SARAH SCATURRO (TEXTILE CONSERVATOR, COOPER-HEWITT NATIONAL DESIGN MUSEUM)
The role and responsibility of the consumer will come to the forefront in 2011. While many designers and manufacturers already take their commitment to sustainability seriously, the environmental impact of the use and disposal phases of fashion is still often overlooked. This is where smart consumption can have the biggest effect.
In 2011, I predict more consumers will start to shop from their own closets, something that many have already been doing due to the recession and the influence of projects like Six Items or Less and The Uniform Project.
When consumers do decide to buy something, hopefully they will do so thoughtfully and with regards to good aesthetics, quality construction and materials, minimal care requirements, and anticipated longevity. The DIY movement will continue to emphasize the reworking and mending
of old clothes, and recycling clothing is going to become further embedded as a social norm.
Fashion designers will continue to grapple with the question of slow fashion, especially the paradox between embracing a slow-consumption philosophy
while still selling products.
One way designers can assist consumer responsibility is by using techno-fibers that require little maintenance and that can be recycled, or even upcycled. I really hope to see polyester finally step out from organic cotton’s shadow as a legitimate sustainable fiber.
Polyester has a historically bad reputation, one that is undeserved today. Current manufacturing/recycling processes create a polyester fiber that is incredibly wearable, looks beautiful, requires little washing and no drying or ironing, and lasts for a very long time. Even better, unlike cotton and wool, polyester can actually be recycled to a virgin-like quality at the end of its life. (Designers like Issey Miyake
are already embracing polyester’s eco-tech qualities
The key to all of this will be education. I predict that the media will begin tackling issues of consumer responsibility more head-on, even if it isn’t a very sexy topic. Design educators will further emphasize the need for designers to think about the use and disposal phases of all products they create. Consumers need to realize that they cannot just shop their way into sustainability.