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Green fashion has come a long way since the days when Woody Harrelson wore a tuxedo made of hemp. At a luncheon on Wednesday to recognize the winners of an eco-fashion challenge presented by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Lexus, the finalists present represented not only a change of stylishness when it comes to environmentally friendly designs, but also a change of thinking.
The designer Maria Cornejo (pictured, above), introducing the awards, said she does not consider herself the “poster child” for sustainability, “but I do try really hard. In a business like this, our creativity relies on the clients, and to make them aware that eco is also interesting, innovative and it has a place in fashion.”
Starting her business, Zero + Maria Cornejo, in New York in 1998, Cornejo sought to keep everything local. Roughly 70 percent of her collection is manufactured within a 10-block area of the city, and the designer often recycles fabrics. Her philosophy to avoid waste wherever possible is one way she is making fashion greener.
“It’s our jobs as designers to make a great product so we broaden the clientele for sustainable products,” Cornejo said.
The runners-up in the eco-challenge were Study NY and Reformation, labels that place an emphasis on ethical sourcing. And the winner, taking a $75,000 prize, was K/LLER Collection, a jewelry collection from Brooklyn designed by Katie Deguzman and Michael Miller. The two women started the collection in 2010, making jewelry, according to the program, “that fuses deconstruction with sculpture, decay with renewal, and androgyny with femininity.” As for their green credentials, those are perhaps more clear: Most of their designs are cast from 100-percent recycled metal.
“This is how you should be doing business,” Deguzman said. “It’s really not a choice.”