Fashion / Style

Sustainable Fashion That’s Actually Hip and Cool — New Brands Step Up to Make Not Harming the Planet Stylish

Mending the Way We Consume

BY // 03.02.20

NEW YORK  — There’s been a lot of talk about sustainable fashion lately but not a whole lot of action. Yet a few designers at New York Fashion Week are committed to designing chic wearable clothing without harming the planet.

When Erin Beatty, decided to launch a new brand, Rentrayage, that is committed to using only vintage clothing and leftover fabric meant to be discarded, she threw all her old ideas about fashion design out the window.

“The assumption going in had to be that the way I know how to work will no longer work,” she says. “And if that’s the case, if I have to start from square one, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that I start with a sketch anymore

“It doesn’t mean that I start with a fabric anymore. And it’s then understanding that within that limitation there is a lot of creativity.  It has to be wearable and it has to be colorful and it has to be something that you want to put on your body. Those are the critical elements.

“The world has to change right now and we have to change what we know. And it’s the hardest thing to do. But if you don’t start there, you can’t make an impact.”

Jonathan Cohen also is leading the charge toward sustainable designs. Ten looks in his fashionable fall ’20 collection are made from Econyl nylon in a nod to zero-waste design. The yarn is made from waste from landfills and oceans, including fishnets, carpets, textile scraps and industrial plastic, but you wouldn’t know if from the way the finished designs look.

“Our mission is simple. We want to make beautiful, luxury products in the most responsible way possible. This collection is a celebration of thoughtful consumption and individual expression,” Cohen notes in his program notes.

Rentrayage: Something Old For Someone New

Beatty, who closed the hip fashion label Suno in 2016 after eight years, chose Rentrayage as the name for her new endeavor because it seemed to sum up what she hopes to do.

“It’s a French word meaning ‘reweave across the cut.’ It refers to the fixing of the ancient French tapestries. So it’s an inspired word. It actually refers to fixing these tapestries that have become threadbare and worn,” she says. “We wanted to create something that would help to mend the planet, help to mend the way we consume.”

The fall ’20 collection, which she debuted in a historic New York apartment with paneled walls and huge fireplaces, has a updated boho feeling, with long floral dresses, checked skirts, oversized sweaters and blazers with gathered shoulders.

RENTRAYAGE New York Fashion Week February 2020
Rentrayage floral dress made from repurposed material. (Photo courtesy of Rentrayage)

A number of items are cobbled from different pieces of fabric — a trend other designers like Monse, Tory Burch, and Prabal Gurung have also picked up on this season. Beatty designed a nifty trench coat from beige linen and a brown corduroy jacket, pieced together several different checked fabrics into a skirt and merged a denim jean jacket with quilted satin Army green fabric.

Rentrayage’s fabrics are sourced in New York or come from vintage shops from around the nation. Beatty works closely with her tailor to select garments that can be stripped apart and reimagined in a new way.

There’s also a home products collection, including ceramic bowls and platters that were broken in the kiln but put back together and repainted, vintage re-dyed linens, and placemats made from palm fronds. “Everything is sustainably made, of course, and is ethically made,” Beatty says.

Having just celebrated the label’s first year in business, response has been mixed, Beatty admits. “I think it’s definitely been considered a hard sell, but this season has been pretty amazing. We’ll see what happens, knock on wood,” she says.

“But we’re also being very, very careful about our collaborators, who we work with. They have to understand what we’re doing. They have to understand it’s new for people and it might take a minute. They have to understand it’s not easy to scale and many of these pieces are one of a kind. They have to be able to tell the story.

“That being said, people are so hungry for something new right now, and it’s amazing the response and the love that we’ve gotten. That’s been the No. 1 thing for me, finding love between yourself and the people you work with, between yourself and the clothes that you are making. It’s just all about creating something that feels very precious and very beloved and then passing that on to the customer.”

The collection is available online and at selected stores, with hopes to expand to Texas. “One of the things I love about Texas women, they’re not afraid to dress,” Beatty says.

Jonathan Cohen: Futuristic Fabrics are Runway Ready

Jonathan Cohen is so passionate about sustainability that he created The Studio, a branch of his business that manufactures limited-edition clothing and accessories from leftover fabric that typically gets thrown away.

“Our mission is to utilize these unused materials to minimize landfill pollution. Past seasons’ leftover fabrics and our factories’ scraps are now the brainchild for new styles,” he says.

A few one-of-a-kind looks from The Studio were scattered in Cohen’s fall ’20 collection, including a patchwork coat made from leftover fabric scraps and a satin khaki trench coat brightened up with remnants of an abstract floral print.

He also turned recycled Italian cashmere into multi-colored sweaters, dresses, and scarves, and featured a sizable number of looks from recycled nylon, including a cobalt evening gown, a tailored orange pantsuit and a little black velvet dress bedazzled with upcycled Swarovski crystals in a floral pattern.

“We’re working with recycled cashmere and nylon — these really incredible futuristic fabrics, which I’m excited about. We’re doing a lot of great things with scraps again, continuing to find ways to utilize our excess waste. We’re making a point to show it on the runway so people really start to understand this isn’t a fad. This is embedded in the way we produce our clothing and the way we do business. I think that’s a really important message to send,” he tells Fashionista.

For the collection, Cohen also added a grunge element with a series of Dr. Martens combat boots embellished with hundreds of upcycled Swarovski crystals. The unused, unsold, imperfect or lightly used crystals and pearls that would otherwise be thrown out also were used to decorated several belts handmade by an Alabama-based women’s group sourced through the non-profit Nest.

“To be able to be connected with different artisan communities to create beautiful products in a conscious way is of the utmost importance for the brand,” Cohen says.

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