As a New Yorker, I sometimes fall into the trap of the narrow-minded mentality that *everything* worthwhile in life—food, art, people, even complaints—is right here. I’m not a big traveler, but my friends have come back from trips to some of the most sought-after places for decadent eating, only to say their local place around the corner in Brooklyn (or the UWS, or in Soho, or Chinatown) was better.
The same holds for fashion. Just walking down the street, I’ll pass no fewer than a dozen men and women who are more “chic” than me, even when wearing sweatpants and sneakers. We at PD know, too, that fashion is the second highest polluting industry in the world (behind petrochemicals), and so part of what New Yorkers (identifying fashionistas or not) are facing is the problem of how to balance standards of trends and luxury with responsible consumption. Nothing we can’t handle, right?
During a recent trip to Miami for the Seed Food and Wine Festival, one of the biggest vegan celebrations in the country, I was pleasantly surprised to find a city that was tackling this challenge head-on—and maybe even a little better than us. Thanks to an illuminating presentation from Colleen Coughlin, founder of The Full Edit, and Asanyah Davidson, Chairperson of the Miami Fashion Institute, I learned several lessons about how Magic City is sparking some magical change in their local fashion scene that the rest of the country—and world—might do well to imitate.
Although dietary veganism is often people’s first (and only—still great!) step toward a sustainable lifestyle, it’s important to keep in mind that what we put on our bodies—from clothes to beauty products—is as important as what we put into our bodies, in terms of our personal health and global impact. The two questions most of us ask when we get up in the morning—What will I eat today? and What will I wear today?—align with this, and Coughlin and Davidson see Miami as a leader in making the answer to both these questions earth-friendly. Recently added to the Mercedes Benz Fashion calendar (a big deal), an entire day of their Fall 2017 Fashion Week this summer was devoted to how designers can “upcycle,” offering master classes on techniques that would also “grow community bonds while being conscious of the environmental and economic growth of the community.”
Both these women are using their fierce commitments to style and sustainability in their work to effect such change. The Full Edit is a service that encourages people to rethink their closets—finding the gems they would have otherwise tossed, and repurposing them or mending them so they have a new life that’s not on the streets of an African nation. Likewise, in her classes, Davidson instills in her students the importance of reusing scraps and samples from their classmates’ projects.
The Festival ended with a celebratory runway show of local designers, ranging from Ecoalf whose products range from those made from old fishing nets to Bianca Coletti, a local designer whose swimsuits are made by hand.
Short of uprooting your life to move to Miami, there’s plenty you can do right from where you are to contribute to the city’s efforts. Checking out those local designers is great, but even better you can explore your own local designers’ brands (which also involves less fuel waste for shipping, etc.). SageKat is a comprehensive new resource for all green beauty and fashion brands if you’re unsure of a company’s status.
Lastly, for more education, turn to the tried and true documentary. Like those that opened people’s eyes to the problems of the livestock industry, The True Cost, The Next Black, and River Blue offer astounding truths about fashion for your own enjoyment and others’.
How do you shop local? Share your favorite brands and techniques for upcycling!
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Photos: Instagram, ecoalf.com, biancacoletti.com