I’m finally playing catch-up after returning to Paris from New York. One of my first stops back in New York happened to be a trip down to my alma mater, FIT, for their latest museum exhibit titled Eco-Fashion: Going Green. I attended a talk & tour of the exhibit with co-curator Colleen Hill who addressed six major themes explored in the eco-fashion movement. With over 100 garments on display from 1750-Present, the themes touched on: the repurposing and recycling of materials; material origins; textile dying and production; quality of craftsmanship; labor practices and the treatment of animals.
But wait, eco-fashion from the 1750s? We’ve been talking about eco and green heavily for less than 5 years, so 250 years ago seems like a stretch, does it not? I mean this is a museum exhibit so there’s got to be some history involved, but the span of eco-fashion over 250 years just seemed a bit too vast at first. Not so! The exhibit was in fact very well put together and dated back to 250 years ago for a reason. Not everything in the exhibit was eco-minded, in fact one dress was dyed with arsenic – indeed toxic to the wearer, a far stretch from eco. There were examples of repurposed garments, such as a 1935 man’s dressing gown made from a patchwork quilt, and 1990s repurposed Margiela items like a sweater made of socks. Of course the exhibit also touched upon some contemporary eco pioneers like Edun, as well as other designers that wouldn’t necessarily be considered eco, but employ sustainable practices. In the end, I found the garments from the past – eco or not – to be most relevant, in realizing what we’ve come from to make way for the new norm of eco-fashion today.