I knew Project Runway Season 12 was going to be interesting. In the first two episodes alone, my knowledge about sustainability in fashion increased dramatically. In the first episode, Zac Posen called one of the contestants out for his inability to follow through on his sustainability practices. It’s not only about taking care of the planet by reusing materials, it’s about protecting the environment from toxic fumes, such as the fumes created by burning nylon fabrics, as Timothy Westbrook did, thinking he was practicing sustainability by transforming the fabric into a different look via a lighter.
It was also an issue that Timothy did not allow his model hair and makeup help from L’Oreal. He didn’t want them using anything that was plugged in, or anything like hairspray, gel, etc. The model walked the runway with bobby pins to hold up her hair and nothing on her face, which didn’t bother Timothy, but did bother the model, as all the other models went down the runway in a complete look.
Zac pointed something else out: while Timothy’s model went barefoot, Timothy glamorized his outfit by putting on a pair of strappy heels from the accessory wall. If Timothy was so concerned with creating a war-torn, plain look for his model that exemplified his sustainable platform, why was he wearing a pair of glittery heels? It sent mixed messages to the judges, who warned him against using sustainability as a platform unless he did it well. Extremely well.
This got me wondering if there were sustainability practices in fashion already, and if there were sustainability practices elsewhere, such as in technology, where that kind of practice seems like an oxymoron (seems, but isn’t necessarily the case).
On the next episode of Project Runway season 12, Timothy had a talk with the L’Oreal hair and makeup crew and discovered that L’Oreal practices sustainability, which opened up the ability for Timothy to create an entire look for his model. While he still didn’t want hair product and electricity to be used for the model’s hair, resulting in a less than shining example of a complete look, he did allow the use of makeup, which improved and possibly saved his chances this time on the chopping block.
Timothy also visited Mood for the first time for Project Runway Season 12, and was delighted to find that there were castoffs and parts of bolts that had been returned. Being able to repurpose material fit with his sustainable values, and while his outfit was considered “weird” by the judges (a long gown of blue velvet and white cotton, with a razorback front instead of a back), he was allowed to continue on the show, since his technical skills are good and he has an interesting viewpoint.
I did some research after watching the show and found a group called the “Sustainable Apparel Coalition”, which includes companies like Nordstrom, Burberry, H&M, Gap, Columbia, Hanes, Levi’s, New Balance, and stores like Kohl’s, JC Penny’s, Target and Wal*Mart. They’re attempting to practice sustainability by lessening water use while upping quality, minimizing energy and emissions, reducing chemicals and toxic materials, and ensuring workplaces are fair and safe.
While some of these companies might be doing very little, there are several companies that are taking big strides to practice sustainability in practical ways. I feel as if Timothy might not have done his homework (which is a daunting task, to be sure), or possibly have a narrower view of sustainability. Whatever the reason for his miscommunication with the judges about his definition of sustainability, it has opened a unique opportunity to take a closer look at the practices of the fashion industry, and possibly encourage a movement toward more sustainability awareness.
I’m curious to see how Project Runway season 12 will continue this train of thought.