'Revolutionizing the fashion industry leads to only positives' - Sustainability, more than a trend


While fashion may make you look and feel good, it's not having that same effect on the planet.

In the past decade the conversation around sustainable fashion practices when it comes to protecting the environment and the people who produce it has evolved.

More than 400% more clothing is made now than 20 years ago, with 97% outsourced to poor nations where factory owners compete on price for contracts and regulation is lax, leading to discarded clothing piling up in landfills and harmful chemical runoff from factories.

Actress Rosario Dawson and former Bottega Veneta executive, Abrima Erwiah created Studio 189 in order to create jobs and stop the depletion of the world through fashion.

"Fashion is the second largest polluter on the planet. So, we need to have this conversation in the fashion industry more than anything. And it's really critically important that we collaborate on it," said Dawson.

"You can't sell to people who can't live and breathe, and you can't continue to pull resources out of places like it's, like, you know, we're not in a cyclical space but treating it like they're finite. You know, we have to be going back to our roots and recognizing how we can work with lovingly with the planet so that we have something to pass on to our children," she added.

The duo produces their brand in Africa with a mission to "focus on empowerment, creating jobs and supporting education and skills training and partners with organizations such as the United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative."

Erwiah said the process to produce eco-friendly products is hard, but ultimately necessary.

"You're growing natural dyes, you know, and like how do you dispose of it. If you don't dispose of the items in a proper way you feel it. You have to really think about what are you doing with your waste? Like when we make clothes in the factory. We don't throw away anything. Literally nothing," Eriah explained.

Sustainable fashion journalist and founder of ECOCULT.COM, Alden Wicker said fashion has an enormous ecological footprint.

"Fashion industry is involved in the Amazon fires that are going on right now because they're being cleared for cattle which are raised to provide meat but also leather for the fashion industry. It's involved in giving dignified work to women around the world. It's involved in animal protection, it's involved in cotton farming for millions of farmers in India and it's involved in water protection. It's involved in everything, if you can revolutionize the fashion industry you can touch so many things in a positive way."

Auto maker Hyundai is showed its commitment to protecting the environment by launching Re:Style at New York Fashion Week in September. The initiative, which works with designers who believe in sustainability, teamed up with Zero + Maria Cornejo for a 15-piece capsule collection.

"We think it's very important today for our brand to really pay homage and lean in on sustainability and sustainability today is so very important for us and many companies. So, we thought that this collaboration around upcycling, taking ingredients form our work that isn't used any longer and really join forces with someone like Maria, who already has this really great sustainability platform," said Hyundai Motors America Chief Marketing Officer, Dean Evans.

The line was created using leftover leather from the car company's car seat waste, as well as upcycled fabrics from the fashion designer.

"The aim of this collaboration was actually to spotlight the fact that big companies like Hyundai and countless small companies like ours, we both produce a certain amount of waste and that waste can be used up. It doesn't have to be discarded. It could find a new life. It's about recreating, reimagining, recycling. It's about basically getting creative with things that usually would be discarded," said Maria Cornejo.

Fashion mainstay brands like Badgley Mischka are making shifts in how they produce their garments.

"I can't tell you the efforts we go through, it's such a different business then it was, even five years ago. The factories we use are no waste manufacturing plants where everything is recycled. Whatever isn't in your product becomes packaging. I can't tell you how stringent the rules are on all of our printing and dying practices," said Mark Badgley.

Design veteran Michael Kors said his company is actively formulating a comprehensive plan to talk about sustainability, but also stressed the importance of investment dressing: "The least sustainable thing that any human being can do is engage in fast fashion and wear it once."

(Production: Hussein Al Waaile / Andrew Hofstetter / Roselle Chen / Alicia Powell)