Sustainable Fashion on the NYC Runway: Study-NY by Tara St. James

Happy Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, everyone!  I was excited to hear that The Green Shows is making a reprisal at this year’s fashion week and that one of the designers I met in New York last month, Tara St. James, will be part of it. On Friday from 10:30 – 11:30 in “The Box” at Lincoln Center, Tara and seven other sustainable designers will be previewing their Fall 2012 collections.

Montreal native and former high-school math nerd Tara St. James moved to New York City in 2004.  She has a degree in menswear, and worked in NY as the designer for a Montreal-based men’s and women’s streetwear brand called Covet.  While working for Covet, Tara had what she refers to as an “awakening,” began researching sustainable materials, and became one of the pioneers of sustainable fashion in New York. eco fashion, brooklyn fashion

Back in 2004, there was very little information available about sustainable or eco fashion.  Those buzzwords didn’t even exist: there was no vocabulary in the industry for this type of design.  Sourcing materials was a nightmare, as was finding interns and assistants who knew about sustainability.  Tara did a lot of research, and was able to switch almost 100% of Covet’s production to sustainable materials.  She ended up sourcing from India and Hong Kong, making sure to be very careful about which factories she worked with.

Tara left Covet in 2009 to start her own line: Study – NY.  She brought her sustainable practices with her, and Covet has continued on that path in her absence as well. Things have come a long way since 2004: now there are sourcing organizations like Source4Style that help designers find eco-friendly and ethical materials, and the major fashion schools all have courses on sustainable fashion.

Study is designed beautifully and thoughtfully.  Tara sources the materials and then works up from the fabric to the design.  She uses recycled materials, handwoven cottons and silks (including silks handwoven in India – pictured left), organic cotton, linen, hemp, tencel, and wool deadstock from a store in Chelsea.  All are low-impact on the environment, specifically water and energy.

Perhaps the cherry on top is that Study-NY lives up to its name: 99% of production is done in a factory in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Last year, the label won the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation’s Sustainable Design Award. Check out Study’s website, see Tara in The Green Shows, and visit her in the Bloomingdales/Green Shows pop-up shop in April.

Tara St. James in her Brooklyn Studio

Ariel Azoff

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