NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A new exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology is providing proof that what you wear impacts the world around you using two centuries worth of trendy outfits.
What are the benefits and consequences of using material like silks and furs, snake skins and satin to make clothing?
That is just one of the questions curators want visitors to ask when they come to the “Eco-Fashion: Going Green” exhibit at the FIT.
The exhibit “is a a look back at the fashion industry’s impact on the environment — both good and bad,” Assistant Curator Colleen Hill told CBS 2’s Elise Finch.
From the cultivation of raw materials to shipping the finished product, each stage of the clothing production cycle has the potential to do harm.
“Eco-Fashion: Going Green” looks at how different eras approached areas including labor practices and textile dyeing.
The oldest garment at the exhibit is a silk brocade dress from 1760 and the newest is a polyester peau de soie dress from this year’s fall collection.
Synthetic dyes used in the 19th Century to produce vibrant shades of purple and green were derived from things like coal tar and arsenic.
Assistant Curator Jennifer Farley calls the dyes “one of the more stunning examples of bad environmental practice.”
“Its shocking, its horrifying to think of your textile being dyed with a dye that contains poison,” Farley said, “and you can imagine how much of a health consequence that poses to the textile worker but also to the wearer.”
But not all the items in the exhibit represent fashion failures. There are also dresses made from fair trade cotton and bamboo, biodegradable capes and robes made from patchwork quilts.
Finch reports the exhibit ends with a look at contemporary eco-fashion which include items made using sustainable materials, new production techniques and dyeing methods that reduce water usage, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Eco-Fashion exhibit at the FIT is open until mid-November.