Photos by Patrick McMullan for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute
Last Friday evening, distinguished patrons filled the ground floor of New York’s IAC building for the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute’s inaugural “Innovation Celebration”. The institute is a nonprofit organization that certifies products based on the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Standard. Despite the fact that they had gathered to celebrate innovation across many product areas, from beauty products to building materials, the emphasis of the evening seemed assuredly to be on the launch of their “Fashion Positive Project” (toward which over $100,000 of the event’s proceeds will go).
As introduced by model Elettra Wiedemann, the Fashion Positive Project will work to create a large portfolio of certified “building block” materials to provide designers and manufacturers of apparel, footwear and accessories with better options for all production materials. And by materials we aren’t just talking fabric, but all materials needed to create items such as dyes, fibers, yarns, and trims.
The most exciting part is that the Institute is not taking the effort on alone. Instead, they believe this goal can only be accomplished as a coordinated effort and are building partnerships with design schools, companies, industry associations, and leaders in sustainable fashion like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Livia Firth’s Eco-Age consultancy recently joined the list of accredited Cradle to Cradle certified assessors. The institute is also planning upcoming workshops for design students, in partnership with New York City’s reFashioNYC and Biomimicry NYC which will launch in 2014.
A number of notable fashion companies have already developed Cradle to Cradle Certified apparel and dyes including Jeantex, Pendleton, Trigema, Rubia Dyes, and Puma, and the Institute is planning to dramatically increase the number of materials it certifies.
Since certifying their first textile and apparel product, the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute has become a recognized and respected voice in the sustainable fashion movement. The CFDA’s Sustainability Committee has taken on the Institute’s Lewis Perkins (who’s spearheading the textiles and apparel Cradle to Cradle Certification) as an expert advisor in addition to Linda Greer of the NRDC.
We can only expect the Cradle to Cradle logo to become increasingly recognizable. As board chair Warner Philips pointed out on Friday, “There are now thousands of Cradle to Cradle certified products and over a million people work at companies that make those products.” First developed over 20 years ago by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and officially coined in 2002 with the release of their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, Cradle to Cradle is a method used to analyze and implement best practices along a product’s entire lifecycle with an emphasis on human and environmental health as well as creating systems that are efficient and waste free.
Today, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is responsible for product certification. The products standard evaluates products across five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Certification is awarded at five levels (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) and is based on the idea of continuing improvement (which is required to remain certified).
With such great progress after its establishment only three years ago, and a strong backing that includes the likes of Susan Sarandon (a host on Friday), Brad Pitt, Michael Bloomberg, and Wendy and Eric Schmidt to name a few, the Institute seems more than ready to take on the fashion industry and transform it into a positive force for society and the planet.