In her May 7th article for The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman calls for a better way for us to frame the discussion on “sustainable fashion”—a term she describes as an oxymoron. Instead, Friedman suggests we switch to “responsible fashion”—a term where all players, from the consumer to the C.E.O., and from the manufacturer to the farmer, take responsibility for their part in the supply chain and creative process, and for their choices.
To the editor:
With reference to Vanessa Friedman’s recent article, “Redefining ‘Sustainable Fashion’,” we could not agree more with her call for holding everyone in the fashion industry—including clothing manufacturers, farmers, governments, retailers, and consumers—responsible for their actions. We can’t continue to give “fast fashion brands” a pass when they publish sustainability claims in E.S.G. (environmental, social and governance) reports.
Just like any pledges to reach carbon neutrality, fashion industry groups should be held accountable, too. Otherwise, any good ideas and intentions, regardless of how many countries or brands sign on, will fizzle out and render no results. We have seen the questionable results of the Paris Agreement, regardless of how many countries sign on.
Goodwill NYNJ—who collects and re-purposes used textiles—and other nonprofits have been quietly contributing to responsible fashion for over 100 years. It is time to use this seemly new resource to expand our efforts. Goodwill NYNJ has already taken the initiative of going beyond selling pre-loved goods.
For our 2nd Annual Evening of Treasures fundraiser last month, we asked five designers to upcycle garments using textiles donated to Goodwill stores. We featured the upcycled creations by the Tommy Hilfiger brand, designers Gigi Burris Millinery, Maxwell Osborne of anOnlyChild, and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School, as well as design student Monica Palucci from SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the mini-fashion show, auctioning the garments to support our services.
Last year, designers Greg Lauren, Tracy Reese, and Yeohlee Teng, along with a group of students from FIT and Parsons School of Design, upcycled garments for the 1st Evening of Treasures and virtual event.
At Goodwill NYNJ, we believe there is a way to quantify “doing good.” We talk of a double impact mission of sustainable fashion and the power of work, one as a result of the other. In 2021, Goodwill NYNJ re-purposed more than 40 million pounds of pre-loved textiles and goods, successfully diverting them from the landfills and saving nearly 59k metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Goodwill store sales also partially funded the employment services for nearly 10,000 people who are unemployed or underemployed, almost half of them with disabilities.
We agree there are many ways to responsible fashion. Is it time for nonprofits who collect used clothing to join the responsible fashion production? Goodwill NYNJ is one of 156 autonomous Goodwill agencies across the US and Canada.
President & CEO
New York City, NY