During the pandemic, Emma Gage lost her fashion job. Two years later, she founded her own label, Melke, a little thumb that is making its debut at New York Women’s Fashion Week with a focus on more sustainable fashion.
The young woman, originally from Minnesota, is not the first or the only one to bet on this niche, while the fashion industry is singled out for its impact on the environment. “Now (…) everyone wants to have something to say about it”, another young designer, Olivia Cheng, 23, told AFP. Her brand, Dauphinette, which has become known for its jewelry and outfits made from real flowers, was featured on the official Fashion Week calendar for the first time, which runs from February 11-16, 2022.
Not yet zero plastic
Hemp, organic cotton, recycled fabrics, Emma Gage, 26, highlights materials that are not very harmful to the environment and her concern to buy from companies that respect human and social rights, listed on her website. Corn “I will never say that everything is 100% durable and everything is perfect, because that’s a lie”she warns, from her small studio in the Bushwick district of Brooklyn, New York artists meet, like the murals that invade the streets.
So the “zero plastic” remains a goal for the moment, because synthetic materials can still slip into recycled fabrics, she explains. These limits are an additional argument for making “clothing that lasts and is made to be worn for a long time”. And don’t spoil anything, like these bags made from fabric scraps.
Far from voluminous and sophisticated evening dresses, one of her favorite models is a simple sweater, which returns to each collection, with embroidered motifs of flowers, fish, and now sheep.
The sobriety it claims does not prevent it from being creative and sharp. His second collection, inspired by The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, gives pride of place to this color, in often dark tones, with lots of fringing reminiscent of lava flows. For her fall-winter 2022-23 collection, she wanted to recreate the memories of a trip to a medieval Irish castle and her discovery of falconry.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art
As for Olivia Cheng, her presentation played on the codes of the masculine and feminine genders and still relied on old clothes and floral materials, preserved thanks to a resin that she promises is non-toxic.
But she also ventured on strange experiments, like this set from ginkgo nuts or this dress studded with beetle wings, which she specifies that“They weren’t killed for that.”
Two of her dresses are already shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in the exhibition In America: a lexicon of fashion.
“I need others to buy what I buy so that prices go down”
While they favor local suppliers, neither of the two designers refrains from sourcing from the other side of the world. Emma Gage explains that she does not want to break ties with certain forms of craftsmanship that do not exist in the United States. The dilemma of more affordable fashion also arises for her brand, which sells to order. “I need others to buy what I buy so that prices go down”, she says. And to add that immediately, a question of overproduction will arise. She tries to partially solve the problem with a varied product line that goes down to the T-shirt at $75.
For her part, Olivia Cheng relies on her fruit and flower jewelry, some for less than $50. “For me, it’s central to remember what mission we started with and how we can continue this story, without being trapped by some kind of delusion of grandeur”, explains this daughter of Chinese immigrants.