New York based designer, Maria Cornejo of Zero + Maria Cornejo is making fashion sustainable. As an original member of the CFDA Sustainability Committee, Cornejo's passion for changing how we make, buy and sell clothing is unmatched. I had a chance to sit down with Cornejo while she was visiting Dallas for a trunk show at Stanley Korshak for her Spring/Summer 2017 collection. We discussed her new collection, eco-conscious initiatives, and recycled fabrics. Here are our words.
BLKLN: Tell me about the Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
Maria Cornejo: Spring/Summer 17 was inspired by New Orleans. It started in resort wear with a very bright color palette and as we come into Spring it fades. A lot of the fabrics and prints are inspired by ripped wall paper and tapestry and the diverse cultures of New Orleans. The Creole, the French, the Spanish there are so many layers to the culture in New Orleans. So that was inspiration behind it. The show came as a culmination of all these ideas being distilled into showing in our new fabric, which is totally eco now. So for the show, I just wanted to take all the color out and just show the shapes.
BLKLN: Did showing an all white collection open the door creatively and allow you to play with structure?
MC: It was lovely to actually show the cutting of things. The volumes and shapes in white is almost like showing a blank sketch without the coloring. So you just look at the lines.
BLKLN: As a founding member of the CFDA Sustainability Committee I know that ecologically responsible practices are very important to you and your brand. Tell me how this started and how you have implemented this into your company.
MC: We try with everything. To be honest I am not the post child, but we are trying where ever possible. We started a few season ago, its always been in the company ethos to try to be as sustainable as possible, for fall it was was recycled cashmere, botanical cotton and now the eco-drape. We work with a women's co-op in Bolivia who does all the hand knitting and its alpaca and is naturally dyed. The shoes are vegetable dyed. Where ever possible we are trying to make the right decisions.
BLKLN: Why do you think it has taken the fashion industry so long to get on board with these practices?
MC: It is hard to do a fashionable and interesting collection and be eco. It's very hard. For a lot of companies it s easier to turn a blind eye and pretend its not happening. You have to take responsibility.
BLKLN: What are some steps designers could take to make their companies more sustainable?
MC: We make about 70% of the collection in New York with the least amount of transporting. Goods and fabrics com e in from Europe or Tokyo but once they are there they are manufactured in New York. We try to keep the process to a minimum. Thus avoiding waste. There are special projects we do to recycle fabric. We use as little packing as possible. It's hard in fashion because a lot of fashion is reliant on bells and whistles. For me its never been about that. Its about the way things are cut and the fabric. I think just try to keep things to a minimum.
BLKLN: How does New York differ from Paris or Milan when discussing sustainability?
MC: I think the Kering group is doing a big push. In Milan there are companies doing a push. People are making a conscious effort where ever possible and that's a good start. The more and more people will do it it will become easier for us to buy fabrics that are eco.
BLKLN: What are some things we can all do to live a more eco-conscious and fashionable lifestyle?
MC: Not dry clean so much. Buy more wisely, things that are not disposable. Its better to buy things that you will love and cherish forever, not just because its on sale, and that is what I love about the collection. I always say the pieces will make really great heirlooms. Its better to invest things that you will keep forever then things you will just throw away.
The Spring/Summer 2017 Zero + Maria Cornejo trunk show will be at Stanley Korshak November 4th & 5th and in Austin at ByGeorge November 9th & 10th.
Runway images courtesy of Yannis Vlamos for Vogue.