January 27, 2010

"Just be really good."

That's Julie Gilhart's sage advice to would-be eco-fashion designers, and sensible it certainly is.

After last night's panel discussion on sustainability at Pratt, the Barneys New York fashion director was swamped by eager young design students. But in the course of an evening of discussion about slow fashion and different ways of implementing sustainability in clothing design, Gilhart's only suggestion to budding designers was to excel at the design part of the job — because rather than seeking out sustainable clothing, it seems shoppers avoid it.

In discussing the ups and downs of her ongoing campaign to introduce more sustainable options at Barneys, Gilhart noted that Stella McCartney's organic capsule collection had actually suffered from its green labeling, because customers expected organic clothing to be of worse quality, rather than more expensive. The retailer eventually decided to mix the organic styles into McCartney's conventional collection, where they sold much better without the special labeling.

The good news for up-and-comers: Customers, at least at Barneys, are tired of the same big brands, and are eager to discover new and unknown labels.

The discussion was a part of an ongoing exhibition of eco-conscious fashion design, Ethics + Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion, at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 W. 14th St., 2nd floor. The designers featured include Slow and Steady Wins the Race (pictured above), Suno, Bodkin, and Alabama Chanin.

Update: For a waaayyy more comprehensive report on the talk, as well as the accompanying exhibition, read Timo Rissanen's post here.

Photo via SSWtR on Facebook

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