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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Design

A jacket made from a cellulose that is formed in vats of fermenting green tea, bacteria and yeast. Running shoes that will bio-degrade in 20 years as opposed to 100 years. Socks made from coffee grounds. Fiber made from 100% cow's milk. A dress made from the material that FedEx envelopes are made of. Sound crazy? It's happening!

As one of the largest contributors to pollution in the world, the fashion industry is experimenting with all kinds of ways to design in a more environmentally responsible way. I love fashion and I love design, so when I got the invitation to the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) Materials Conference,
I was really excited - especially because the subject at hand was how to design anything with the environment in mind.
My marketing consultant, Tracy Petrucci (who, by the way, is an absolutely fabulous small business and global marketeer) and I decided to see what it was all about. There was a panel of speakers consisting of Textile/Interior Materials Manager at FIDM's LA campus, Kristine Upesleja; jewelry designer Alexandra Hart; Development and Sourcing Manager for Volcom Accessories and Footwear, Scott Shearer; and Product Development Manager for prAna Living, Alison Rojas.


The most profound thing I learned was that there are so many ways to think "Environmental" when doing business. It's not just a consideration of what does or doesn't go into a product, but also how the product is made, how the employees are treated, and whether or not the company's suppliers follow certain environmentally and socially conscious practices. And although there has been an increase in establishing eco-friendly "standards" within the fashion industry, companies still have to decide what practices are important to them and evaluate their suppliers accordingly. On varying levels, some companies like Volcom and prAna take measures to ensure that their suppliers are also committed to eco-friendly practices.

The speaker that I could most relate to in my business was Alexandra Hart, an incredible jewelry designer who creates fantastical forms in gold and silver. Her commitment in designing responsibly is impressive. She works exclusively with Fair Trade suppliers who only deal in conflict-free stones and recycled precious metals. Through her blog and website she also strives to educate the consumer about ethical and environmental responsibility in design. Recognizing that many companies are now jumping on the "Green" wagon and making very exaggerated claims of eco-friendly practices, Hart honestly states, "We can't do it all. It's important to claim only what we can achieve."

I thought that was a very responsible attitude and one that more companies should sustain.

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