Designer Presents on Eco-fashion

CHRISTOPHER FUNK
Freelance Reporter
Oregon Daily Emerald
University of Oregon, Eugene

Fashion designer Anna Cohen has created a clothing line that sneaks environmentally friendly material into the closets of her customers.

“It’s under the wire,” she said. “They try it on, fall in love with it, and then they read the hang tag, and the hang tag is telling them: This is bamboo.”

Cohen designs clothing made from 100 percent bamboo, which she says is biodegradable and easily renewable.

Cohen, a fashion designer from New York, who moved to Oregon from Italy to be a part of what she calls the “center for sustainability,” has worked with major fashion designers and companies such as Max Mara, Patrizia Pepe, Guess and Binicocchi. Cohen gave a presentation on globally responsible fashion Tuesday night in front of roughly 50 students, faculty and community members.

“We have few resources, and if we don’t start paying attention and changing the way we operate in the world, we’re not going to last,” Cohen said.

Cohen is a part of the Sustainable Design Group, a group of like-minded business professionals who seek to educate consumers on the importance of sustainability and the need for consumers to make environmentally responsible choices. Fellow group members Holly Brunk of startup company Entermodal and Kirk Mayer of Nike also spoke at the event.

The group focuses on changing consumer and industry practices.

Cohen said she intends her company to be a model for others.

“I want my company to be on the forefront of moving both fashion design and the global fashion industry toward more sustainable practices that support environment and social justice, to creating cutting edge design using globally responsible business practices,” she said.

Brunk, operations manager for the Sustainable Design Group, said it wouldn’t be difficult for more businesses to adopt responsible, sustainable practices, and if more businesses were to adopt such practices, corporations would not only reduce environmental costs but reduce financial costs as well.

“The interesting thing about integrating environmental sustainability into traditional business models is that a lot of resources and financial resources are saved,” Brunk said. “I think if you are trying to talk a traditional business person or a traditional business model … the benefit of going environmentally sustainable is that there are loads of financial reward.”

For Cohen, Brunk and Mayer, sustainability is not just a means of financial reward, it is a means of providing for this generation and future generations, Mayer said. And for sustainability to effectively provide for next generations, it has to address many different categories.

“Sustainability addresses traditional considerations of price, aesthetics and performance, but it also addresses safety of material inputs, choosing safe chemical inputs that go into it and also water use and efficiency,” Mayer said.

Cohen said she is persuading businesses to adopt sustainable business practices as well as educating people about how they can become responsible, environmentally concerned consumers. She said she will return to the University to give another lecture.

Cohen is excited to be back in Oregon working on the two things she loves: sustainability and fashion.

“I’m trying to really marry those two intensely important parts of myself, and therefore I feel so powerful in the work that I’m doing,” Cohen said.