It was a chilly Thursday evening when I let myself inside the lobby of an Upper West Side apartment building. The doorman nodded me up, and I took the old elevator up to the second floor. There I peeked into tastefully decorated, large, prewar apartment. There were snacks and crudités on the kitchen table, and inside the living room, a rolling rack of textiles. I said hi to the fashion designers and green bloggers mingling about, before Jill Heller, a personal stylist specializing in eco-friendly fashion, welcomed me in.
I had come to a special, several-day event on the invitation of Heller to see learn more about the C.L.A.S.S. textile library, which supports, consults with, and markets sustainable fabrics worldwide. The initiative is led by Giusy Bettoni, a stately Italian with a passion for changing the industry.
"We've created a library of materials that had to have three criteria," Bettoni told me in her thick Italian accent. "First of all, they need to creative, second they need to be innovative and performing, and third they need to responsible." Like me, she is a firm believer of leading the public to sustainability through beauty. "Unfortunately, there were materials that were sustainable, but not design-driven," she said. "Our goal with C.L.A.S.S. is to get a balance of these things. We would like not to be just for "Special Edition," or for cause-related buying. It has to be for every day life."
To that end, the C.L.A.S.S. library includes organic and natural, repurposed, and renewable textiles with low-impact dyes and processing. I ran my fingers over many of the fabrics on display, which were rich and varied in color and texture. None looked like burlap or hemp.
No surprise then, that C.L.A.S.S. seems to be making inroads. The Weekend collection by Max Mara will be using material called New Life in its spring collection. The New Life material is 100% made from bottles collected in Italy, then transformed through a mechanical (not chemical) process into a polymer. And Bettoni says it yields a whole range of fabrics, from the most fine count for underwear, to the heaviest count for upholstery.
While I was there, I watched a representative from a large clothing corporation that you would recognize, speak about the need to switch from toxic production processes to cleaner, more environmentally safe manufacturing. (Thanks in part to Green Peace's work exposing how textile manufacturing impacts the environment.)
Other visitors who stopped by the showcase included Inka Apter of Eileen Fisher, Marci Zaroff, designers Suzanne Rae, Leanne of Vaute, Tabitha of Tabii Just, Titania Inglis, Helena Fredriksson, Garity of Feral Childe, Tara St. James, Carrie Parry, Danielle Azoulay of PVH Corp., Cara Maria Piazza, Britt and Marina of SVILU, Juliette Donatelli of Spades + siLK, Amy Dufault, Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute, Susan Woo, Briana of Daniel Silverstein, Sylvia Heisel, Swati Argate of Bhoomki, Textile Arts Center, Manufacture New York, and Emma Grady of Past Fashion Future.