If you attended our Fashion’s Night Out event on sustainable fashion, you may remember that one of the main points that came out of the panel discussion is that perhaps what we need is a “Yelp” or “Zagat” -type site that can help designers and consumers create and buy responsibly. Rating systems, reviews…

Since that night, and as our interest in taking part in the Sustainable Fashion movement grows, I’ve discovered quite a few sites and resources that I think are really great steps toward more responsible fashion industry practices and consumer behavior:

1) NICE : Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical

NICE is a collaboration that stemmed from the Nordic Fashion Association formed in 2008, who quickly realized that they were each trying to get their respective industries to act more responsible and sustainable.

NICE is a web tool for consumers, designers and people involved in the textile business, as well as a forum where professionals can find resources and exchange information. Based on the cradle-to-cradle principle, the site aims to inspire towards more environmentally safe and ethical design and sourcing; while involving the customer in the process through wash, care and prolonged-use issues. They even have a 10-year plan!

2) Made-By :

MADE-BY is an independent consumer label for fashion companies who continuously improve and are transparent about the social, economic and ecological conditions throughout the whole supply chain of their collections. The mission of MADE-BY is to make sustainable fashion common practice.

The website very clearly offers a resource for designers and fashion companies, as well as suppliers on how they can become compliant and more responsible in their practices. The site is also for consumers, who are able to see clearly more about the process that companies go through, and which companies have pledged their sustainable practices. They list seminars, news, and links, all related to eco-fashion.

The best part is the Track and Trace feature. Made-by brands (all those considered compliant and listed on the site) have a code put into their clothes. Consumers can put this code into the Track & Trace and see the full process their garment has gone through from thread to closet. Talk about transparency…

3) Source4Style :

According to Source4Style, designers spend 85% of their time sourcing materials. That’s a huge amount of time and research, and I can only imagine it is that much great for sustainable designers. This is where Source4Style comes in.

Co-founded by Summer Rayne Oakes, sustainable activist and model, the website is a thorough resource for designers to directly research and obtain sustainable materials. Suppliers go through a tough vetting process, answering over 250 questions. Each material is then labeled with badges that prove their certification in different areas: recycled, handmade, organic, ethical, etc.

The site also has a thorough FAQ section and the Source4Style Atelier, where designers or companies can create custom workshops to learn more in a hands on way. What I like most about this site is that it makes the very daunting task of sourcing sustainable materials, and learning more about them, much more accessible to the dreamers and those who have not yet embarked on their design missions.

(All photos and information courtesy of Made-by, Source4Style, and NICE)

I’ve found that there seems to be a lot going on in segmented areas — some in New York, California, and a whole lot in Europe. Each of the above sites takes their own stance and direction in offering a service or education.

After attending a few seminars and lectures recently at FIT and The Cooper Hewitt, my belief that education is the key to the success of eco-fashion (as opposed to another passing trend) has been solidified. It seems to be that the stage we are in is just the beginning: getting people involved and gathering the information necessary to navigate the many ways in which problems can be addressed. This is all great — however, I do feel that more can be done with an emphasis on education in a hands-on way, particularly with the public. And I do feel that not enough is being done in the US to truly educate the public.

I know I’d love to take a class on natural fibers and what it takes to produce them; on all the terminology; on the ethics of fashion production; on… so many things. Of course, the above sites are fantastic resources for current and soon-to-be designers, but what about affordable courses and workshops for designers and the public that are more hands on, not just a lecture? And for the consumer, so we can better understand what we are purchasing.

Like all progressive movements, informing the public and offering real information is the next logical step to creating a true place for sustainability in fashion.

How about at Textile Arts Center in 2011?
Thoughts? What would you want to learn about?