The first green fashion design I ever recall taking part of was in the 1990’s, during the Boston Marathon. I was stranded in my home due to the massive crowds that lined the streets, and becoming increasingly bored as I waited for a friend to come over to watch the race with me. I dug deep into my closet to pick out two of my favorite (read ratty and worn to the edge of oblivion) button down shirts. Inch by inch I sewed them together and by the time my friend got to my house, I had a fantastic new dress to wear with my black tights and Doc Martens to watch the marathon. I’m writing about this experience because I’ve been doing some research, based on some great feedback from a writer friend in order to better educate you, dear reader, on some of the much-needed background of eco-fashion materials/history. This is a large undertaking, which will require a great deal of research, so along the way I wanted to share some of the interesting takes on the topic that others have published.
I found this article, that New York Times writer, Alice Rawsthorn published earlier this month on The Toxic Side of Being, Literally, Green. I found it to be a refreshing approach to the history of the green movement and wanted to share her interesting perspective with you. In Rawsthorn’s article, she notes that “The cruel truth is that most forms of the color green, the most powerful symbol of sustainable design, aren’t ecologically responsible, and can be damaging to the environment.” Thus, the very symbol we have long chosen to identify as environmentally sound, is in actuality literally toxic to produce.
Those of you that have been doing anything eco will no doubt sit back in your seat and breathe the “of course” sigh. As we have experienced, it is rare that performing an in-depth background check on any industrially produced objects can indeed yield a bit of a disappointment. Sometimes it’s a less favorable production practice, other times it’s a partnership with some type of non- sustainably sound action that is harmful to the earth or society. Rawsthorn’s article is a good reminder that there is a need for a fully examined history of the products and practices we are calling green. This is not a call to limit the scope and abilities of what can be done, or render us helpless in the sea of fact checking. It is amazing that so many good people each day are coming up with new ways to green their practices and revolutionize the way that the clothes we wear, the food we consume, and the air that we breathe is only promoting our health and well-being. Rather, it is a call to be inspired by the noble words of Henry David Thoreau, when he wrote, ” In the long run you hit only what you aim at. Therefore, though you should fail immediately, you had better aim at something high.”
I look forward to hearing your comments on this issue and please check back for further Remembering the Origins of Eco Fashion series.