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The fashion world is experiencing a remarkable shift, as New York Fashion Week witnesses a surge in sustainability-conscious designers. More than 30 brands on this season’s NYFW calendar placed a strong emphasis on sustainability, reflecting a growing trend within the fashion industry.

One of the driving forces behind this shift is Hillary Taymour, the founder of Collina Strada and communications guru for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Sustainable Strategies Committee. She expresses optimism about the changing landscape, stating, “There are so many small sustainable brands in New York now, and they’re appreciated.” However, Taymour also recalls a time when sustainable fashion was not in the spotlight, saying, “It’s so different from when I started.”

Today, a new generation of designers is embracing eco-friendly design principles. Gen Z, often referred to as the “whistleblower generation,” is actively advocating for a cleaner and more sustainable fashion industry. Sustainability has been gaining prominence on runways worldwide, with events like Copenhagen Fashion Week enforcing sustainability criteria for participating designers. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) also encourages brands showcasing in New York to adopt eco-friendly practices such as energy Conservation and reducing fashion event waste.

What makes this NYFW particularly noteworthy is the sheer number of designers dedicated to sustainability. The official calendar features 35 sustainable-focused brands, a significant increase compared to the 13 in the Fall 2020 season. Additionally, celebrities like Rachel Broshanan and Mindy Kaling. have spoke openly about sustainable fashion on the Ralph Lauren carpet.

Source: AP Archive/Youtube

While established brands like Gabriela Hearst, Mara Hoffman, and Studio 189 have long championed responsible fashion, the absence of once-prominent shows from designers like Marc Jacobs, Thom Browne, and Tommy Hilfiger has created opportunities for emerging talent. Seven runway debuts took place during this NYFW season, including Grace Ling, Tanner Fletcher, Mirror Palais, Advisry, Sami Miro Vintage, Kozaburo, and Fforme. These designers share a common commitment to environmental responsibility.

The emerging designers have embraced a philosophy of reusing existing resources. Tanner Richie and Fletcher Kasell, founders of Tanner Fletcher, turned to thrifting and vintage materials, crafting garments from 1960s-era deadstock sheets and scraps of deadstock silk charmeuse and lace trims. Their runway debut was well-received too with Women’s Wear Daily saying “Tanner Fletcher’s spring collection offered more pieces in the category that leveraged its already tried-and-true codes. These styles included new takes on the brand’s signature bow-embellished suit, ethereal ruffled pieces and different ways to style a garter belt, which the designers highlighted as a key look this season”

Sustainability is not just a show note for these designers; it’s a central feature. Brands like Maria McManus, Ling, and Sami Miro Vintage proudly discuss their eco-responsible materials and processes. McManus showcased fishnet mesh made from a blend of recycled cashmere and organic cotton, as well as biodegradable buttons crafted from potato starch. Ling, known for her zero-waste designs, emphasizes the timelessness of her creations. Sami Miro Vintage’s runway debut was aptly titled “Zero Waste,” showcasing the brand’s dedication to minimal waste fashion.

Though some designers may feel conflicted about participating in a system that emphasizes consumption, they recognize the importance of visibility in the industry. Fashion buyers and consumers want to see innovative designs, and shows provide the perfect platform for generating interest.

The sustainability trend may raise questions about its longevity and scalability. Can these brands maintain their environmentally-minded ethos as they grow their businesses and source vintage and deadstock materials at scale?

As NYFW continues to evolve, Taymour hopes that this season’s focus on sustainability will become the norm, stating, “It should be everyone. It should be everywhere. We should all be trying. There’s no excuse anymore.”

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