“I thought I was going to be wearing a dress made of bottle tops.”
This was from one of the women who volunteered to be a model in the Eco Fashion Show I co-produced for Peace Boat in October.
I laughed. “That is exactly what I didn’t want to do!” No, what I wanted to do was bring together some of the most beautiful sustainable fashion in New York City, to win the hearts and minds of the unconverted. I didn’t want another student fashion show with upcycled trash bags. Those are fun, but they don’t convince anyone to wear sustainable fashion. Actually, I think they actually drive people away from the movement.
And the stakes were high. The Peace Boat, of which my friend Emilie McGlone is the U.S director, is an International Non-Governmental and Non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. This year they are focused on promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. And fashion has a large role to play in many of the goals, like gender equality, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth… the list goes on. However, from my separate discussions with the UN’s Development Programme, it’s become clear to me fashion is not on the minds of the people who are in the position to make decisions on these issues. Maybe I could help change that.
The Peace Boat docked on the west side of NYC on October 20th, and hosted an evening tour, show, reception, and after party for over 700 VIPs affiliated with the UN and NGOs. The show was largely dedicated to fundraising and discussion of serious issues such as nuclear disarmament and natural disaster aid. Emilie wanted to end the show on a more lighthearted, energetic note, and asked me to pull together a fashion show. I don’t usually get handed a huge venue with a built-in audience of very important people. It was a huge opportunity that I was determined the make the most of.
I reached out to some of my favorite designers: Titania Inglis, Behno, Arkins, Svilu, Awaveawake, Suzanne Rae, and the high-end retailer Indelust. There were many more I could have contacted, but I was aiming for a certain aesthetic, and wanted all the clothing to jive with each other.
The models were friends and friends of friends of Emilie and me. Some of them were professional models, and some were just sample-sized ladies who volunteered. We ended up, quite by accident, with a diverse group of 15 women representing several nationalities and ethnicities.
And the who was a huge success! For many audience members, this was their first brush with the world of sustainable fashion, and they came away converted.
I know that I didn’t include every worthy designer in the show, and some of you have reached out to ask about the next one. Do not fear! We are planning on doing it again the same time next year when the Peace Boat comes back to New York City.