Eco Fashion – New book by Sass Brown

Sass Brown professor of Fashion Design at FIT, designer and fair-trade fashion consultant has recently penned a new book due out this fall titled Eco Fashion published by Laurence King Publishers. We caught up with Sass to discuss her latest project.

PM: What prompted you to write Eco Fashion?

SB: I had two main motivations for writing the book. The first was that I felt the industry had reached a tipping point of sorts, where the level of design excellence was raised to a comparative level of the rest of the industry, and that was worthy of promoting. Second, despite the standard and success of many eco labels, I felt they still weren’t known by many students entering the industry, or for that matter professionals in the main stream fashion arena and hoped that the book would act as a means of exposing their work to a wider audience.

PM: What is eco fashion?

SB: Now that’s a loaded question. The word ecology has a pretty defined meaning; according to the Oxford English Dictionary ecology is “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” Eco fashion however is a lot more open to interpretation (and misinterpretation). Broadly speaking however, eco fashion is a branch of fashion production that respects the earth and the people on it. That respect can be expressed in a multitude of ways; recycle, reuse, redesign, sustainable fabrications, diversion of waste materials from landfill, fair trade, community development and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

PM: Can you share with us what was some of your greatest finds in doing research for the book pertaining to range of sustainable and ethical products?

SB: There were so many talented and creative designers I came across during my research that I had simply not known about previously so the small lesser known designers (at least to me) are the ones I cherish the most. Elena Garcia, an incredible designer based out of the UK that works with traditional Shibori indigo dye techniques and needle felting. Her design sensibility is exquisite and her workmanship outstanding. Christine Birkle based of Berlin, works with traditional Nuno felting techniques and designs exquisite items from pure silk, each laboriously hand felted using traditional methods. Josh Jakus in the US, who works with recycled industrial felt and makes wonderfully conceptual bags and purses known as the UM bags. Royah, a women’s cooperative and atelier in Afghanistan, working to empower women in the midst of a war torn country and who produces exquisite designs based on the rich heritage of Afghanistan textiles. The list is endless but these are just a few.

PM: Any countries doing better than others in creating eco fashion?

SB: There are countries that excel in particular areas of eco design, for example the UK has a plethora of really great recycle and redesign companies. They have long had a fascination and respect for vintage, so it only makes sense that they would excel in this area of design. Brazil has a good number of artisanal women’s cooperatives that work with traditional handmade techniques such as crochet and fuxico. Germany excels in urban design and accessories.

PM: Did your research determine if the cost in operating a fashion house with such sustainable practices was more expensive than those that did not practice eco fashion?

SB: I didn’t go into pricing in the book but I did feature a range of designers who work at varying price points in markets. Many run relatively small companies, meaning they likely pay a premium for their materials and organic cottons for example are more expensive than non organic cottons. However, the real cost of fast fashion is hidden, the cost to the environment and sometimes to human rights of those that produce the items are not reflected in their pricing. Those costs are realized in ethical brand pricing.

The book will be in stores by the beginning of September and can be pre-ordered through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. My publisher is Laurence King at British so the book is available through them in the UK and it has also been translated into Spanish and Italian.

Article by Pierce Mattie (visit

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