Slow and Steady Wins the Race, No. 8 Shirt, 2005. Cotton.
A few of the designers represented sell in bulk, or at least have attracted a great deal of media attention. Loomstate
is a hot five-year-old manufacturer of organic cotton T-shirts and jeans, indie darling Slow and Steady Wins the Race
collages buckles and chains on its cloth handbags in sarcastic homage to the likes of Gucci and Balenciaga, and Alabama Chanin
has expanded its Alabama-sewn limited editions over the past few years into bridal gowns and pillow shams. The majority of the “Ethics + Aesthetics” objects, however, may remind viewers of suggestions from “No Impact Man
.” Consumers will likely never take to Kelly Cobb
’s itchy underwear made of locally harvested sheep’s wool, or hand over some favorite maternity blouses and babies’ onesies for Susan Cianciolo to patchwork into memory-stirring cocktail dresses, or follow Andrea Zittel’
s precedent of wearing the same felt smock every day. (Copies of Zittel’s smock pattern will be included in the catalog, available in late January — in time for a free panel discussion on January 26 at Pratt — and funded by a $15,000 grant from the Coby Foundation
.) Nor will it much affect the market if some craftsy people stitch their denim skirts from Cianciolo’s kits, which come complete with scissors, or follow SANS’s downloadable instructions for making T-shirts with smile-shaped neck openings.
The Pratt exhibit does not quite clarify how much of the clothing is actually on the market. In fact the wall texts often lack such basic details. The prose can get fuzzy and starstruck, praising companies that epitomize “American design at its best” or “foster the creation of meaningful networks and relations through clothing” or “affect positive and lasting social and economic change.” Yet we’re not told when and where all the designers were born and trained, what kinds of workshops and distribution and supplier networks they have set up and what their available pieces cost retail. (My advice to visitors: bring some handheld Googling device for getting up to speed on the fashion scene.)
So don’t go expecting a critical stance or some advice on what not to wear. “We didn’t want to espouse one solution, one approach to sustainability — there is no one overarching true thing,” Scaturro says. Go instead just to get heartened by experimental designers’ optimism, imagination, sewing skill and lack of preachiness. May this exhibit, with slightly juicier wall texts, travel widely, and may the students’ lumber ceiling mobile even inspire other exhibit installations, and maybe some recession-strapped or just thrifty boutique owners.