(Zoe Goes Green)
The Most Sustainable Brands At NYFW Spring/Summer 2023
Rising stars and perennial favorites.
The global stage of New York Fashion week kicks off a month-long biannual seasonal showcase driving where the future of style is heading. And while the infectious energy of the shows, events, and parties is palpable both in-person and from what’s shown on social media, the industry still has a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to its carbon footprint. Sustainability in the fashion industry is unavoidable in the future, and it’s worth celebrating and calling out, in a good way. CEO of the CFDA (the organization acts as a gatekeeper to who gets a coveted spot on the official NYFW schedule) Steven Kolb shared his excitement about designers putting environmentally conscious practices first in a statement to TZR.
“From upcycled to organic materials, locally to artisan made, one-of-a-kind pieces to environmentally conscious show production, intimate in-person presentations, and digital formats on Runway360, designers are threading impact into every step of their creative process,” says Kolb ahead of the September shows. To that end, below you’ll find a round up of New York-based brands — from old favorites to buzzy fresh faces — who have boldly answered the call for a greener future in fashion this season.
Designer Erin Beaty (formerly of the beloved line Suno) was inspired to create a solution to the volume of discarded textiles she witnessed over her career. Using vintage clothing, deadstock fabric and a zero-waste model for design, she created Rentrayage in 2019. The unfussy, everyday pieces are loaded with character. As the label enters its 9th season (and has an upcoming collaboration with Madewell) fans can no doubt count on it for interesting fabric pairings and extremely wearable silhouettes.
For the past decade, Angel Chang has worked in the mountains of Guizhou, China developing a zero-carbon collection produced without using electricity by the hands of indigenous artisans there. Her designs are the manifestation of the environment in which they are created: quiet in their simplicity and (symbolically) as monumental as the terrain. For a designer to go to such lengths to ensure an extremely pure process is remarkable, and something we all can learn from.
The designer of her namesake line has long been vocal and transparent about her brand’s commitment to sustainability. With use of some repurposed and natural materials, the brand has also made strides in other areas of the business including producing a carbon neutral fashion show, plastic-free packaging and building new stores and pop-ups with conscious construction in mind.
A staple amongst downtown creatives, Collina Strada has thrived by authentically forging its own path and gathering likeminded devotees along for the ride. Staying true to the brand’s mission of social and environmental mindfulness, designer Hillary Taymour has previously collaborated with The OR Foundation to source from the Kantamanto secondhand market for materials. This season, the label will be collaborating with 3D printed, made-to-order Unspun denim, which we’re sure will include a whimsical twist Collina Strada is known for.
Co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, Studio 189 is an African-made brand that supports an infrastructure of manufacturing and retail in Accra, Ghana’s capital. The line comes together with help from local craftsmen using traditional African techniques such as kente weaving and Bogolanfini Mudcloth with recycled materials as well as organic cotton, pineapple leather and tencel, treated with low-impact and natural dyes. This season, Studio 189 has been one of ten recipients of a grant from New York State’s Empire State Development to fund small businesses for their NYFW presentations.
On a mission to create a colorful and genderless streetwear using low impact methods, co-founders Ophelia Chen and Abi Lierheimer produce seasonal “drops” primarily made from deadstock fabric and Tencel. Already in Urban Outfitters stores, the brand has gained enough momentum to open their flagship store in Soho this week, where they will simultaneously present their latest collection. Get your wallets ready because they also plant 10 trees with One Tree Planted for every item sold.
Tommy Bogo’s small-batch and made-to-order line pushes and boundaries of workwear and streetwear, the majority of which is made from deadstock material sourced from secondhand and thrift stores. One of his signature design elements are multiple and removable pockets, ideal for preparedness in navigating through an ever-changing world. His footwear collaboration with Saucony debuted this summer, so sneakerheads and streetwear devotees are looking forward to his next move.
Black Boy Knits
The Brooklyn-based made-to-order and customizable line spins super colorful natural fibers in stripes and color-blocked designs using a hand-operated knitting machine. The brand ethos is to minimize overproduction but maximize inclusion, welcoming all sizes and genders to feel good while wearing the pieces. Designer Jacques Agbobly was just named the recipient of the 2022 DHL Logistics in Fashion Award in partnership with the CFDA, providing a grant to further develop the line.
The buzzy designer, whose pieces have been seen on Ariana Grande and Solange, has loftier goals for the line that’s already been picked up by SSENSE. The designer of her self-named line plans to develop a Milwaukee-based atelier and production facility with an arm of local collaboration of artisans in a scalable and sustainable American-made business model.
Imitation of Christ
Tara Subkoff’s brand Imitation of Christ, made famous in its early 00’s heyday by collaborators like Chloë Sevigny and Michel Gondry, will be showing its fifth season in its present-day reemergence from September 2020. The conceptual line is less about selling the collection (which consists of upcycled, one-off looks sold on TheRealReal with a charitable tie-in) and more about making a larger political or societal statement. Last season the clothes were entirely virtual, as Subkoff has been dipping a toe into the NFT game. Her collection this season is titled “Oil is Death” and aims to be a protest against pipeline development and the invitation boasts New York State Senator Julia Salazar and New York and New York State Senator-Elect Kristin Gonzalez as attendees.