I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Curwen, a fashion industry veteran and founder of Lisa Curwen Studio. She got her Master’s degree studying, researching, and publishing on the subject of sustainable practices for the fashion and textile industry. She is a former treasurer of Fashion Group International (FGI.org) and has taught an Eco Fashion course as an adjunct faculty member of the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design (RMCAD). She really knows her fabrics. Read on!
Interview with Lisa Curwen:
S3: What do you focus on mostly in your studio?
LISA: Recently, I have been designing tablecloths and tea towels for a company called Amelie Michel. The company is located in Connecticut, but will be having a pop-up sale in Denver at Wash Park Studio. Thursday Sept. 13th through Wednesday September 19th, 10am-5pm every day.
S3: What do you see as the more sustainable aspects of the fashion industry?
LISA: Sustainble practices must include the social (fair labor practices), the environmental (non-toxic techonology and organic farming), and the economic aspects (being able to make a profit). All three have to be present to have a viable model. Historically, it used to be much harder for companies to be profitable while implementing sustainable practices in both the labor market and environmentally friendly textile manufacturing; but it is more accepted now, and almost required, for companies to operate in a socially responsible manner.
S3: What are some ways the fashion industry practices sustainability?
LISA: Reduce the amount of packaging, reduce transportation (energy usage) in the supply chain by using smaller and more local supply chains, reduce water usage and pesticides for farming, make sure effluents from textile manufacturing don’t go into water supplies, create prodcuts that use closed loop lifecycles.
S3: What is the best way for fashion consumers to support eco-fashion?
LISA: First and foremost, do research on companies. Find the ones that are more socially responsible and support them.
Consume less! Launder clothing in cold water and hang or dry flat to reduce energy usage. The biggest load on the environment comes at the consumer level in the care of clothing. Buy organic cotton products. Avoid textiles that use a lot of chemicals in their manufacturing such as rayon and leather products, however Tencel (trademark symbol) is an environmentally friendly brand of rayon. Resell, recycle, or repurpose your garments. Buy wool, alpaca or PLA (a naturally derived polyester).
S3: What other choices can fashion consumers make to live more sustainably?
LISA: Buy fewer new clothes and ones that have longevity. Frequent thrift stores and consignment stores.
Beware of “green washing”!
Research companies for authentic certifications – Listen to/watch the news and watch for business practices.
Put pressure on companies to be more ecologically/sustainability focused.
Support initiatives that are more sustainability focused.
S3: Do you think “slow fashion” hurts fashion trends?
LISA: Slow fashion is just a different way to approach fashion. For instance, it might mean buying more classic styling that can be worn for a longer time. One could always accessorize with updated fashion items, but keep the bulk of their wardrobe changing less frequently.
S3: What do you see as the number one choice people can make towards living more sustainably?
#1: Reduce energy usage (Consume less, drive less, recycle, reduce at home, change diet, invest in LED light bulbs, change climate controls to be more eco-friendly, turn off lights, etc.)
#2: Compost (Divert from the landfill)
#3: Buy less (See above tips)
S3: Which companies would you suggest people who are passionate about slowing the effects of climate change invest in?
LISA: Socially conscious companies. Invest from the heart. Vote with your wallet.
Having said all that, it is super challenging to be a purist. Taking steps to be more green with your garments is a start.
Here are some tips to “green up” your garments:
- Go to or host clothing swaps (have a party with friends and swap outfits)
- Fix it when it’s broken (sew back on buttons, darn socks, repair zippers, tears, etc.)
- Give clothing to charities when you’ve out grown them. Even clothes that can no longer be worn are useful for certain charities like The Little Red School House which turns fabrics into rags for shops and cleaning companies. (Second hand clothing is sent to other countries like Kenya)