Project Earth Day – A Celebration of Sustainable Fashion

Goodlifer: Project Earth Day - A Celebration of Sustainable Fashion

Earth Day celebrations were extended a day this year as Project Earth Day took over Openhouse gallery in NoLita on Thursday. This night of eco fashion invited designers to “Travel through the looking glass to our wonderland, present-day New York City, viewed through a distorted lens where big is small, small is big, and the worlds of building and fashion collide through an exploration of scale.”

The student competition part of the show featured a wide range of styles by local design students. The panel of judges were Drew Becher, Executive Director of the New York Restoration Project, Janine James, founder and Creative Director of the Moderns, Josh Dorfman, The Lazy Environmentalist, John Schroeter, President and CEO of Applied Textiles, and Kevin Christiana, Project Runway 4 contestant and Head Designer and Partner of Christiana Zinn and MYNT 1792. Stacy Longo of F.I.T. took home first place—a $1500 cash prize and a feature on Cosmopolitan magazine’s website—with a well-crafted geometric knit ensemble. Second and Third place designers Shirley Gallagher and Erika Schuster (top photo) were both F.I.T. students as well. Honorable mentions were awarded Caroline Rossingol of Parsons and Theresa Chan of Connecticut College.

The runway, pre-show, the row of judges to the left.

The runway, pre-show, the row of judges to the left.

My personal favorite from the student competition. A nice play on scale and proportion, using unexpected combinations of material and shape.

My personal favorite from the student competition, by Boram Kang of F.I.T. A nice play on scale and proportion, using unexpected combinations of material and shape.

The student show runway finale.

The student show runway finale.

Stacy Longo of F.I.T. took home the Grand Prize. The wonderful sketch for her creation to the right.

Stacy Longo of F.I.T. took home 1st Prize. The wonderful sketch for her creation to the left.

The winning creation: detail.

The winning creation: detail.

More sketches, the one on the right from 2nd place winner Stacey Gallagher and the one to the left from honorable mention Caroline Rossingol.

More sketches, the one on the left from 2nd place winner Shirley Gallagher and the one to the right from honorable mention Caroline Rossingol.

After a break and some sponsor-talking, a professional runway show commenced, designers included event co-organizer Bahar Shahpar, Melissa Kirgan, Xing-Zhen Chung-Hilyard and Meiling Chen of EKO-LAB, Lara Miller, Alkemie, Cri de Coeur, Larsen Gray, Bodkin, Covet, Chamoné, Olsen Haus, Loyale and Sublet. I had seen some of these runway creations at previous shows, but they still looked as gorgeous. And, why couldn’t they be shown again? Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

Who says eco fashion cannot be sexy, sparkly and fun?

Who says eco fashion cannot be sexy, sparkly and fun?

Project Earth Day was started in 2007 by Molly Garretson, an Interior Designer who felt a disconnect in the way otherwise environmentally concious people treated fashion. She does this in what she calls her “spare time,” which is quite admirable. Event sponsors were the Emerging Green Builders of New York (EBGNY), a subcommittee of the U.S. Green Building Council, and LEED. The décor by Yuko Oda, featuring shopping bag butterflies and upcycled hornets, made an environmental statement while providing a perfect backdrop for the evening.

Stylist, Fashion Designer and co-organizer Bahar Shahpar & Project Earth Day founder Molly Garretson.

Stylist, Fashion Designer and co-organizer Bahar Shahpar & Project Earth Day founder Molly Garretson.

Butterflies made from plastic bags cast dramatic shadows on one wall.

Yuko Oda’s utterflies made from plastic bags cast dramatic shadows on the wall.

I arrived early for the press preview and got to take a peek backstage while models and designers were all getting ready. Although it was a mere hour or so before the show the mood was surprisingly zen-like in comparison to other fashion shows I have been to. Maybe they were all falling apart inside, but to me it was proof of Project Earth Day’s dedication to slowing fashion down. My hope is that soon there will be no such thing as eco fashion, because it will all inherently be sustainable. It’s not just about the materials (organic cotton, for example, still requires unsustainable amounts of water to produce), it’s about our attitude toward clothing and fashion. Buying pieces that you will love and hold on to forever is the most environmentally friendly thing you can do, even if they happen to not be made from bamboo.

Backstage: hair styling.

Backstage: hair styling.

Backstage: waiting.

Backstage: waiting.

Backstage: clothing racks

Backstage: clothing racks

Backstage: make-up.

Backstage: make-up.

Backstage: eco shoes!

Backstage: eco shoes!

“In these modern times, individuals, companies, and even countries often consume more than they produce, using resources and creating waste in disproportionately large shares. [—] The time has come for us to shift the weight and take a step back to consider a different reality–one where size is relative and small changes can have a huge impact. True sustainability is ultimately a carefully achieved balance between commerce, humanity, and the environment.

Project Earth Day challenges the next generation of designers to survey the current landscape and reevaluate the way they think about environment and development. Bigger does not necessarily equal better [—]. We know that without sacrificing creativity, innovation is happening and today’s designers are continuing to find new sustainable solutions to old problems.”

I left this eco-fashion fête uplifted and inspired by the evening’s wonderful creations (and somewhat tipsy from the champagne bellinis), pondering an age-old conundrum; why are there never enough gift bags?

Photos by: Johanna Björk. More here

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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