Make It Work! Parsons and Louis Vuitton Go Zero Waste

We have no word whether everyone’s favorite adopted uncle, Tim Gunn, will walk the halls warning students that they are creating “a lot of look,” but count in Parsons School of Fashion and Louis Vuitton as participants in the movement to make fashion more sustainable.

When you account for its entire supply chain, from first cotton seed or petroleum drop, to shipping and then final purchase, the fashion industry has a huge impact on the planet and people.  Some suggest that the textile industry alone is the second or third most polluting industry on the planet.  Nevertheless, more companies from Levi’s to H&M have taken sustainability seriously, from halting the practice of denim sandblasting to using more recycled materials in its fashion lines.  Now Louis Vuitton, the $20 billion brand that is both revered and counterfeited, has started a pilot zero waste project.

If you spend your Thursday evenings watching Project Runway, or spend time on the show’s website looking for juicy details that do not make it into the now 90 minute episodes, one pesky issue that badgers the fashion industry is waste.  Designers make mistakes, rethink their designs, or have a meltdown when Uncle Tim responds to their idea with what often appears to be symptoms of a gastrointestinal disorder.  Well, multiply those mishaps by thousands of factories around the world and you have enough scraps to fill all the world’s empty coal mines.  Sometimes waste is no fault of the factory or mill.  A large retail chain may request a huge order of curtains, T-shirts, or purses.  The cargo arrives too late or gets stuck in customs, and the department store responds with a “too bad, the season is over,” leaving the distributor or wholesaler with mounds of product he or she cannot sell.  Maybe that lot can be sold to a discounter or mom and pop store—perhaps someone will swipe it from the back of a truck.  It has to go somewhere.

Through a partnership with Parsons, LV’s Soho Store will host a bevy of fashion design students who will make to with those pesky yet valuable scraps and remnants.  Students have taken over sections of the Greene Street location, and by today, they will have created elaborate panels that will decorate a party the store is hosting.  Assuming that the panels will be auctioned off or given away, the net result will be a little less waste that is hauled to a landfill.  Hopefully the other fashion houses will reply in kind.  Firms like LV and Prada thrive not only because of their huge following, but because they are innovators—if they can find a way to reuse materials without seeing any diminishing of their brands, sustainability could entrench its way even more into these firm’s core operations, and customers would become more conscientious and reply in kind.

Leon Kaye has written for Triple Pundit since 2010 . He is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in Fresno, California, he is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. His work is has also appeared on The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).