• By Dana Casadei

Woke fashion: Environment and the industry


When Detroit Denim Company reopens its retail shop, ideally sometime next year, customers’ experiences will look quite different than they had before. Picture it: you walk in, try on some fit samples, pay for the jeans you want, then, well, walk out empty-handed. You’ll then wait four to six weeks before you have a new pair, which would be custom made personally for you, from denim to cut. “That notion that no one would leave the store with anything in their hand that day is a little bit counterintuitive to most shopping experiences nowadays, but I think we're kind of in this age of Amazon, where it's like, I click 'buy,' and I want it at my door in an hour. For a long time, we felt like we had to kind of fit that model,” said Brenna Lee, who co-owns Detroit Denim with her husband Eric Yelsma. “We're realizing that that's not the most fulfilling way to shop for things.” Detroit Denim will switch to made-to-order fully in 2021. In September, the company shutdown to spend the next 90 days gearing up to an entirely made-to-order model, which will be implemented online while the coronavirus pandemic remains a concern. “A really key part of sustainability and fashion is having a better relationship with your clothes,” Lee said. “We can't just be mindlessly consuming our clothes. We have to be thoughtfully consuming our clothes.” Sustainability is a word being brought up with more and more frequency in the fashion industry and for good reasons, considering it’s one of most harmful industries out there, coming in second among the most polluting industries in the world according to the United Nations. The only industry with a worse track record is oil. According to the World Economic Forum, not only does the fashion industry produce 10 percent of all of humanity’s carbon emissions, consuming more energy than aviation and shipping combined, but it’s the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply. “If you were to Google, how many gallons of water are used to make one t-shirt…it’s horrifying,” said Emily Smith, owner of Adored Boutique in Grand Rapids. FYI, it’s about 718 gallons. Water use is one of three major areas of environmental concern in the fashion industry. The other two are chemical use and waste, and all of them seem to be a problem not only before the clothes enter the store but after, especially when it comes to how clothes are handled. Sam Athey, an environmental scientist at the University of Toronto, was discussing with her colleagues, who all study the occurrence of microfibers in different environmental matrices, the types of microfibers they were all seeing in their samples. They kept coming back to one they had in common that they were finding in abundance – cotton fibers dyed with indigo dyes. “In wondering where they were coming from and what the source of these fibers were, our supervisor or the principal investigator of the lab, Miriam Diamond, goes, ‘Oh my god, I think they're coming from blue jeans,” Athey recalled. Turns out, Diamond was right. Published in September 2020, Athey and her colleagues released, “The Widespread Environmental Footprint of Indigo Denim Microfibers from Blue Jeans,” which much like the title suggests, discussed their findings of microfibers from blue jeans in aquatic environments from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Archipelago, as well as more shallow suburban lakes near Toronto. That study found that one pair of used jeans can shed roughly 56,000 microfibers per wash. While Athey is the first to admit she loves denim, the results of their research weren’t a total surprise to the University of Toronto environmental scientist, given a recent trend in microfiber research fields, which is finding most anthropogenic microfibers are not composed of plastic, but of this anthropogenically modified cellulose, which is, for example, cotton that's dyed or contains certain chemical additives. “I think what was so shocking about it is that we were basically confronted with the remnants of a garment that we all wear all the time,” she pointed out. “We all have denim in our closets. Many of us wear blue jeans and we were seeing these small pieces of denim in Arctic sediments being ingested by fish.” Given denim’s popularity, though, that shock quickly went away. There are multiple pathways that denim microfibers are using to spread. Athey said those fibers become dislodged in the water in the wash. Then that water makes its way to the wastewater treatment plant, where it’s treated before being discharged into the environment. Wastewater treatment facilities catch between 83 and 99 percent of those microfibers, depending on the facility. “The volume of that one percent is still hundreds of thousands of fibers that can be pumped out into the environment,” Athey said. Then there’s the issue of sludge, a byproduct of those wastewater treatment plants that is a solid material that contains the filtered out microfibers. It’s often used as fertilizer on agricultural fields but once that sludge dries, those microfibers can get into the air. When the fibers get incorporated into the soil with the sludge they can be picked up by rainwater and run off into local aquatic environments. Fibers can even become dislodged by just wearing your clothes. The University of Toronto isn’t the only one studying microfibers in recent years. In 2016, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put out a study focused on plastic debris in 29 Great Lakes tributaries and found that the most microplastic pollution is from microfiber synthetic fibers. From the samples collected, 70 percent of the microplastics were from fibers. One of the tributaries studied was the Huron River. “That got our attention,” said Anita Daley, marketing executive for Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). The HRWC was able to confirm that the Huron River’s largest portion of microplastics was indeed microfibers in their own study. As far as where those microfibers are coming from, they aren’t 100 percent sure, especially the ones that came from more urban areas, which aren't subject to agricultural runoff from sludge. Daley did recommend that people look for a front load washer, where clothes have been shown to shed less, get a filter for it, and try laundry devices which catch fibers like Cora Balls or GuppyFriend Bags. “The only thing I can tell you is that we have more questions and we want to do more research,” Daley said. “Because if we can pinpoint the sources, then you can problem solve.” The unknown is one of the largest concerns when it comes to microplastics and microfibers. There has not been a whole lot of research on the topic, and the only thing really known is that more research needs to be done. But even then, there are a few generally terrifying facts. “We do know that every one of us eats approximately a credit card worth of microplastics every week, and not all of that leaves – some of that stays with us,” said Jonathan Weyhrauch, principal of Reroot Environmental, a green infrastructure training organization in Pontiac, Michigan. “We don't really know how microplastics function in the human body at all, and they have a lot of potential to be harmful without knowing how that actually works.” Even with the use of filters, Weyhrauch said that fiber microplastics can kind of weasel their way through any type of filter. In one load of laundry, approximately 2,000 microfibers are deposited into our water stream. At Reroot Environmental, Weyhrauch and his team are working on a study, funded by Great Lakes Protection Fund, that looks at laundry bags, which would be any type of synthetic clothing that would be put into a laundry bag before it's put into the washing machine and the dryer. The idea is that bag would attract these microfibers and catch them. Then you would be able to take your clothes out and like a lint catcher, take your microfibers out and put them in the garbage. His other suggestions for catching microfibers all involved an installation, but he was the first to admit most people want things to be convenient and easy. Oftentimes though, that leads to the most detrimental decisions one can make, like with their washing. For now though, what can your average consumer do to reduce the amount of microfibers shedding in to the waters? Simple. Wash your jeans less. “We always like to treat jeans like a winter coat. You don't wash it every time you wear it. But you'll know when it's time,” said Lee from Detroit Denim. Lee said she washes her own jeans every 10 to 100 wears – it really depends on what she’s done in them. She recommended to hang dry them as well. That’s something the consumer can do to help the gallons of water use, but there are things being done at the design and manufacturing level too. Since Detroit Denim uses raw denim, they’ve eliminated the waster use entirely. Lee said the majority of the water use in jeans, or in apparel in general, comes from the distressing and the washing. Everlane, a clothing company headquartered in San Francisco, runs the denim company Saitex, where they recycle 98 percent of their water and air dry their jeans. Traditional denim water use in the standard process uses 1,500 liters of water compared to Saitex’s denim, whose water use after recycling is .4 liters. The sludge created by producing denim is extracted at Saitex and shipped to a nearby brick factory, where it’s mixed with concrete and therefore, cannot get into the environment. Those bricks are used to build affordable houses. So far, they’ve been able to build 10 homes. The Detroit-based fashion label Deviate, founded in 2018 by sisters Cassidy and Kelsey Tucker, are reducing water use in a similar way to Saitex by recycling their own. “When we first started dyeing, we realized that there's a huge amount of water that is needed to dye just a single t-shirt,” said Cassidy. “But the water can be reused again and again and again, and achieve really unique colors for an entire collection, which also helps to keep that collection cohesive, because if you're reusing the dye water, the color is going to be slightly different, but it's still based upon that same color that you've been using throughout your collection.” Cassidy said with the recycled water they can also take the color completely out so it won’t have any effect if they don’t want it to. Cassidy thinks the reason consumers don’t see this more often is simple – money. This kind of recycling technology would be an upfront cost to the manufacturer. Recycling isn’t only happening with the water used to make apparel, but the apparel itself through upcycling. Grand Rapids fashion designer Elonda Willis upcycles with both of her brands, Avante Garde at Breon Aries and IBHB Vintage Boutique. With IBHB, which appropriately stands for I’ve Been Here Before, Willis finds upscale clothing from the 1980s and 1990s. She alters the pieces and adds a unique touch before reselling them. Willis has partnered with multiple Grand Rapids furniture-based companies who create different textiles and evoke textiles to make furniture, and is able to use their “waste” in her own clothing designs. The woman-owned ethical fashion label, Saulé, headquartered in Detroit, launched in August 2020 and has partnerships with vintage shops around Detroit and Chicago, where they buy vintage dresses that are old or damaged and on their way to a landfill. Sequins and beading are removed and cleaned before getting a second life on Saulé garments. Once those embellishments are upcycled, they cut the remaining fabric into scraps to use as stuffing for dog pillows. The pillows are then donated to local animal shelters. Saulé’s sustainable efforts are used in their jewelry too, where they primarily use wood designated by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and all of their beads are made of glass, since it is biodegradable compared to the more commonly found plastic. Founder and Creative Director, Ania Czuprynski, said Saulé’s jewelry falls into what she called bridge jewelry, meaning it isn’t fine jewelry and normally is found made with plastic. For Czuprynski, the journey to create sustainable apparel started when she watched. The True Cost, a documentary focused on fast fashion. It then grew when she went to look for non-fine jewelry and mainly found everything was plastic. Currently, the label’s packaging is 95 percent sustainable. Everything from tags and tissue to the product boxes are recycled and compostable. They are members of Eco Packaging Alliance, an organization that plants trees every time an order is placed, as well. “I was like, ‘Okay, why don't I just create something that is right from the beginning?’” Czuprynski said. “I didn’t do it to have a sustainability badge on the website like the majority of brands do.” While there are a lot of efforts being made by different companies and designers, the fact that being sustainable has become trendy does lead to some companies thinking the sustainable label, with little follow through, is good enough. Take for instance, H&M, which has a sustainable brand but since they aren’t cutting back on any of their other inventory, it just creates more waste, which ends up in landfills and further enhances the problem. H&M – the definition of fast fashion – also has a recycling initiative, which then gives customers a 15 percent off coupon for their next in-store purchase for every bag dropped off. “Who doesn't love a discount? But what does that do? That entices you to buy more.” said Monika Jonevski, who teaches fashion merchandising at Wayne State University (WSU). “Then that's just feeding into the cycle…you can buy a $5 t-shirt at H&M…But then you wash it a few times, it's going to turn into like sandpaper and shrink. Then you buy another and then you buy another and buy another. In the end, it's the same cost of spending a little bit more for a shirt that is well made and not harmful to the environment.” The cost of sustainable fashion is often higher, leaving customers in a Catch-22 situation. Do you wait to save and spend more on an item that will last and help with that company’s sustainable efforts? Or do you buy what you need immediately even though it’s probably going to end up in a landfill, contributing to even more waste, after you dispose of it within in a year? Then you have to go replace it, going back to the same Catch-22 as before. Being sustainable isn’t always an easy decision for companies, either. With so many different elements to what is considered sustainable, ranging from how it affects the environment to the worker element, such as if employees are getting fair wages and what the working conditions are like, Czuprynski believes any company that says it is 100 percent sustainable is lying. “Selling and creating something is not sustainable. When you create something and you take from Mother Earth, it by description is not sustainable anymore,” she said. “But if you do it the most safe way possible, I think that's the way we should go forward.” Czuprynski, and others, think 100 percent sustainable is possible…eventually. With the pace at which it moves, sustainable fashion is often called slow fashion, which can leave companies frustrated with others in their field, like the experience Lee from Detroit Denim had at the Copenhagen fashion summit last year. This particular summit brings together heads from the world’s largest fashion brands to discuss the most cutting edge things being done in sustainability, an area these companies are spearheading. What she heard was lackluster, to say the least. “Instead of getting super impressed and inspired, what we saw were a lot of just empty promises and greenwashing just left and right,” Lee said. “What we realized when we were there is that there's all these people kind of nibbling around the edges at sustainability. No one is actually addressing the elephant in the room, which is overproduction,” she pointed out. Considering up to 85 percent of textiles go into landfills each year, including billions of pieces that go unsold by creators that mass produce, waste is one of the industry’s biggest issues. And with dozens of new lines being produced yearly, it’s easy to see how it has become such an issue. But many in Michigan are trying to help. Detroit Denim’s switch to made-to-order and Deviate's move to produce in small batches are some. Others use a no-waste method, like Rochester designer Cynthia LaMaide. “I'm a fiber artist and I create the fabric and then I also create the garments,” LaMaide said. “I knit, weave or felt in the traditional fiber arts, but I do it in a different sort of innovative kind of way, and with that I can use every bit of all my materials. There's no waste involved.” It doesn’t help that there are so many new lines released each year by fast fashion brands, which is why brands like the women's wear and accessories brand Astouri, which manufactures in Flint, create apparel that is seasonless and multifunctional. “When you look at traditional fashion companies, they do a lot of seasons, so they'll have spring, summer, winter, fall, and then they'll do you know, kind of resort collections in between. We don't do any of that,” said Christina Liedtke, Astouri founder. “These are really great iconic pieces that you can wear all year round. We actually keep it in our inventory. We don't have to destroy it, or reduce it to sale costs at the end of the seasons.” Having seasonless pieces adds to that fact that while most sustainable clothes are often on the more expensive side, they do often last longer. An area currently gaining more traction within the slow fashion world has to do with the materials themselves. “I think that we are going to be seeing a lot of evolution and innovation in materials,” Liedtke said. “I think the dyeing processes as we go through are going to evolve as well.” Liedtke’s right. “Dyeing is the most water and chemical intensive and energy intensive processes of any part of the supply chain,” said Krystle Moody Wood, founder of Materevolve, a technical textile consulting company in California. Rochester designer LaMaide has taken her dyeing into her own hands. Literally. She uses natural dyes, like indigo and flowers, that she’s grown in her own garden. Doing dyes this way is not only better for the wearer but LaMaide as well considering how toxic dyes can be. “It's really cool because you just go outside and pick all the flowers or plants,” she said. “You can use roots and also fruits, and it turns out we're printing the colors.” On a slightly larger scale, Deviate is using plants to create natural dyes, all locally-sourced from Detroit. For their spring/summer collection, they used local blueberries to create what Cassidy described as a lavender purple dye. They’ve used coffee grounds and sandalwood chips in past collections. “The natural dyeing process is almost identical to the synthetic dyeing process,” Cassidy said. “It's just the dyeing agent is obviously different.” The plants and food are put in instead of a powder. As far as materials go, there is work being done nationally and locally. Nationally, mycelium, the threadlike vegetative roots of fungus, is being used as a nature-based material for not only clothes but shoes and handbags as well. Manufacturers are using it to create leather-like materials. MycoWorks, a San Francisco-based startup that produces sustainable products and apparels from fungi, uses mycelium cells to create Reishi, the first Fine Mycelium material, which can be used like leather. A wood-eating fungus species, ganoderma, is feed agricultural waste, which then gets the ganoderma to grow the mycelium cells in a dense, intertwined structure. The mycelium – thanks to a control on things like the humidity it grows in – produces sheets of fiber called Reishi. Another California-based company creating sustainable biomaterials is Bolt Threads. Since their founding in 2009, Bolt Threads has created Mylo, their version of “leather,” and Microsilk, which sustainably replicates the silk fibers spiders produce and has the potential to biodegrade at the end of its useful life. Mylo was developed from mycelium cells by engineering it to a product that assembles a durable material that can replace leather and can be produced in just days. More locally, Czuprynski from Saulé uses Piñatex for their earring backings and necklaces. Piñatex is a type of leather made from cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves, PLA, and petroleum-based resin. Another material being seen more and more is plastic water bottles. According to Wood, when plastic water bottles are collected they are mechanically shredded into little chips, melted down into pellets, and then those pellets are basically re-polymerized or chemically reduced down to shorter segments of chemistry and made into polyester again. “So we can actually have 100 percent recycled polyester product that is basically the same quality as regular polyester,” she said. “Textiles is actually a good second use for that plastic.” Jackson Riegler is a junior at the University of Michigan and the founder of Oshki. The Michigan-based apparel company makes its items from recycled plastic waste collected from the Great Lakes and other U.S. waterways. Eventually, Riegler hopes to have enough beach clean-ups – this is how they get some of their plastic bottles – where all of the materials for their products are sourced directly from their clean-up efforts. He’s shooting for 2022 to make that a reality and thinks he would need to reach monthly clean-ups in 300 to 500 cities. Next summer there are plans to add somewhere between 50 to 75 more cities to what they already do. “Obviously, plastic is something that has a very negative connotation and for the right reasons in terms of its durability and how long it takes to break down,” he said. “But when you can see exciting new things that you can do with plastic…development and technology will only improve over the next few decades. It kind of gives a good outlook for the future in terms of where we could go.” Riegler’s other big goal for Oshki is to become entirely carbon neutral by 2025. Much like Czuprynski, Riegler has gone with an A to Z approach when it comes to sustainability, not only practicing what he preaches in the apparel he sells but in the packaging as well. They use biodegradable, recycled packaging that’s all been made in the U.S. – a big focus for him, which helps lower their carbon footprint. “American exceptionalism, that's not why, it's more because a lot of these companies that are focusing on sustainability don't focus on the amount of carbon usage that is going on when they're shipping stuff and sourcing stuff from all over the world,” he said. “If you're focusing on sourcing sustainable materials, but you have to ship it all over the world, that offset might do more harm than good.” And don’t worry, since the base product is polyester, you won’t have to wash Oshki’s apparel any differently than you would clothing not made out of plastic water bottles. “The recycled polyester fabrics can really be made into almost anything,” said Rebecca Grewal, owner of Michigan Fashion Pronto, an apparel manufacturer in Lansing. “So even just t-shirt fabrics, it can be knit with different organic cottons or other fibers to really make almost any type of fabric.” Even larger apparel manufacturers, like Grewal’s, are seeing a push for more recycled materials. Grewal said over the past few years, at least 50 percent of their inquiries that come in are people looking to be sustainable. The last decade or so is when sustainable fashion has really seemed to have seen the most growth, particularly in the last few years. “It’s a whole culture shift,” said Leslie Ann Pilling, founder and president, of the Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit (MMODD). “People are now looking for the brands that they know are sustainable. They're deep diving into the information or ingredients that the garments are made of.” “I would say in my 15 year career, I think sustainability has never been as important as it is now,” said Wood of Materevolve. Some companies, like the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, have been doing work towards sustainable fashion for years, while other are really just now starting to enter the scene. “Patagonia is still sort of the first anyone talks about when they talk about sustainable apparel,” Wood said. “But there's so many more leaders in this space now.” There’s Levi’s, which removes water whenever possible with their Water<Less collection, first introduced in 2011. Since their inception, that line has saved the company over 3.5 billion liters of water in the products finishing process. By the end of 2019, 69 percent of their bottoms products were made using those techniques. There’s also higher end fashion companies, like Gucci and Burberry. In 2019, Gucci announced it had gone wholly carbon neutral. Burberry shared a similar announcement, with a goal to become carbon neutral by 2022. Both companies have also decided to ban fur. The latter’s history with being sustainable is a little murky though. According to Jonevski from WSU, Burberry would often end up with excess inventory at the end of a season and in order for it to not be sold off to places like TJ Maxx, the company would burn their products so that they could maintain that brand perception of being high quality, at a high price point. “But, they decided they're no longer going to burn their products because it's harmful for the environment,” she said. Jonevski has been front-and-center of sustainable fashion over the last decade. She was with Adidas when a push came for the company to work with recycled plastic from the ocean to create outsoles on footwear, something they began in 2016 through their partnership with the advocacy group Parley for the Oceans. As of March 2018, the shoe company had sold one million pairs of shoes made from ocean trash, made possible by a yarn developed by the advocacy group that turns the ocean plastic into a polymer that’s used to contract the knitted footwear. Each shoe uses an average of 11 plastic bottles per pair. Jonevski was also with Adidas when they worked with fashion designer Stella McCartney, who Jonevski called a game changer in terms of sustainability. That partnership unveiled a tennis dress made from cellulose-blended yarn and Bolt’s Microsilk in 2019. “In general, like in the whole industry, if you're not talking sustainability, you're not really talking at this point,” said Evan Sparrow, a graduate student at the Center for Creative Studies (CCS). Sparrow is one of the graduate students who currently has his designs showcased in the MMODD annual sourceFORMATION exhibition. The exhibition focuses on the full supply chain and lifecycle of everything from urban manufacturing to sourcing raw materials. That includes at the college and university level, especially in Michigan, where it’s being implemented into more and more fashion programs, with courses offered at Michigan State University, CCS, and WSU, which held their first sustainable fashion show last year. Sustainability has played an increasing part of Western Michigan University’s (WMU) fashion merchandising and design program over the last year, said Dr. Mary Simpson, an assistant professor in the program. The department is also research-focused. Currently, they are working on a grant funded by Cotton Inc. that focuses on cotton knowledge and sustainability, both inside and outside the classroom. As part of the grant, students will collaborate with local businesses to inform the public about the cotton fiber knowledge and the environmental impact of using sustainable cotton fabrics. Then there’s Central Michigan University (CMU), which has been a leader in the adoption of technologies that are relevant to the fashion industry for years. Dr. Michael Mamp, director, Fashion Merchandising and Design Online Program, and professor in the Fashion, Interior Design, and Merchandising department at CMU, said for decades now the university has taught their students how to utilize various forms of computer-aided design (CAD), which is commonplace in the industry. And while that may sound simple, being able to send that technical drawing to a manufacturer all digitally reduces the need to execute that in a physical format to send it through the mail to then spend time and money and resources getting that item from one place to another. Mamp said what’s really unique about CMU’s program is that in addition to learning those essential Adobe programs, they also teach students a specialized software package called product lifecycle management. That program allows every part of the supply chain to see all of the information about a garment in digital format simultaneously. So, for example, if a design is uploaded into the system then the textile mill can access that data and begin to enter information about the development of the fabric they’re going to weave to make that piece of clothing. They’ve also integrated additive manufacturing processes into their curriculum, specifically 3-D printing, compared to the more traditional subtractive process used by many manufacturers. The department has 30 3-D printers on site for students to use. “In an additive manufacturing process, like 3-D printing, you're only using the material that you need to print the object and even if you print multiple prototypes of your item before you decide on the final design, the material that we print in, which is called PLA, polylactic acid, is derived from completely renewable resources and is completely recyclable,” Mamp said. Students at CMU can learn about 3-D virtual fit as well. This program allows for a fit session for the evaluation of the sample to happen on a virtual body on a 3-D avatar with no tangible garment made. Mamp said when you walk through a corporate fashion office there are often racks and racks of clothes because of the sample that need to be made. Programs like 3-D virtual fit, which Mamp said is already being used at organizations like Target, will dramatically reduce the impact that the industry has on the environment by the reduction of samples with this program. “I think it's really getting harder to talk about fashion and sustainability without also talking about technology, which we're constantly seeing disrupt the fashion space over and over again, as well as every other industry,” said Cassidy from Deviate. Two companies in Detroit, Whim-Detroit and the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC), are looking to make sure that technology comes here and some of it already has. Whim-Detroit is a technology transformation partner and innovation lab with a focus on technology and data. CEO Lori McColl, who is also the chair of innovation and automation for the Michigan Fashion Industry Council, said Whim-Detroit has, so far, worked with apparel companies to launch their e-commerce businesses and integrate their online platforms. “We have worked at integrating all of the customer support channels into a central portal and hub,” McColl said. “We are working now with an integrated kind of virtual fittings scheduling process.” While she couldn’t give the name of the company for that specific project, McColl did say that it will be launched next year and essentially would allow for customers to pick the fabric, color, cut, and style that they want all online to get their own product. The concept isn’t new but Whim-Detroit really wants to build a seamless experience. Then there’s ISAIC. Ann Fitzpatrick, their communications consultant, said that in the next six months, on top of the traditional sewing they already do, they’ll be testing robotics for producing for fashion manufacturing. While the company launched with the sustainability of people in mind, there are plans for a fellow to come in and see how they can make changes to be more sustainable environmentally. ISAIC is looking to work primarily with companies that are using recycled materials and since they are closer to their customers, that already eliminates their carbon footprint. Moving forward, Wood from Materevolve said now is the time for the industry to collaborate. Sustainability is not a time for companies to focus on gaining the competitive edge. “Something that I think sets Michigan and Detroit apart is that there's an extremely collaborative cooperative nature here that says like, let's figure this out together and really bring this home for our city and our state,” Lee said. Collaboration is an area Michigan has always done well in. Throughout interviews for this story, especially those in Michigan, were constantly bringing up other designers and companies in the state doing amazing things in the world of sustainability, with multiple mentions of Rockford’s Conscious Clothing, which creates sustainable handmade clothing with eco-friendly and low impact materials, and fashion designer Tracy Reese, who came back home to Detroit to launch her sustainable clothing line, Hope for Flowers last year. The state’s past in manufacturing will also prove helpful in its sustainable fashion future. Detroit, in particular, has another advantage over cities like New York City and LA, when it comes to building a large hub for sustainable apparel manufacturing. They didn’t have one before. “We don't have to disassemble anything to reinvent it,” said Lee from Detroit Denim. “We can just start with the reinvention.” Looks like they’ve already gotten started.

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