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Published on July 19th, 2010 | by Susanna Schick

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Eco-Fashion: Going Green at The Museum at FIT in New York City

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This lava colored dress is from Costello Tagliapietra’s spring 2010 collection and gets its color via AirDye technology.

Photo Courtesy AirDye via Creative Commons License

Eco-Fashion: Going Green The Museum at FIT through November 13

This exhibit is free of charge and housed in the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, one of the country’s leading fashion schools. What most impressed me about the collection is that it did not begin with eco-fashion, but with a brief history of fashion from the 1800’s. The exhibit included a key which identifies the six major areas of impact, and each piece had symbols identifying the biggest issues around its manufacture. Each piece also had a brief description explaining the problem. Everything from the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire, which killed many women because the factory lacked adequate fire safety, to the highly toxic dyes that were used in some clothes. Some of the older pieces were examples of reuse, showing how people used to turn old quilts or rugs into clothing.

The six themes are:

  • repurposing and recycling of materials (like rPET, which is currently at risk for greenwashing)
  • material origins (such as the Naya shoes we featured here)
  • textile dyeing and production (as previously mentioned in our article about Suzy Amis Cameron’s Oscar Gown)
  • quality of craftsmanship (which should be a prerequisite for eco-fashion to ensure its sustainability over time)
  • labor practices (as we discussed previously when reporting TransFair’s new apparel certification program)
  • treatment of animals (seen here in our article about vegan, eco-friendly outerwear)

This photo, also via AirDye, explains what makes this garment sustainable. I am very excited about AirDye, and would like to see more designers using waterless printing and dyeing.

Along with key historical pieces, I also saw pieces from some of the eco designers I know and love from recent years, including Xuly Bet, who’d I’d forgotten about! He was the coolest designer in town when I lived in Paris in the early 90’s. Throughout the exhibit, they used the icons to show what issues these designers were focusing on addressing, as it’s very difficult for a designer to solve ALL the problems of apparel production, particularly at the low prices even conscious people have come to expect.

The exhibit was very beautifully curated, with a logical flow and clear explanations of the issues at hand. As much as I know about apparel production, I learned a thing or two myself. You can sign up here to go on a guided tour with one of the curators!


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About the Author

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.



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