The New Meaning of Grow Your Own: Sustainable Fashion is What's Being Served Up Next.

by OLIVIA HOWE

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Do You Mushroom Shoes with Spider Silk Dresses?  Oh, I think you Do! Sustainable Fashion is on the Menu.

 

Would you wear shoes made of biodegradable mushrooms or clothes spun with spider silk?  Sounds odd to think about, but I have myself answered, “Sure, as long as spiders aren’t involved!”

As the world progresses and fashion changes we must ask ourselves: Wouldn’t fashion be even more wonderful if we could be saving the planet and the people in it too?  Sustainable fashion has been at the drawing board for decades but has just recently taken the shift to really gain momentum in the industry.  With fashion continuously regenerating trends and creating different spins on previous decades there comes a point where we wonder what could be the next big change to the fashion industry. 

Here’s an idea, let’s ditch the “groundbreaking” florals for spring and move on to ways that make life better for everyone!

Sustainability is no stranger to the elite designers of the industry, with Salvatore Ferragamo and Stella McCartney dipping their toes into the pool of possibilities.  Italy, being a byproduct of many citrus fruits, Ferragamo is the first brand to use fabric made exclusively of orange fibers and citrus fruits.  Not only is the product sustainable and helping end the excessive waste of the fashion industry, but it’s made from actual fruit from Italy.  Who wouldn’t love to wear a line of orange fiber scarfs that have you dreaming of an Italian sunset while getting to wear a little piece of Tuscany?  I know I sure would. 

 

Spiders! Just kidding…

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Stella McCartney’s take on sustainability is quite a bit different.  Using spider silk, yes, spider silk, McCartney has designed several pieces using this type of material - including a shift dress on display in the New York Museum of Modern Art.  However, here’s the catch, the silk is NOT used from spiders, which might come as a relief for many.  It is created using genetically engineered yeast which is somehow magically spun into fiber strands.  The silk is completely biodegradable and is known for its durable performance qualities.  Practicing these methods seems to be creating the best of both worlds with higher performance standards and ultimately zero waste.  However, if this is the case then why are so many designers and brands lagging?  The answer, my friends, is fast fashion.

Beware of “Fast Fashion” slowing us down.

For those who aren’t aware of the brands that make up this category of “fast fashion,” I can promise you that chances are you have the evidence in your closet (I have a little too much evidence from my middle school phases).  Brands such as H&M, Forever 21, and even Zara make up the division.  These brands are notorious for creating insanely large amounts of cheaply made products making low margins on the garments.  With customers enjoying the cheaper mock-ups of currents styles, the industry began to boom, producing hundreds of garments daily.  However, with massive amounts of clothing being produced every day, even larger amounts are left unconsumed leaving unfathomable wastes and debt to these participating brands.  H&M generating a large percentage of the waste, worked to make a difference by having customers bring in gently used garments to be used to create future products.  Despite what seemed to be a positive change, researchers uncovered that roughly 1% of donated garments were used in the process of new lines.  Meaning, horrible waste accumulation especially to the ocean regarding textile dyeing, the second largest polluter to the ocean.  I wonder myself how the industry will work together to end our love of convenience and show the planet that yes, we love it too. 



… One more pair of shoes dodging the landfill and making its way to the compost bin.

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No need to fret though, there are many innovative young professionals and students that have their mind set on the cause and are working to change the future of fashion.  Receiving a research grant, two students from the University of Delaware are responsible for creating a shoe composed of mushrooms, vegan leather, and all-natural cotton.  I don’t know about you but I would love to get my hands on these mushroom shoes!  The students at Delaware created the shoes with the muslin, cotton fabric used to create mock-up garments with the department as well as mycelium from mushrooms which allows the root system to grow.  The shoes give off a futuristic, modern vibe that embody all the elements of top designer fashions seen on the runway.  As many of you might wonder, how are these shoes really making a difference in the grand scheme of things?  Well, for starters, being the first to create innovations like this result in one more pair of shoes dodging the landfill and making its way to the compost bin.

Yes, we all love the innovative styles of the runway and their convenient mock-ups on display at Forever 21, but there comes a time where we need to focus on the bigger picture.  Why can’t all elite designers follow the paths of Ferragamo and McCartney?  Looking into sustainability has opened my eyes into the realm of potential changes and questions the industry must make to keep our planet beautiful.  In an industry fueled with innovators I look forward to advancements into the spectrum of sustainability and feel the best is yet to come. 

- Olivia Howe, oliviaphowe.com