Posted in communication and networking, design and architecture

Environmental Fashion?

ScienceNews: COPENHAGEN —  The United Nations climate change conference may be over, but Denmark’s interest in climate-protection issues isn’t. Case in point: an exhibit at the Danish Design Center. Across the street from Copenhagen’s famed Tivoli Gardens, local fashion-design students are showcasing their idea of another type of greens – fashion-forward clothes that are kind to Mother Nature.

The students had been invited to compete in a program that asked them to explore the idea of sustainable clothing.

A guiding premise: People don’t dress just for functionality – remaining warm or cool, modest or eye-popping. They tend to change their look, push the envelope of what is interesting or conventional. The result tends to be fads: fashion with a limited life. Buying often and wearing each piece not so often can be resource intensive. But does it have to be? That was one of the questions explored by a number of designers.

Indeed, some probed the idea of how to make short-lived items environmentally acceptable. Or how to get more than one look from a single item. Or how to work with wastes, scraps that would ordinarily be landfilled or burned.

As an intellectual exercise, who couldn’t appreciate at least the idea of pushing the fashion envelope in hopes of sparing the planet? Most of the actual clothes did not, however, appeal to my aesthetic (as in, I would NEVER wear them). Then again, I’m not the 20-something demographic these designers were targeting. And I must admit, the items they assembled were certainly no stranger than many of the togs developed on one of my favorite, guilty-pleasure reality shows: Project Runway

Some designers focused on natural fibers. Others tailored their designs out of what would normally be waste – from the discarded PET plastics used in milk bottles to the pieces of fabric normally left on the proverbial cutting room floor (those tiny or odd shaped leftovers from the yardage used to make conventional fashions).

Several selected materials that could be composted in the yard. And not just with the goal of improving the soil.

For instance, seeded into one set of baby-doll lingerie (dyed with turmeric and made from natural fibers) were – well seeds. The idea being that when the outfit was no longer in fashion or had seen better days, its owner could plant it. A few months later, what had been sheer, ruffled nightwear would now be the underpinnings of a rose garden. Explain the designers (Louise Bønsøe Dreyer, Pamela Pedersen and Nanna Tangaa Hansen), “By planting seeds that will grow into flowers, release oxygen and new seeds, we have created a positive environmental circle.”



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.