Sustainable Fashion on the Runway: Gjilberta Lucaj-Cohen
You founded NYC Sustainable Fashion during the pandemic. Tell us how this idea came to life.
My co-founder Vera Lovici and I were talking over a coffee about recycling and climate change. The problems with single use plastic and fast fashion. While sipping our coffees we started googling if there was a company that showcased only sustainable designers and we found none.
Everything in NYC starts with a coffee :)
NYC Sustainable Fashion organizes runway fashion shows that showcase sustainable brands. Tell us what the reaction to sustainable fashion has been from the public?
It has been truly unbelievable. So many people in the industry were giving us many accolades for starting this project and offering to help in any way they could; from models who loved walking for us, to designers to magazines like the WWD and Yahoo!News. I believe everyone is concerned with the future of our planet and the well-being of each one of us.
What goes into preparing a fashion show - start to finish?
Besides some sleepless nights nearing the event, I have to say it was a great experience because everyone was excited to be part of this initiative. However, attention to details is key as the smallest thing makes a big difference on the day of the show. From looking at each collection and choosing specific music with our DJ Vin Pogace, to choosing each model for each piece of clothing, to schedule down to the minute the performances of our musicians, myself, Ergin Oda, Joana Kaimi and our prima ballerina Katherine Barkman etc. Luckily we also have Fernanda Garcia working with us as a marketing assistant but on the day of the show all of us wore many hats.
Do you see high fashion increasingly integrating sustainable materials? What have been the best sustainable fabrics you’ve discovered?
There is an ever-increasing demand for sustainability in high fashion and many brands are employing techniques where water is reused and saved, also natural botanical dyes are used from various vegetables and plants, therefore making it safe for the environment. The best fabrics we’ve come across are bamboo fibers being used in jeans and other clothing items which are surprisingly soft, recycled materials from plastic bottles such as the track suits from Pangaia, fabric taken from discarded fishing nets and industrial plastic used to make swimwear for the brand We Are We Wear and your brand KATLA's Econyl fabric in activewear which repurposes plastic from the ocean into beautiful clothing.
What are some of the most innovative sustainable fashion ideas you’ve come across (i.e. in manufacturing, fabric creation, zero waste design, etc.)?
Capturing Carbon Dioxide from the polluted air and creating clothing, building blocks for construction etc. Also using algae and silk made from spiders.
How else do you foster the sustainable fashion community beyond the runway shows?
We have a newsletter where we write about three to four articles per week, informing our audience of all these new technologies and projects worldwide. We also host group chats with many other companies in various fields of sustainability.
Outside of this important work, you are also a concert cellist! What was your journey like from music to fashion?
I started performing in NYFW and Couture Fashion Week about 15 years ago and realized how much was being wasted in terms of ripped clothing just being thrown in the garbage even if it was a nice dress and not taken to be either sewn or recycled into a different garment. I also have a natural ability with organizing events because of my career as a performer so the two just came together in a very symbiotic way. Now we strive to put on a show for the senses, with performing and visual arts and sustainable designs.
What is your favorite KATLA item?
Hard to say as I really love them all, but if I have to choose just one item, it would be the Saga Dress in champagne color.