Laura Siegel: A Wordly View of Eco Fashion

… the twenty-four year-old designer’s consciousness and conscience were caught by the cultures and communities that she came across.

Story by Ayodele Hippolyte - Photos ©Icarus Blake Stylist/Stacey Cunningham Hair/Akira Flume Make-Up/Dana Rae Ashburn

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Rugged. Natural. Indigenous. Artisanal. These are just a sample of the defining elements of the vision of young eco-fashion designer, Laura Siegel. Woven into Siegel’s collections are the issues of sustainability, tradition, social empowerment, and of course, distinctive style. A graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, Laura Siegel is the real deal regarding the ethos of eco-fashion.

Inspired by a year-long trip around the world, the twenty-four year-old designer’s consciousness and conscience were caught by the cultures and communities that she came across. Siegel was particularly taken with a nomadic tribe in India, the Rebari, whose women used a centuries-old embroidery technique that fascinated the designer. She began to work with these women in their homes learning their craft and they now collaborate with Siegel to create unique pieces for her collection. By employing the Rebari women, Siegel is not just ensuring economic survival, but survival of this ancient technique that is of immense cultural value.

photo©Icarus Blake recycled muslins courtesy of Laura Siegel

In the Kutch region of India, Siegel also found a sustainable dying method called ajrakh, which she uses in her collections. It’s a natural-dye block printing process that has been practiced for over seven thousand years by a native tribe whom Siegel discovered. Again, she works closely with the local artisans using their traditional expertise to create her designs while providing not just an income for them, but also a way for their knowledge and creativity to reach beyond their community.

Siegel has been quoted as saying that her collections are about having an innovative approach to tradition with a social conscience. It’s not simply about creating eco-chic style for Westerners to feel good about wearing. It’s about honoring and sustaining the people and traditions from whom we can learn so much.

photo©Icarus Blake recycled muslins courtesy of Laura Siegel

  Q&A with Laura Siegel

CBK: What drew you to the world of fashion?

LS: Parsons was a perfect breeding grounds for my skills, but my aesthetic was developed during a year I took off to travel. It was throughout Asia where I grew an affinity for the rich history of craft in the cultures and they continue to inspire me today.

CBK:  Were eco-fashion and sustainability issues part of your degree at Parsons?

LS: It wasn’t until I began back at Parsons after my year off that I started to think about sustainable design. My senior year thesis was made of only organic, sustainable fibers dyed with natural dyes. My kitchen became dye central, much to the chagrin of an amazingly understanding roommate. I experimented with leaves, bugs, spices, tea waste; you name it!  My fabric techniques like weaving and batik were all inspired by techniques of cultures I had seen and admired on my journey.

CBK: Describe some of the more important things that you have learned about sustainability working with the different tribal groups around the world?

LS: I am constantly excited to be able to continue to preserve a craft, the way their lives are outside their craft is the same as it has been for hundreds of years. When you sustain their craft, you sustain their culture. I have learned that craft must be preserved and the global connections allowed by the Internet, ones just like your lovely publication, can help tell the artisans’ story.  I collaborate with the artisans to bring their craft to my customer that appreciates the delicate hand quality skill that goes into each garment.

CBK:  Do you think that sustainability will become a staple consideration in the fashion industry?

LS: Yes, I think eventually all brands will consider sustainable practices to some extent, but it will take a while.

CBK: Any final comments on the issue of eco-fashion?

LS: Sustainable design is not a particular aesthetic, it’s just about implementing ethics in your company. It’s about being conscious of your production methods and the lives of the people you are working with. To be sustainable you must always be vigilant to positive change.

Model is Auguste Stephanie at AIM

One Response to “Laura Siegel: A Wordly View of Eco Fashion”

  1. […] has been my good fortune to be able to travel with eco-designer Laura Siegel for the past two seasons while she develops her new collections. With her youthful backpacking […]