seeking & creating : researching & discovering : applying & practicing

sustainability in design = changing mindsets + deeds

Monday, January 31, 2011

Greentailing: the books of change

By Justin Doak
October 12, 2010
From DDIOnline

If you’re like me, when fall comes around, it’s back to the books.  Ever since Rachel Carson’s classic release of “Silent Spring” in 1962, the environmental movement has continued to build momentum—birthing new thought leaders and innovations in 
sustainability. With this movement comes some provocative books, many of which have been the root of change for many of the sustainability icons in the industry today.  

If you are looking to enhance your sustainability knowledge or are ready to take a dive into some books that might change the way you think, just as they did for me, I’m here to make your search easy.  

I’ve created a list of the sustainability classics, as well as some of the more recent titles that are retail-focused, capturing best practices in our industry over the past few years.

As you travel home this fall, bear the cold or watch the first snow, hunker down with one of these in book, nook or iPad form. Enjoy!

Classic books that have shaped the sustainability movement:

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, 1962 (Read online)
(Amazon link)

“The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability” by Paul Hawken, 1994

“Mid-Course Correction - Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model” by Ray C. Anderson, 1999

“Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine M. Benyus, 2002

“Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, 2002

“Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution” by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, 2008

“Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth” by Ray C. Anderson, 2009

Retail- and business-focused sustainability books:

“The Next Sustainability Wave: Building Boardroom Buy-in” by Bob Willard, 2005

“The Retail Green Agenda: Sustainable Practices for Retailers and Shopping Centers” by Rudolph E. Milian, 2008

“Sustainable Retail Development: New Success Strategies” by Jerry Yudelson, 2009


Justin Doak
Founder, Ecoxera – Green Business Strategy for Retail
Send green retail questions to

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Uniform Project's Sheena Matheiken speaks at TEDxDubai

TEDxDubai 2010| Sheena Matheiken from Giorgio Ungania on Vimeo.

Always an inspiration, it is intriguing to see how The Uniform Project develops beyond this "showcasing personal styling for a cause/charity" model. Also incredibly heartening is the viability of crowd-sourced funding for entrepreneurial creatives, e.g. Kickstarter.

And well worth a peep is the work of Eliza Starbuck, the designer of the very first/original classic LBD for the The Uniform Project, who has since has started her own eco-fashion label, Bright Young Things, which seems destined for greatness at the moment!

So...Is there a sustainable, socially/culturally responsible business operations model out there which independent fashion creatives can apply?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Donna Karan Speaks at Parsons The New School for Design

Lots of valid and valuable ideas, opinions, and a great sense of holistic thoughfulness from this fashion industry power player...

Sustainable Fashion Report - London

First episode of “Sustainable Fashion Report” presents key people, brands and organisations shaping the UK capital’s ethical fashion industry.

Sustainable Fashion Report - London from Lima Charlie on Vimeo.

Interesting insight into the consumer consciousness maturation cycle in the sustainable fashion movement; this takes into consideration how far ahead the movement has come in Europe versus the rest of the world...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Challenges and Solutions in Sustainable Fashion: Guest Lectures @ The New School NY

Click "Watch Full Program" to view the lecture (it is over 2 hours long) in its entirety.

Speakers' profiles:

Alice Demirjian

Alice Demirjian received her Bachelors Degree in Apparel Marketing from The University of Massachusetts. Her Masters of Science Degree in Fashion Studies with a Marketing Concentration from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
She has published a research study for apparel manufacturers and retailers on how to target young adults termed 'Gen Y'. Ms Demirjian is a Visual Specialist at Reebok International, coordinating and executing a visual merchandising and marketing program. She directed large-scale nationwide event; 'The Reebok Product Experience'.
While completing her graduate degree, she worked in merchandising at Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia for the women's buying team. Director of Marketing at DPI, 2000, an event and advertising agency. Worked on creative campaigns and focused on developing marketing opportunities while cultivating new channels for business. Ms Demirjian currently teaches full time at Parsons while working on freelance marketing projects, consulting and visual merchandising.

Julie Gilhart

As fashion director of the most forward-thinking big store in the city, Julie Gilhart is responsible for feeding customers a constant diet of the new and lust-worthy. She does this by trekking to designers' studios and then championing those she thinks have the proper balance of real design skill and luxury. She's promoted Alber Elbaz (now a star at Lanvin after a rocky few years), Proenza Schouler, Olivier Theyskens, Goyard, and Project Alabama, to name a few. And with Barneys expanding across the country, Gilhart's effect is going national.

Scott Hahn

Scott Hahn is the Co-founding Partner of Loomstate, a cutting-edge fashion label offering organic denim jeans located in the United States.

Helen Job

Helen Job is currently the US Editor for, the leading global trend forecasting service providing online research, trend analysis and industry news to the fashion, design and style industries. As US Editor, Helen directs coverage of the influential youth/junior market ages 8-24. She also works with a firm network of style setters and taste-makers throughout the industry to predict future trends in fashion, music, sport, and entertainment.
In addition, Helen speaks with people behind the business of fashion. From CEOs to sales reps, Helen works with them all to better understand the market from all angles. Originally from the UK, Helen came to New York in 2004 with a background in consumer fashion magazines and four years of trend tracking at WGSN headquarters under her belt.
Her expertise is widely recognized and she has been featured as a trends expert in international publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fashion Week daily, Star Girl, Bliss, and Shout magazines and has appeared on ABC and NBC news. Helen is also a professor on the Fashion Marketing AAS programme at Parsons School of Design.

Marci Zaroff

Marci Zaroff possesses a unique blend of commitment, compassion, business expertise, aggressive enthusiasm and timely experience. In addition to being the creative inspiration of Under the Canopy, Ms. Zaroff currently oversees and/or manages design, merchandising, strategic development, marketing, media and operations. She is an internationally respected expert and lecturer in the areas of organic food and fiber, a committed yoga practitioner, an artist, a devoted wife and the proud mother of two children.
Marci has been involved in the natural products industry for over 18 years. Having earned a finance and marketing degree from the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, she spent six years as a licensed financial manager while creating a natural/organic foods catering service. She then founded and ran Gulliver's Inc. in midtown Manhattan, a living and learning center with a retail store, an Aveda Concept Spa and salon and an organic foods cafe.
She was also the publisher and chief editor of Macrocosm Magazine, a 92-page national bi-monthly wellness publication, and the founder of Sierra Natural Resources, an international exporter of natural products and services. These entities supplied health and environmental education and awareness to hundreds of thousands of people.
As Ms. Zaroff's reputation in the natural products, organic and health industries grew and she received continuous inquiries about her products and services, she recognized the need and desire for modern, comfortable, stylish and sophisticated apparel, bedding and accessories made from sustainable materials. This led Marci to create an upscale lifestyle brand of those products.
Early in 1996, she coined and trademarked the term "ECOfashion®" and the concept of Under the Canopy® was born. Marci Zaroff has been recognized as a pioneer of organic fiber fashion, understanding and reflecting the ideal "new mainstream." Through Under the Canopy®'s national mail order catalog, web site, wholesale and private development channels of distribution, Ms. Zaroff has revolutionized organic fashion and has demonstrated that quality, great fit, style, comfort, purity, luxury and modern aesthetics need not be at the expense of social and environmental responsibility.
As a leading expert in the organic fiber fashion movement, Ms. Zaroff has taught countless courses on organic fibers. She is a member of the Organic Trade Association's Organic Fiber Council Steering Committee defining the standards for organic fiber certification.
Marci also is an active participant and spokesperson in the global Organic Exchange, a worldwide collaboration committed to propelling the organic fiber industry forward. Ms. Zaroff is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, Coop America, Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Organic Trade Association.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

BETWEEN THE FOLDS - Origami mania!

Possibly the most inspiring film I have ever seen...something to add to the DVD library, for sure. Plus it's multiple-award-winning, and one can see why. Now to hunt it down...

THIS was what began my papercraft craze.

And then, as if this inspiration tsunami is not enough...we see the return of Issey Miyake himself! 
What a marvellous revival of handmade artforms, now turbo-boosted by technology to morph a relatively simple idea into an amazing object of beauty.

(Sidenote: Miyake could be considered the original master of modern and completely functional 2D-to-3D-to-2D origami garments. As an example, PLEATS PLEASE products are still cult and coveted, even considered timeless classics now. And that was...2 decades ago!  Now was he also a true eco-futurist, considering his preference for infinitely recyclable, mouldable, sculptable polyester? Anti-synthetic fibre advocates will disagree, and, despite its potential for cradle to cradle manufacturing, polyester is still perceived as uncomfortable and unsafe. Food for thought, and for further research and development.)

Issey Miyake's new 132 5 collection, developed with Reality Lab, is created from 1 piece of cloth and transforms from 3D to 2D, and can be worn various ways (I am guessing...5?). How many boxes have been ticked off here? A zero-waste approach, utilising recycled PET polyester, which is also recyclable, multifunctional transformer-garments with an incredible heritage and story, therefore greatly desirable...a lot of eco-design ground seems to have been covered here!
The Google Translate version of the exhibition review, which isn't perfect English, but you'll get the gist of it.

So here's a success formula already out-to-market, now all we have to look into is labour, ethics, garment care, water-use, carbon footprint, social and cultural responsibility, supply chain, and of course, the cost...*grunt* let me just fold this bit of paper for now...

Friday, January 21, 2011

PODCAST with Holly McQuillan & Timo Rissanen

From the Center for Pattern Design's (or CFPD) excellent January 2011 newsletter "the Cutting Edge"

CFPD is an incredibly all-rounded resource, also offering rare extremely vintage out-of-print pattern-making books from as early as the late 1800s, the 1920s, and so forth; catering to to perhaps the more hard-core pattern-making peeps among us!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Family Reunion

Finally all the Mutant Baby Doilies are together again.
It's a totally wicked family reunion party!

They are "the Evil Eleven"...
We had fun giving each of them quirky names. (Allison's good at spontaneous naming ceremonies.)

The How-to Recipe can be found in a previous post: be continued...

Excellent Excerpts from Cradle to Cradle; Part 1

Yes, I have finally finished the book! Check out these selected brain-pinching bits particularly relevant to fashion people. The key lies in your inclination for change, methinks, and whether or not you believe this kind of deep-seated foundational change is worth the preliminary sacrifices of time, effort, and resources.

Also, as a designer, what sort of world do you want to leave to your children and other descendants of the human race (and other living things), and do you really care enough to commit to and undertake this depth of seriousness and responsibility in your fashion design and business practice?

Food for thought indeed.

From Chapter 4: "Waste Equals Food", pg 105 - 108

In the early 1990s the two of us were asked by DesignTex, a division of Steelcase, to conceive and create a compostable upholstery fabric, working with the Swiss textile mill Rohner. We were asked to focus on creating an aesthetically unique fabric that was also environmentally intelligent. DesignTex first proposed that we consider cotton combined with PET (polyethylene terephthalate) fibers from recycled soda bottles. What could be better for the environment, they thought, than a product that combined a "natural" material with a "recycled" one? Such hybrid material had the additional apparent advantages of being readily available, market-tested, durable, and cheap.

But when we looked carefully at the potential long-term design legacy, we discovered some disturbing facts. First, as we have mentioned, upholstery abrades during normal use, and so our design had to allow for the possibility that particles might be inhaled or swallowed. PET is covered with synthetic dyes and chemicals and contains other questionable substances - not exactly what you would breathe or eat. Furthermore, the fabric would not be able to continue after its useful life as either a technical or biological nutrient. The PET would not go back into the soil safely, and the cotton could not be circulated in industrial cycles. The combination would be yet another monstrous hybrid, adding junk to a landfill, and it might also be dangerous. This was not a product worth making.

...The team decided to design a fabric that would be safe enough to eat: it would not harm people who breathed it in, and it would not harm natural systems after its would nourish nature.

The textile mill that was chosen to produce the fabric was quite clean by accepted environmental standards, one of the best in Europe, yet it had an interesting dilemma. Although the mill's director, Albin Kaelin, had been diligent about reducing levels of dangerous emissions, government regulators had recently defined the mill's fabric trimmings as hazardous waste. The director had been told that he could no longer bury or burn these trimmings in hazardous waste incinerators in Switzerland but had to export them to Spain for disposal. (Note the paradoxes here: the trimmings of a fabric are not to be buried or disposed of without expensive precaution, or must be exported "safely" to another location, but the material itself can still be sold as safe for installation in an office or home.) We hoped for a different fate for our trimmings: to provide mulch for the local garden club, with the help of sun, water, and hungry microorganisms.

The mill interviewed people living in wheelchairs and discovered that their most important needs in seating fabric were that it be strong and that it "breathe". The team decided on a mixture of safe, pesticide-free plant and animal fibers for the fabric: wool, which provides insulation in winter and summer, and ramie, which wicks moisture away. Together these fibers would make for a strong and comfortable fabric. Then we began working on the most difficult aspect of the design: the finishes, dyes, and other process chemicals. Instead of filtering out mutagens, carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, persistent toxins, and bioaccumulative substances at the end of the process, we would filter them out at the beginning. In fact, we would go beyond designing a fabric that would do no harm; we would design one that was nutritious.

Sixty chemical companies declined the invitation to join the project, uncomfortable at the idea of exposing their chemistry to the kind of scrutiny it would require. Finally one European company agreed to join. With its help, we eliminated from consideration almost eight thousand chemicals that are commonly used in the textile industry; we also thereby eliminated the need for additives and corrective processes. Not using a given dye, for example, removed the need for additional toxic chemicals and processes to ensure ultraviolet-light stabilization (colourfastness)...We ended up selecting only thirty eight...(for) the entire fabric line. What might seem like an expensive and laborious research process turned out to solve multiple problems and to contribute to a higher-quality product that was ultimately more economical.

The fabric went into production...regulators came on their rounds and tested the water coming out of the factory...(and) could not identify any pollutants, not even elements they knew were in the water when it came into the factory...the water coming out of the factory was...even cleaner than the water going in...(Meaning that the water could then be cycled into use again in the factory.)

...The process had additional positive side effects. Employees began to use, for recreation and additional work space, rooms that were previously reserved for hazardous chemical storage. Regulatory paperwork was eliminated. Workers stopped wearing the gloves and masks that had given them a thin veil of protection against workplace toxins. The mill's products became so successful that it faced a new problem: financial success, just the kind of problem businesses want to have.

And the fabric product that resulted from this project can be found here:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Construction Inspiration: Kirigami Papercraft

Papercraft has totally invaded my brain...not only inspirational, but also easy, simple, harkens back to childhood, and so much fun!
Cut-out chains of little horses for a store window backdrop-hanging (with a Spring Racing Theme) are transformed into a fascinating ornament with staples:

Recycle Republic - I work here.

Of course, there are heaps are resources online to inspire and guide you. The one site that got me going was Golics' channel on metacafe, which sort of makes one tempted to replace or cover all the ordinary lampshades in the house with kirigami structures. The moveable transforming 3D paper toys are amazing!

Experimentation with kirigami (beyond snowflakes and pop-up cards) can be a challenging exercise in mathematical precision and structural engineering, especially when attempting mobile, modular, 3D objects.

Of course, the art of kirigami easily lends inspiration to fantastic garment construction possibilities, which brings to mind the zero-waste cutting techniques of Mark Liu

Read more about this pioneer in Inhabitat's as well as Ecouterre's coverage of his impressive work

Even more exciting are the possibilities of combining origami and kirigami - folding, cutting and modular construction techniques, all based on simple geometrical shapes. Here are methods applicable towards the reduction of fabric waste, as well as utilising scrap/remnents/discarded pieces, all while you create animated new 3D structures from 2D materials and push the boundaries of convention in garment design...FUN.