April 29, 2010

Green is Always Fashionable

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When most of us think high fashion, we think classy, sleek and extravagant. For anyone who was lucky enough to see Cornell Design League’s spring fashion show, it was just that.

Although class and extravagance may be traits many students have come to expect of CDL fashions, “eco-friendliness” is an attribute not so frequently associated with the group’s shows. Nonetheless, Antebellum collection mastermind and design extraordinaire Sarah Wilson ’10, made sure that she did her part to bring an eco-friendly attitude to this year’s designs.

Wilson, who studies fiber science and apparel design management, is the only one of CDL’s seniors who is not a design major. In her field of study, she focuses not only fashion, but also the textiles and fabrics that create each look.

Sarah has been seeing green since last summer when she began working on the sketches for her spring 2010 designs last summer.

“I used eco-friendly materials for my line,” Wilson said, “because I am interested in the whole idea of sustainability. I believe it can be applied to anything, fashion included.” In our consumer society, she says that people need to understand the consequences of their waste and the options available for reuse and recycling.

After learning about the sustainable efforts of a textile company in her Design and Environmental Analysis class, Sarah had an idea. The company, Valley Forge Fabrics, is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and creates its fashionable textiles from synthetic yarns derived from pre-consumer and post- consumer recycled products — all while maintaining the highest sense of product fashion.

“I really took an interest [in] this idea of sustainability,” Sarah said, “and didn’t see why runway fashion shouldn’t be included, too.”

Fortunately, Valley Forge agreed, generously shipping her multiple bolts of fabric. Although the company’s fabrics are intended for upholstery, Wilson creatively utilized the eco-friendly textiles for her dress designs. “It was definitely an honor not only to have the sponsorship, but also the trust from the company,” she said.

Fashion has been a lifelong interest for her — ever since her mother taught her how to sew. During her high school years, Wilson began seriously contemplating a career in fashion design. She said, “At one point I was determined to make my own prom dress — and I did.”

As to the inspiration behind her latest success in the Spring CDL Fashion Show — her Antebellum collection — Wilson noted: “The focus of my line was to juxtapose the soft with the rigid,” Sarah noted. She used a variety of shapes and achieved the effect of  extreme volume by using of wire to create a mini hoop skirt and elaborate collar. The sustainable materials were often a bit trickier to work with from a design standpoint, but Sarah embraced the challenge wholeheartedly, grateful for the opportunity from Valley Forge.

Sarah noted that Valley Forge keeps a count on their website for the number of plastic bottles saved from a landfill through their renewable efforts. Twenty-five plastic bottles can be made into one yard of fresh fabric, which equates to 2,434,325 bottles saved to date. So next time you finish your drink, “Don’t just throw away the bottle,” says Sarah, “I encourage people to recycle, because I think ‘Hey, I can make a dress out of that.’”  RLD

Original Author: Alice Cope