Eco-fashion has taken on a human face after the tragic fires in Bangladesh; that story, which so closely echoed NYC's Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, brought home the true costs of cheap clothes and fast fashion. Just like the women on the Lower East Side who perished in that factory fire a hundred years ago, this year's fire victims shouldn't have died, and wouldn't if cost-cutting by the fashion industry weren't so merciless (driven by consumer desire for inexpensive, throwaway clothes, and companies' need for ever-greater profits). Top executives from several companies had been working on the fire hazards so common to Bangladeshi garment factories but had stopped short of solving the problem due to costs (estimated to be about 10 cents per piece) and fears of lawsuits.
The reaction to this has story will have repercussions in 2013 in two ways: In the wider world of labor rights, people in developing nations where most of our clothes come from are, and will continue to organize for better wages and safter working conditions, despite repression. Anyone with a sense of ethics and a heart should support these much-abused workers' struggle for rights. Additionally. local manufacturing, which has been struggling in the U.S., will get a boost this year, as more companies make their clothes in the US (better for people, the planet, and the economy), or move part of their operations here. Apple is a bellwether for this movement, and many young companies, from fabricators and product designers to fashion and beauty brands will found their companies with a "made in the U.S.A." mindset from the get-go.
In terms of design and the fun side of eco fashion, we've seen an explosion of new dyeing and fabric-pattern techniques, from the renewal of age-old botanical dyes used in new ways to technology used to capture natural, handmade and antique patterns for use on clothing with modern shapes and structures. This aesthetic will only continue and proliferate; I don't see a return to minimalism in terms of fabrics anytime soon (now that pattern-mixing is widely accepted and joyfully engaged in).
We're also going to continue to see gorgeous African prints continue to mainstream, with eco fashion designers having led the charge on that trend. Lastly, I see so many interesting new materials coming out (not to mention zero-waste gaining momentum), and materials experimentation at an all-time high, which is exciting and just opens up the possibilities for reused, upcycled, recycled, and rethought materials.