The fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter after oil, and an estimated 14 million tons of clothing is thrown out in the U.S. alone. On top of that, large amounts of excess fabric is cast off by large-scale clothing producers. But where some see a crisis, dressmaker Christy Dawn Petersen sees an opportunity. The industry’s myriad problems have created a slow fashion niche for her boutique line.
The L.A.-based designer’s label, Christy Dawn, consists of dresses made with only dead-stock fabric: All material leftover from other fashion houses, and, as of this week, handbags. “There’s so much waste in creating fabric,” Peterson said. “We didn’t want to go and waste any more fabric, dye and water, and it was important for us to find a way to be environmentally friendly.”
Typically, the fabric she finds only stretches to create one or two individual dresses — never more than five — which means they don’t have a huge amount of inventory. “We may have 300 dresses; most retail stores would have thousands,” she said. “Traditionally they make fabric in China or India and usually buy 2000 yards minimum, then one or two styles are made with the exact same fabric.”
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While the designer has one LA based store, Peterson said a majority of the business (70 percent) is done through e-commerce as well as a handful of wholesale partnerships, with each piece ranging in price between $170 to upwards of $380.
Christy Dawn is not alone though. There are a number of examples of brands which aspire to sustainability: Svilu, a lux fashion label that uses organic fabrics; the Tom Cridland designed 30-year sweatshirt which is meant to last the span of three decades, and Reformation, an online retailer which on its website describes the impact of fashion.
Lacey Norton, head of retail at the technical apparel brand Kit and Ace, told the Glossy podcast this week that the fashion industry likes to convince itself of a lot of things, and said even with the best intentions, refining processes and reducing waste, she questioned whether fashion could ever truly be sustainable. And while there’s no single answer about how the fashion industry can become more sustainable, some companies are making their own efforts.
Ace&Jig, for example, creates its own textiles using hand dyed and woven yarn from a small family-owned business in India, and co-founder and designer, Jenna Wilson, said the idea behind the seven year old company is about making pieces that last.
“In the fashion industry there’s an element of pumping out clothing that feels disposable and it just goes to waste. We started with a concept of making closet favorites, something like an heirloom that people want to pass down.”
And Wilson said the notion of passing down, or passing on, in this example, is actually working, helped by Instagram (Ace&Jig has 43,000 followers).
“People aren’t disposing of pieces, when they don’t want them any longer, they’re trading it within #aceandjig,” she said. “People put up posts, ‘I’m not wearing it does someone want to trade?’ Nothing is getting cast aside.”