Boston Fashion Week: ICA First Fridays – Fall Fashion

As Boston Fashion Week starts to wrap up, I brought two of my colleagues to the Institute of Contemporary Art’s First Friday Event – a monthly event included in my membership – which was fashion-themed this month.  The lobby turns into a lounge where guests can turn in a drink ticket for a beer or cocktail from a sponsoring brand – this time it was Boston-based Harpoon – and mingle while checking out the changing lobby exhibition which is usually gargantuan in size.

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The galleries, café and gift shop are open during the entire event (no food or drink up in the galleries though).  After a quick tour of the new temporary exhibits (my friends were not impressed), we headed to the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater for the main event.  First there was a clip from the Artist Talk series with Proenza Schouler, which had taken place the week before, talking about how they got started in fashion.  Next, Boston Globe style columnist Christopher Muther gave a talk accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation about fall fashion trends.  Eh.

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After this was the “alternative” fashion show from Louis Boston.  The shades on the windows of the theater (which I didn’t even know were there) were raised opening up a 270˚ view of the harbor which was fantastic.  Out came seeming non-models to EDM who one-by-one walked aggressively/weirdly down the catwalk showing some edgy streetwear-type clothing.  I suppose the “alternative” part truly came when they all reappeared and broke into dance – and then we realized they were dancers rather than models and the way they had been previously walking now made sense with that context.

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It was alright but each segment of this presentation seemed unrelated so the audience was left looking at each other quizzically at the breaks.  Last year’s was better when they showed outfits with an MC who gave commentary.

My ensemble for the evening consisted of 3 used Ebay purchases and a recycled-materials hand bag. I paired DKNY camo skinny jeans with a raw-edged tweed Banana Republic blazer.

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For accessories, I wore the Cole Haan Sawyer short boots previously mentioned and the Francisca Pop Top Evening Bag by Escama Studios handmade from recycled aluminum can pull tabs by an artist cooperative in Brazil.

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Boston Fashion Week: Girls Night Out Eco-Fashion Show

On Thursday night, Davis Square eco-boutique What’s-Nü co-hosted a fashion show with online retailer Nancy’s Gone Green.  Brands highlighted included Ethos Paris, Lur, Echo Verde and Groceries.  What’s-Nü opened up last year and sells men’s and women’s clothing by independent designers that they partner with, along with select other eco-friendly brands.  Nancy’s Gone Green is run by a mother-daughter team and sells sustainable brands as well as vintage clothing.

The racks in the store were pushed aside to make a runway for the two models (apparently 3 others were no shows!) to show off mainly dresses and accessories for the small group of onlookers gathered.  Like the Sustainable Fashion Collaborative, the greatest utility I get out of such an event – besides friendly chatter with like-minded consumers – is picking up names of retailers and brands for the next time I go shopping.  (Apologize for the quality of photos – forgot my usual camera and had to make due with my phone’s bad camera.)

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Boston Fashion Week: Saelvage – Sustainably Fashioned

On Sunday evening I attended the launch event of the Sustainable Fashion Collaborative (SFC) at the Urbano Project in Jamaica Plain.  The organization plans to provide a platform for discussions about sustainability in the fashion industry and connect the various players – designers, sellers, buyers – with each other.  Called Saelvage: Sustainably Fashioned, the event showed examples of sustainable fashion from a few local designers alongside exhibits with environmental and ethical messages about the garment industry.  The purpose of the exhibit was described as follows:

“The Sustainable Fashion Collaborative of Boston launches with this exhibition of eco-fashion and offers a deeper look at what it means to be sustainable.  Featuring the creations of Boston-based designers GeorgAnnette Chatterly, Lallitara, MULXIPLY, Amy Plante, Ellen Shea, Avni Trivedi and Carlos Villamil.  Highlighted alongside each piece is the sustainably-conscious message of each designer.
The garments represented showcase a variety of methods used for addressing sustainability, such as zero-waste pattern making, upcycled materials, the use of organic and other eco-friendly fabrics, multi-functional design, fair and ethically sound labor conditions, as well as natural dying, and “slow fashion” methods.  The exhibit looks through two lenses at sustainability: “how” designers choose to work with materials, as well as “why” it is relevant to both the consumer and designer alike.”

There was a great selection of mostly-vegetarian appetizers to munch on as well as Peak Organic beers.  Some of the reclaimed designs look a bit hodge-podge but I did really like Lallitara’s upcycled sari dresses and accessories.  The side exhibits about things like waste and how bottles become fleece were woven well into the fashion displays and had good information.  I was happy to come away with some local names to check out for my next shopping trip!

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People Tree: Sustainable and Ethical UK Brand

My local alumni association – the Simmons Club of Boston – held its annual meeting on campus which included a brunch and tour of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  On the hunt for something lady-like and autumnal, I came across the Blue Phoebe Bow Dress from People Tree.

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It is a cotton flannel material, hand-woven in Bangladesh.  I received many compliments on this dress!  I purchased it from ModCloth which stocks clothing and accessories from a lot of sustainable brands, though not exclusively.  Asos also sells People Tree items.  For a very reasonable £5 you can have something shipped international directly from People Tree’s UK website.

As a company, People Tree’s mission is to source and employ in the developing world according to Fair Trade standards as a way to improve the lives of workers who would not normally have such opportunities in their countries and protect the local environment as well.  The company is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) which requires 10 standards of practice including no child labor, non-discrimination and respect for the environment.  The dress I purchased had a label that just said 100% cotton, however on the company website they indicate that most of their cotton is organic and Fairtrade.  Additionally they say they use natural dyes, try to source materials locally where available and ship by sea to reduce carbon emissions.  There is a lot of information on the company website about their practices including a story about their artisans in Bangladesh who use traditional methods.  They have had a couple nice collaborations as well including with actress Emma Watson and designer Zandra Rhodes.

The turnout for the Simmons Club meeting was a bit lower than I thought it would be.  The club president told me of her struggles to increase membership and event participation which is a shame because there are a lot of grads in the area and the more involvement, the more money is raised for an annual scholarship.  I proposed an idea for a holiday party partnership with Coats For Kids and await their response.  While providing a social service for local kids (and adults), this is an inherently sustainable charity.  Used coats get reused by someone in need with the help of Anton’s Cleaners, a dry cleaning chain with a commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

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