By Bianca Alexander
2011 is only half way over and already it has been a record year for conscious fashion.
For starters, color is back in a major way. Not long ago, the book on style began and ended with the elegant and oh-so-predictable LBD (little black dress), required reading as a simple cure-all for every fashion occasion. By contrast, this year’s designers are mixing cool metallic fibers with an out of the ordinary spectrum of cobalt blues, tribal tangerines and royal magentas. This expanded color palette offers modern fashionistas more authentic means of self-expression, allowing them to reflect a more complex continuum of mood and emotion through their personal style choices.
At last, it seems that runways are also becoming more diverse. In the days before Beverly Johnson and Naomi Campbell, it was almost unheard of for ethnic-looking women to have a presence on haute couture runways. Though the fashion industry still falls short of reflecting the diversity of the world from which it draws inspiration, today supermodels like Alex Wek, Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn and Anais Mali are gracing couture catwalks from Paris to Milan—and occasionally covers of international fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle & W.
And just when you thought they were finally put to rest, the roaring 70’s are back for yet another round. With environmental decimation lurking over our heads and the U.S. now at war with over 45 countries, the socio-political culture of 2011 is reminiscent of the Vietnam era. Under this historical backdrop, ideals of peace and environmental sustainability are also back by popular demand, along with new notions of gender and racial equality. Fashionably speaking, as a child of the ‘70s, I’ve gladly re-incorporated bell bottoms, platform shoes and afros into my look, and designers seem to be doing the same. Brands like Yves Saint Laurent
and their New Vintage line are re-mastering 70’s silhouettes with cleaner finishes and eco tie-dying processes, bringing a chic edge and added longevity to what seems to be a never-say-die decade.
But by far the fashion highlight of the year has been the rise of sustainable fashion. Though conscious fashion became increasingly popular with stars like Bono (whose wife launched Edun, a high end eco-fair trade line sold at Barney’s), it has had little to no measurable impact on the mainstream garment industry. Until now. This year, some big box stores--often criticized for manufacturing cheap sweatshop clothing with a high cost to human life and the planet--have launched more responsible lines, like H & M’s “Conscious Collection” made from recycled fabrics, organic cotton and renewable materials like tencel.
This year also marked the launch of Runway to Green
, an initiative designed to foster environmental awareness and pair top designers with eco-causes. The kick-off was held at the second annual Bid to Save the Earth
event, held this spring at Christie’s New York. Produced by the editors of Vogue
, the event welcomed a well-heeled crowd of philanthropists, designers, and A-list fashionistas (eco-supermodel Angela Lindvall, Zoe Kravitz and actress Diane Kruger were in the house, among others).
Upon arriving at the event wearing a kelly green polymorphic dress by 71 Jules
, I went with the flow and took my husband Michael’s hand, following him up carpeted stairs to the second level and event floor. A small, well-mannered crowd formed a queue at the entrance to a side door. We followed suit, and within seconds unwittingly found ourselves back stage side by side with none other than Anna Wintour (editor of Vogue) and celebrity make-up artist Pat McGrath. Later, we found our seats amidst a standing room only crowd and the fundraising began. The auction, emceed by comedian Seth Myers, included amazing gifts like a trip to Paris for a personal fitting and shopping spree at Chanel, a flight with Harrison Ford on his private plane, and a four star food and wine lovers’ vacation to Italy. With bids ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 a pop, the auction and retail event on net-a-porter.net raised nearly $4.3 million for four of the world’s leading, science-based environmental nonprofits including: Oceana, National Resources Defense Council, Central Park Conservancy and Conservation International.
Bianca Alexander wearing 71 Jules
, Michelle Harper
Afterwards, guests were treated to a delicious preview of Fall 2011 haute couture looks by top designers like Rachel Roy, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Tory Burch, all set amidst a runway backdrop of luscious green foliage. My personal favorite—sadly one of the few 100% sustainable looks presented on the catwalk—was a cozy colorblock dress by Stella McCartney
made from orange organic wool and alpaca. Though notably fashion forward, most of the garments showcased were disappointingly far from “eco”. Notwithstanding, Runway to Green represented a significant step in the right direction: all of the designers featured committed to investigating how to incorporate more sustainable manufacturing practices as set forth by the National Resource Defense Council’s Clean by Design
initiative. The evening concluded with a surprise performance by Billboard charting Nikki Minaj, who wore a two-foot tall green and white wig a la Marie Antoinette. Like her wig, the event evoked the spirit of the burgeoning green style revolution—and how it translates to wider, more mainstream audiences.
2012 has been predicted by many as the year our world will make a “shift” in consciousness. Looking back at the year of fashion in 2011, it looks like the shift has already begun.
For the latest trends in eco-fashion, check out the Conscious Living TV style page