Recently, I had the chance to speak with three emerging designers in the sustainable fashion community. They each have a unique voice yet share a passion for creating change through their work. Most compelling about these designers, aside from their obvious drive and talent, is their clear sense of purpose. They each feel the urgency of the sustainable mission and have taken personal responsibility to push the fashion community towards ethical design practices.
Sydney Bergeron Mikus is studying at Parsons The New School in the Systems and Society program as a queer artist and cultural worker. They identify as non-binary and live with chronic intersystem disabilities.
Sydney came to see the symbiotic relationship between climate change and tick-borne illnesses through the personal experiences that caused their disability. This inspired their “healing activism,” in which they seek to bring awareness to others through their work.
Sydney’s program at Parsons focuses on the ways fashion operates in the world through the lens of the makers as well as the consumers — a landscape Sydney currently sees as “terrible.” Reconnecting to the Earth is a first step in addressing these issues in the fashion community and beyond. Sydney’s gentle, narrative-driven approach to social change feels as authentic as it is impactful.
Kate Walz is in her final year at Parsons The New School and is the lead designer at Querencia Studio, a brand that addresses social and environmental issues through simple, impactful clothing. Kate’s thesis, The Earth Suit Project, uses architectural silhouettes and beautifully draped materials to create stunning, post-apocalyptic pieces that feel more like art objects than garments.
The Earth Suit takes its inspiration from traditional space suits, asking the implicit question: What happens when climate change makes the earth truly unlivable? What will we wear then? Her project presents a bleak but powerful statement about the irrevocable nature of climate change.
Kate has witnessed the effects of the industry on climate change firsthand during her time working and studying in New York. It inspired her to create a sense of urgency through her work, to shock viewers into feeling — and she does. Looking at the Earth Suits gives me a firsthand glimpse of the dystopia we could face in the not-so-far future.
Mitchell Henderson is a second-year student at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), studying fashion design, ethics and international politics. He got his start as a designer in Omaha, Nebraska, eventually finding his way to New York to pursue fashion. Now, in addition to his studies, Mitchell is also a designer at Querencia Studio. He hopes in the future to combine his work with his studies at FIT to create rules and regulations for sustainable design at fashion houses.
Mitchell was pushed toward sustainability by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which states that, if big changes in human activity don’t happen soon, irreversible damage to the planet will begin in only 12 years.
He approaches design with innovative textiles, zero waste pattern-making and other alternative technologies that eliminate harmful effects on the environment. He has a quiet charm and optimism that permeates his work and ideas, making me feel instantly hopeful about what we can all accomplish together.
All three designers modeled clothing by Zero Waste Daniel during my time with them. They moved gracefully and powerfully in Daniel’s vibrant clothing, almost as if in a synchronized dance. I saw it as a visual metaphor for collective action and community.
The diversity of Mitchell, Kate and Sydney’s backgrounds, perspectives and approaches shows how we can all connect for a common cause. There was something very energizing in our exchange of ideas, and I was uplifted by the moments of beauty we all shared.
Be sure to look through their projects and share the word about these revolutionary new designers.