an issue many of us dwell on, or should: our individual share of responsibility in minimizing our carbon footprint and stepping up our effort when it comes to making choices with an environmentally conscious mindset. “I just felt like I needed to do something, and the collection came together in this way because I felt responsible,” she mentioned as we spoke after the show. “I was feeling really guilty, wondered what I could do and how to make it better.” Admitting she orders food instead of cooking, buys plastic, and like many New Yorkers, uses Amazon and Uber way too often, she’s intending to go about things differently. Her Fall 2019 collection, which she entitled “Low Carbon Diet,” was about finding a starting point and to share it along so that we, too, can do it if we choose to.

 

As models (which included a child and a pregnant woman) walked back and forth through a corridor-shaped runway, 18-year-old environmental activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez delivered a performance that combined spoken word, lecture, and lyricism. Acting as a master of ceremony, he spoke at length about his indigenous roots, our responsibilities as inhabitants of the earth, and about our need to safeguard all life on it.

 

Offering more tangible solutions and holding herself accountable for those issues she was addressing, Taymour designed the collection using 75 percent deadstock fabrics – some that she amusingly coined ‘granny couch fabric’ – which she used to create slick trousers and tops, many painted in bright colorful twirling prints. The designer also used recycled ocean plastic beads which were created in partnership with 4Ocean, an organization that removes trash from the sea. On the runway, some unexpected ‘accessories’ came along: reusable bottles and glass containers, which the models held (and used) as they walked. It acted as a gentle reminder that carrying containers around is not all that cumbersome and does a lot in minimizing the production of single-use plastic. The show notes, too, found their place in this overarching theme – they might have been printed on paper but their content mostly focused on providing the reader with simple ways of reducing his or her footprint.

 

Gypsy Sport

Gypsy Sport Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

Whether creating more genderless design or focusing on diversity when casting models, a rising number of designers are finally joining the conversation about transgender, race, and plus-size models. Gypsy Sport’s designer Rio Uribe, however, has been part of this debate since the inception of the brand, seven years ago. For this season, Uribe’s collection felt like a direct rebuttal to Victoria’s Secret CMO Ed Razek’s misguided controversial remarks on the subject last year, which resulted in warranted public uproar. His design driven reply was rather simple yet eloquent: everybody and anybody, everywhere, can wear lingerie. Delivering another eccentric and provocative collection, Uribe mixed lingerie and sportswear, pairing for instance tulle and lace with striped jersey for body hugging minidresses and frocks.

 

As of a few seasons ago, Uribe has also made sustainability a number one priority. He perfected and increased his use upcycling for his Fall 2019 collection, repurposing discarded Adidas tracksuits and turning them into slinky slip dresses and camisoles with lace insets.

 

Tibi

Tibi Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.


Tibi’s Fall 2019 collection was about discovery, which designer Amy Smilovic exemplified by way of her clothing – more specifically in how she further experimented with modern touches and details – but also other elements like the choice of music or the colorful large scale sculptures that had been placed in the middle of the runway. Like many of Smilovic’s looks, especially those in bright hues of color, the sculptures brought some lightness and playfulness to the otherwise gray concrete setting.

 

This exploration resulted in a welcome push and pull throughout the collection. So, while it offered Tibi’s signature minimal, charming, urban-chic aesthetic in bright colors, it also included new silhouettes like pencil skirts and deconstructed knitted sweaters. The designer’s celebration of curiosity also meant exploring different constructions and finding new ways to go about it, preferably in a more earth-friendly manner.

As a designer who has often voiced her preference for clothes that will outlast seasons and trends, Smilovic aims to create clothes that her customers can keep for a long time. It helps that Smilovic uses rich materials and designs sturdy clothing, like the PVC trousers showcased in one of the looks. It helps as well that her colors – like browns, greens, or teals – tend to be muted, easy to combine, and stay relevant. All these choices she’s making as a designer make it possible to hold onto her clothes for a long time. More importantly, she experimented for the first time with recycled materials. A black overcoat, for instance, embellished with staples on the lapel (yes, staples) had been cut from a wool entirely made from repurposed fibers.

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