A glimpse of the High Bridge suggests it was fated to become a fashion runway one day. The historic bridge was built in 1848 to bring water from the Bronx to Manhattan via Croton Aqueduct, which was modeled after the great aqueducts of the Roman Empire.
Early in August, a group of talented designers came together for an eco-fashion show on the newly reopened bridge, and proved fashion can be sustainable and fabulous at the same time. Over one hundred models sashayed down the bridge from the end of Bronx side all the way to the Manhattan side.
Fashion magazines tell us it won’t do to wear a look from last year. And so our urge to stay on top of trends legitimizes a Saturday-night “getaway” trip to boutiques and fast-fashion stores to splurge on ‘must-have’ clothes for fall.
But there’s a cost beyond our wallets. While we keep our wardrobes updated, an average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing or other textiles in a year, and only 15% of them get recycled, which means 85% (21 billion pounds of clothes) ends up in landfill. Post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) accounts for 5% of all municipal solid waste generated in the US.
With massive global production lines churning away on products we’re encouraged to view as disposable, the ever-changing fashion industry seems to be everything opposite to the idea of sustainability. If you have ever tried calculating your own energy consumption on Energy We Need built by Alexander Franzten, you’ll know how much energy is wasted in tossing out perfectly good clothes.
Against these habits, Iliana Quander and Gina Costanza launched the EcoFashion Show; Quander is an independent designer of women’s clothing based in New York City, and Costanza is a fashion stylist for television.
The first EcoFashion Show was held in the nearby Highbridge Park four years ago, before the bridge renovation was complete. When the bridge reopened, the organizers took the chance to have models walk all the way from the Bronx side, not just a short catwalk in the park. The crossing high over the Harlem River is over a quarter-mile in length.
Quander is a self-taught designer who started sewing at seven, and who studied philosophy and sociology rather than fashion design in school. Her goal is functional, beautiful clothes.
“In the fashion industry, most of the designers think that something functional is too gimmicky. Then I met one of the founders of the Smarter* Clothing project, a teacher at Parsons. I became more aware of sustainability as a concept and discipline, which gradually gave me the permission to not care about what others in the fashion industry think. This is what I’m doing.”
See Quander’s designs at her site, and more images from the show below: