Sass Brown was the very first name we added to our “people to contact” list. We were a little apprehensive to contact our eco-fashion icon, but are so glad we finally did.
Sass is the Associate Dean for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s school of Art and Design, where Graduation is Thursday morning. It's so exciting to know that a new batch of professionals and entrepreneurs are entering the fashion world as socially conscious thinkers, especially if they are passionate about Sass Brown’s design philosophy which "honors what ground-breakers are doing in the fashion industry to integrate their consciousness, lifestyle choices and concern for our planet and the people on it, into their business strategies."
ML Dreams: Sass Brown, Writer, Curator, Speaker and Educator on Ethical Fashion. Associate Dean for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s school of Art and Design; considers London home, but lives in NYC
madeLOKAL: As the leader of an educational institution, an enormous amount of responsibility comes with teaching our future designers about sustainability...
Sass: There is an enormous responsibility to teaching future designers, and I believe that sustainable thinking and processes must be part of all education, and all majors without question.
madeLOKAL: Is there hope for slow/sustainable + locally made fashion to be profitable revenue models, or are these popular topics in theory but money pits in reality?
Sass: I think many brands have already answered that question with action. Running an apparel brand is never easy, whether it is sustainable or not, that said, I think that sustainable businesses stand a greater chance as they challenge the status quo of how, why and where we do business.
madeLOKAL: The designer today, through no fault of their own, can sometimes seems a bit ignorant, like we all were about food in the 1980s. How do you recommend that current designers get up to speed on some of the sustainability topics in order not to be outdated by younger designers?
Sass: There are so many venues for learning now, and so much great content from webzines, blogs, websites, magazines, academic journals, books, trade shows, online resources and the designers themselves that are making change. A simple Google search brings you more links than you could hope to pursue in a lifetime. That said, there are some important resources such as Labour Behind the Label, the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Textile Toolbox, Greenpeace’s DETOX reports and the Ethical Fashion Forum. Important authors in this space such as Timo Rissanen, Elizabeth Cline, Kate Fletcher, Sandy Black, Alison Gwilt, and myself. There are great websites, blogs and eZines like Coco Eco Magazine, Ecouterre, mine - EcoFashionTalk, Magnifeco. And artisan networks such as the Ethical Fashion Initiative, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, and trade and public shows like the Santa Fe Folk Art Market, and New York NOW. All are great resources for more information and tons of inspirational work.
madeLOKAL: What was your watershed moment of getting into sustainability?
Sass: Volunteering at my first women’s craft based cooperative in the favela in Rio de Janiero.
madeLOKAL: Assuming for a moment, they are all designing with a conscious, what will be the #1 biggest challenge for our next generation of conscious designers?
Sass: To constantly evolve. Sustainable thinking is a process, that requires constant reassessment and evaluation of the choices you make and the options available.
madeLOKAL: I went to the DENIM exhibit at FIT yesterday. It seems that the ‘styles in denim’ encourages unnecessary purchasing. I can’t see big oversized jeans for women being more than a fad? How do we stop the encouragement of the buybuybuy mentality?
Sass: Denim is representative of overconsumption in many ways. With the average American or European with many pairs in their wardrobe, none significantly different than the other. But the same can be said for many items of apparel, especially those that rely on fleeting fashion trends that barely last a season. My own personal philosophy is to buy better and buy less, invest in artisanship, emerging designers, and designers making conscious choices, but that requires a shift in values of the individual to achieve. There are also others looking to develop truly sustainable fast fashion, where the discards of a trend are merely the raw materials for the next. If technological advances allow fashion to become truly circular perhaps consumption doesn't have to be a bad thing in the future.
madeLOKAL: What do you believe is the most effective way to change the inherent behaviors of a nation?
Sass: I think if I knew the answer to that question I'd be in politics not ethical fashion, and all my writing and social would be viral. I do know you can’t guilt people into change, and I do know that sustainable fashion has to be at least as desirable as mainstream fashion, if not more so.
madeLOKAL: In this busy world we live in, what are your suggestions to help ensure the gifts we give are indeed sustainable (versus getting into a time crunch and buying something that we are not proud of.)
Sass: I think building a wardrobe of wearable, interchangeable, stylish clothing, requires the same forethought as deciding what furniture you buy for your home. That’s not to say you shouldn't purchase something because you unexpectedly come across it, but you should consider what else you already own, what you can wear it with, who it supports through your purchase, and who it takes advantage of (people and planet), how well and durable it is made, and if you can see yourself wearing it in ten years.
HAPPY GRADUATION STUDENTS!! If you're someone interested in pursuing a degree in Sustainable Fashion, check out: FITs School of Art and Design or Graduate School of Studies. Click here to watch FITs latest Ethical Fashion speaker series.