Lara Miller’s runway debut at The GreenShows lacked some of the theatrics that are the hallmark of New York Fashion Week, but the Chicago-based designer’s signature wit and affinity for architectural construction were unmistakable, from the chain-mail-like mesh gowns (hand-loomed recycled cotton) to the dramatically elevated puffed sleeves (recycled-PET fleece). We chatted with Miller about the significance of the two-day event, her inspiration for her multifunctional pieces, and where she thinks the future of sustainable fashion is headed.
The GreenShows was the first event of its kind at New York Fashion Week. How did it feel to be part of such a fantastic—and select—group of sustainable designers?
It was such an honor. The designers that showed are leading the way in sustainable, fashion-forward design. They are all incredibly talented. We all brought something different to the shows, proving that you truly do not have to sacrifice style or individuality to dress compassionately.
What inspired your Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
The feeling that Chicago has when spring’s approaching. It’s like nature takes the city into a big hug and gives it a high five, saying, “Come out and play.” The sun hits the water and the colors become vibrant.
For the first time in months, Chicagoans get to see this deep-blue, turquoise water along the lakefront. At dusk, which seems to suddenly become much later, you get this gorgeous cobalt-blue sky that reflects off the buildings. In the end, I simply strive to make fun clothes that my customers love to wear; clothes that are easy, comfortable, but allow as much individual expression as possible.
How was this collection different from your previous lines? What were your favorite pieces?
For this collection, I really focused in on the knitwear and thought primarily about one color—blue—which I accented with white, gray, and a burnt mauve. In the past, I worked with a larger color story and would make many more styles, especially in the wovens. Knitwear is what I love the most and I love the challenge of creating knits for spring and summer.
My favorite knits are the navy recycled-cotton mesh with the aqua jersey pieces worn underneath—especially the Callie Strap Dress. I think that will be one that I wear everyday, especially with the built-in necklace and belt. I love making the accessories, as well. The necklaces that can be worn as belts are so much fun to wear! I still had to keep my favorite woven pieces in there though: the Jay Shorts in Hemp/Organic Cotton and the Handkerchief Hem Hudson Dress in white.
Did you catch the other shows? What inspired you or got you excited?
Unfortunately I was only able to see Bahar [Shahpar]’s show in person, but I’ve seen images from everyone else’s shows and each were really inspiring in their own ways. I love Study by Tara St. James: I work with a lot of geometry, as well, and it was so so cool to see how another designer worked with a single geometric form. Plus, I’ve loved reading her blog through her process.
Bahar always mixes great feminine shapes and I loved her mix of color this season. Bodkin’s presentation looked great; I love both Bodkin’s and Mr. Larkin’s use of natural dyes in wearable shapes. I’ve loved Izzy Lane’s knits for a while, and House of Organic brought such a beautiful and ethereal look to the shows.
Photo by Shayla Hunter
What directions do you see sustainable fashion evolving, especially with mainstream consumers?
I think that “eco” and “green” are becoming more and more mainstream and, as demand for conscientious goods rises, the subset of “eco” clothing will hopefully just become a part of what everyone wears—meaning that in 10 years, all cotton will hopefully be organic, that using sustainable and recycled materials will just be commonplace. We really have no other choice.
I do think that more and more “green” designers will continue to experiment with natural dyes and more recycled materials. We’ll always be evolving and looking for ways to have a smaller carbon footprint, which means local production will hopefully continue to be a large part of the equation for “green” designers, as well. As for mainstream shoppers, I just think that they’re going to continue to learn and therefore continue to want more “green” products. Hopefully we can figure out ways to find common ground with pricing.