If many of us are honest, when it comes to responsibly made clothing and eco-fashion, we are often excited about the creativity and idea of helping our planet, but resistant to the idea of wearing the clothing out of fear it won’t be fashionable, wearable, or affordable. If you have already joined or are interested in joining the eco-fashion movement, you may find it difficult to locate clothing and resources that won’t force you to sacrifice your personal style, break your pocket, or completely inconvenience your current lifestyle. Responsibly made fashion shouldn’t be intimidating, seem inaccessible, or exclusive. It should be fun and creative for us all, buyers and designers alike.
To address questions consumers and designers have about eco-fashion, I met up with Beth Stewart at a quiet local coffee shop in Raleigh, NC, right across from NC State’s campus. We chatted about her organization, Redress Raleigh and their mission to “nurture independent designers and educate people about the impact of their purchasing decisions”. She shared her excitement about their approaching annual fashion show, the birth of the organization, goals they’re reaching in the eco-fashion community, and how we can all take small baby steps towards making our wardrobes more “green”.
The way we think about apparel is changing as leaders pop up in the industry pushing us to consider our clothing as more than merely something to put on our bodies or a fashion statement, but to consider it a statement of our beliefs. Redress Raleigh advocates for that type of change in Raleigh, joining a host of like-minded designers and organizations around the globe. Just as our wardrobe allows us to express who we are, it also allows us to practice caring for the world we live in.
Since 2009, Beth Stewart and the Redress Raleigh team have been providing designers in the area with a platform to showcase their collections, while also developing their business skills by linking them with priceless education and mentorships.
It all started as just an idea, when Beth realized that although the fashion industry was providing us with beautiful garments and fantasy, it was missing an important focus on the real life impact clothing has on the earth and people. Redress held its first fashion show in 2009, with twelve featured designers and a venue all in place, yet they weren’t even sure if anyone would attend. To their surprise, the room filled to capacity, helping Redress realize the public is not only interested in the creativity behind responsible or eco fashion, but many people would also like to be educated about its behind the scenes process and impact.
What originated as just a side project led to Beth discovering her passion, going back to her alma Marta NC State University to obtain a Masters in Textiles, leaving a 5 year career in architecture behind, and living by the motto of “let your creativity work for you”.
Sustainable living has become more mainstream, especially in the food industry, with the popularity of organic, local, vegan, and other diets. We’ve also seen an increase in solar power, hybrid vehicles, and recycled materials being utilized around us. Redress teaches us how to transfer that thinking into fashion and to just #GiveADamn about the true cost of our clothing-how it was made, who made it, and how it impacts the environment.
Redress considers three categories when selecting designers. They must be:
Innovative- Fashion forward & look cool. Be something people want to wear.
Wearable- Made out of actual textiles. No plastic bags or anything else sown into a dress.
Accessible- Everyday people can wear it, afford it, and see the quality.
As Redress educates us-the consumers-the designers are also learning. Realizing it’s just as important to feed the business thinking side of the brain as it is to feed the creative spirit, Redress provides designers with a required three month education program focusing on business skills development, which simultaneously allows them the added benefit of coming to class in person to build relationships with one another and learn from each other. Additionally, each designer is paired with a mentor from within the industry from whom they receive relatable advice and guidance.
After each designer’s last look walks down the runway, there’s the daunting question of “What’s next?” The Redress team does their ground work by constantly searching for clothing manufactures and seeking out the customer base to link designers with. When asked about the future of eco designers, Beth said, “In order to make a difference, we need people doing production and reaching more consumers. We want designers to grow after the show”. She’s even excited about what news of the opening of New South Manufacturing, a new cut & sow factory in Raleigh means for the city.
This year, six special designers showed their collections at the CAM Raleigh Museum-a newly renovated warehouse, with features that perfectly matched the aesthetic of the designs. Seeing the looks move on the runway allows attendees to see how wearable the clothes are and realize eco-fashion isn’t some unobtainable world that won’t fit in with their current style.
When asked about how Redress will continue to grow and cater to both designers and consumers, Beth said, “Moving forward as a non-profit, we’ll be having a lot more events involving the public and get people involved with growing with us.”
Now, it’s time to figure out which one of Beth’s tips for “greening” your wardrobe you can start using today:
Stop buying fast fashion. Period. There are so many other places to buy like consignment and resale shops. Particularly in Raleigh, there are a lot of resale shop where you can find killer pieces, and the best part is you don’t have pay full price for them.
Take care of your clothes. Mend things, then you can wear them again. Resole and re-heel your shoes.
Wash your laundry on the cold water setting.
Consider how much you going to wear it. Eco-fashion Activist, Livia Firth, says you should think about wearing an item 30 times before purchasing it.
More photo’s from this year’s show, below.
Find more info about Redress Raleigh, donate to the non-profit, and more at redressraleigh.com/