Sustainable Fashion at NYU

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Eco-fashion is more than just a growing trend; it is a lifestyle being adopted by many. Also known as sustainable fashion, eco-fashion brings together the fashion-conscious and the sustainability-conscious. 

Currently, the fashion and textile sectors are among the most harmful industries to the environment. Typically, fast fashion brands use unethical means to produce low-cost pieces, that negatively impact our planet. Even if you recycle all of your plastic, paper, and glass products, the amount of waste that comes from textiles still adds up. In 2015, 7.6 % of discarded clothing, furniture, carpets, foot wear, sheets,and towels were landfilled. That alone is 10.5 million tons of waste. Nowadays, people have turned to advocating for brands like Amour Vert, Reformation and Girlfriend Collective which create sustainably-designed products. But the retail prices of these brands can make them unfeasible on a student budget. Wondering how students then partake in sustainable fashion, NYU.FASHION reached out to students to get their input on sustainable fashion practices.

Paola Loy, an Urban Design and Environmental Science major at NYU, is a mentor within the EcoReps program. She recommends two methods for buying affordable goods with low carbon footprints: thrifting and attending seasonal sales for sustainable fashion brands.

“As a college student, I can’t buy everything from Reformation or any of those brands,” Paola, explains. “So when they do their big clear out sales, I buy a piece.”  She also mentions that thrifting lets you cultivate your own personal style and find unique pieces to add to your closet. “I always get compliments on things that I thrift versus things that I buy from chains.” 

Lilly Ferris, a graduated senior and the former president of Earth Matters at NYU, takes a slightly different perspective. “Sustainability is to make something last. To me, it’s slow fashion. I think the bottom line is that the best option is to thrift and buy used. All of the brands that are creating new clothing in sustainable ways are still reinforcing consumerism which, in itself, is not particularly sustainable.”  Lilly’s preferred ways to shop second-hand include sites like Depop, Poshmark and Relovv. For thrifting in person, she mentioned Housing Works, Cure, Monk and GoodWill. “I personally recommend doing it online, but it takes a little more time and a little more effort.” She explains. “The different apps [Depop, Poshmark and Relovv] have different demographics so it’s like different markets, and there is something that works for everybody.”

Lilly notes that “sustainable and ethical fashion is really picking up at NYU” adding that the history of sustainability on campus sprouted from student organizations. She herself is part of this movement. Lilly and the other executive board members of Earth Matters regularly put on clothing swaps, sustainable fashion summits, panels and thrift store crawls to create spaces where students who are already taking action in making ethical fashion choices can come together. They also create the space to introduce the concept of sustainable fashion to others and teach newcomers how to incorporate it into their lifestyles moving forward. 

Devin Gilmartin is another student leader spreading the word about sustainable fashion on campus. Gallatin student and president of the Future Fashion Group at NYU, he is also the cofounder of both the sustainable clothing brand Querencia Studio and The Canvas, a sustainability-focused retail company.

After graduating high school and spending a year studying fashion at the London College of Fashion, Devin met Tegan Maxey and the two began their project of working on bettering the uniforms of their high school in Eleuthera. This project laid the roots for Querencia Studio. 

Devin explains that the name Querencia Studio has two origins. The first, reminiscent of the time Devin and Tegan spent in Eleuthera and the second, a metaphor based on Ernest Hemingway's “Death In The Afternoon,” an impassioned tale of bullfighting. “The Querencia is where the bull goes to regain its strength before it attacks again.” Devin explains. “So it’s sort of a metaphor for where we see the fashion industry right now, which is in a place of weakness and a place of sort of destruction really. We need to take a step back and reassess our values and the way that we're operating as an industry in order to move forward.”

Speaking on his other project, Devin shares that The Canvas is a collection of sustainability-oriented spaces that focus on the curation of designers from around the world. The spaces facilitate artistic experiences and events that address the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals

“We really just try to do anything and everything we can to make sustainable fashion part of the larger conversation about the environment and climate change.” Devin said. “Because it does in fact play a role in the degradation that we're seeing and not a lot of people are aware of that.”

On campus, Devin is also active in advocating for sustainable and ethical fashion. He, along with Genevieve Carlson, Divya Moudgil and Lily Cohen, created the Future Fashion Group. The club was created specifically to focus on sustainable fashion and provide students with a network that is also striving to make a change in the industry. They initially set out to explore the concept of “fashion as a verb” which soon became their mantra.  They see fashion as more than just the clothing-- to them it’s a process. “When you fashion something, you are creating it, you're manifesting it,” Devin says. “So we want to expand the term fashion to incorporate any type of design that meets any type of creation, and we want to make sure that it is being done in a way that is responsible.”

The club began last year, but has since co-hosted a clothing swap in Union Square with Global Fashion Exchange, Fashion Revolution and The Ellen MacArthur foundation. In the future, they plan to host a panel at NYU to highlight a few leaders in sustainable fashion. 

On campus, NYU students are getting involved in progressing the sustainable fashion movement, and there are a variety of ways for newcomers to learn more about and engage in sustainable fashion. From donating unwanted clothes or joining one of the many environmental groups, it’s possible for all NYU students to start moving past fast fashion.

Written by: Marie-Louise Onga Nana, Staff Writer