Last night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the stars aligned. Bringing together pioneers of the environmental movement in fashion, art, beauty, architecture, and interior design to celebrate the event, “Eco Chic: Night of Stars and Rising Stars”. The occasion, held on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day was the first of its kind; promoting awareness of Eco and Ethical Design, while recognizing the exemplary efforts of a few, key professionals on their pursuit of excellence.
The concept for the Eco Chic soiree came from the book called Eco Chic: The Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Ethical Fashion by author, and Consumer Affairs Editor of The Ecologist magazine, Matilda Lee. The book educates readers on the process of making sustainable and environmentally friendly choices while purchasing goods, and also provides first hand accounts of how the industry is changing through the eyes of top fashion designers and industry makers. The Greater Washington DC regional chapter of Fashion Group International recognized the impact of Lee’s book and realized that its message could be applied across a multitude of professions, all of which are making great strides within the ‘green’ movement.
The evening began with a cocktail reception and informal fashion show. A show, which had no catwalk – but instead had models posing as sculptures, staying as still as possible on their designated pedestal, while attendees gawked at the latest trends in “Eco Chic” fashion. The fashion show was produced by Aba Bonney Kwawu of the Aba Agency and featured fashions by London Fashion Week’s “Eco Designer of the Year”, Jeff Garner of Prophetic. Furthermore, the Fashion Star of the evening, Monique Péan, and the Fashion Rising Star nominees – Calamarie (designer of the killer rosette necklace in the above photograph and handbag featured below), Alberto Parada, and TranquiliT – also had their work on display.
The awards ceremony, emceed by NBC4 news anchor Wendy Rieger, was full of information and inspiration regarding the state of the sustainable movement (as it applied to the evening). Speakers for the ceremony included Erin Higgins – Public Programs Coordinator for the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Carroll Thomas Martin – Regional Director of The Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, DC, Karin Cadena – Regional Director Elect and Chairperson of the Eco Chic event, and Matilda Lee. Furthermore, the Stars and Rising Stars were introduced and celebrated – and the Rising Star winners were announced [see below for the winners].
Throughout the evening, I had the opportunity to meet with and discuss the state of the sustainable movement with some of the evenings Stars and Rising Star nominees. I was really curious to know what it meant to them to be “Eco Chic”.
My first chat was with the night’s Fashion Star, Monique Péan, whose sustainable fine jewelry was recently spotted on a certain First Lady as she arrived to the Benito Juarez Airport in Mexico City last week. When I asked Péan what it meant to her to be “Eco Chic” she said, “it is all about being conscious of what you wear and how you live your life… you should know how things are made so that you can make positive changes through your purchases”.
My next discussion was with the evening’s Architecture Star, Ken Wilson and Diana Horvat of Envision. With notable projects such as, the U.S Green building Council (USGBC) headquarters and the Greenpeace headquarters, the pioneering firm was no doubt a shoe-in for the award this year. When I asked Wilson and Horvat what they thought it meant to them to be “Eco Chic”– as it applied to the building industry; the answer I got was quite fascinating. “It is all about bringing a bunch of different things together to create more efficient and healthier spaces for people,” Wilson said, “taking the component of a well-designed space and adding in a sustainable message doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive or scream ‘green’ and crunchy. “Take this business card, which is made out of 100% post consumer recycled paper with no chlorine and only soy-based inks,” Wilson then pulled out his uber-sleek business card and continued,” this card is modern and bright, designed-well, yet, also has the sustainable component we are looking for… nothing here is compromised”.
I also had the chance to talk to Summer Minchew, a Rising Star nominee in Interior Design, about the current state of sustainable practices in the interiors realm. When I asked Minchew, a LEED AP, what being “Eco Chic” meant to her, she gave me a well-thought out answer. “Interiors can be “Eco-Chic” and relevant,” she said, “green interiors are no longer seen as ‘crunchy’ and ‘granola’ like they once were, full of ‘green’ materials such as bamboo or cork; materials have evolved and now support the creation of sleek, beautiful, and modern spaces – making it easy to incorporate practices and principles that make the space holistically better”.
The honorees for the Art Star were the revered Christo and Jeanne-Claude, best known for their large-scale installations, such as The Gates, Valley Curtain, and Surrounded Islands. Having been a huge fan of their work, I was having a difficult time making the connection between their elaborate installations and the environmental movement. Thankfully, even though Christo was not in attendance, Mark Leithauser, the Senior Curator and Chief of Design at the National Gallery of Art – who actually selected the pair for the honor – was able to help me out. Leithauser explained to me that although Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects were not sustainable, they were still, very much, environmentally conscious. For example, for the Wrapped Trees the pair worked with arborists and horticulturalists to ensure that no trees were damaged during their installation. Furthermore, the project was set for the snowy months of January, a time when no tree sap would be being produced. However, Leithauser really put it all together for me when he said, “it is all about seeing something from a different perspective, to make you think.” Leithauser continued with, “once you saw how Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped a tree, you never looked at a tree the same way again. Not to make a comparison, but it’s kind of like Pop Art. Once Andy Warhol created his infamous Campbell’s Soup Can, 1964 a soup can was no longer just a soup can”.
As I left the event, I thought, what does ‘Eco Chic’ mean to me? It was then that my earlier conversation with Mark Leithauser really hit home, being actually quite applicable to not just the art world or to the evening – but somehow, the environmental movement as a whole. It is not so much about how ‘green’ your daily practices are or how big -or- small your carbon footprint is — it really is all about being aware, being thoughtful, and being engaged in the world around you. Looking at your life from a different perspective.
Stars and Rising Stars [*Rising Star winners]
Star: Envision -Ken Wilson and Diana Horvat
Rising Stars: *Inscape Studio – Greg Kearley, Scout Motor Company – Rauzia Ally and Gregory Rubbo, and Divison1 – Ali Honarkar
Star: Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Rising Stars: *Beverly Ress and Jeremy Tidd
Rising Stars: *Perfect Organics – Debra Claire, Skincando – Sara Damelio, and Shea Terra Organics – Tammie Umbel
Star: Penny Bonda
Rising Stars: *Nita Tuvesson, Nusta Spa – Elizabeth Snowden, and Summer Minchew
Star: Monique Péan
Rising Stars: Calamarie – Catalina Lemaitre, *TranquiliT – Kimberley Wilson, and Alberto Parada