Plastic Fashion, So Haute!

Share this idea!

Run your hand over it, and it feels similar to your cotton summer scarf. Slip it over your head, and it fits just like that $200 blouse from Donna Karan. Pair it with your favorite go-to jeans, and it makes for the perfect casual outfit.

It’s plastic, but you would never know it.

While synthetic fabrics – polyester, nylon and acrylic – are standards in the industry, some designers have found sustainable ways to use the materials. But at this point, we are still sending more than 70 percent of plastics to landfills.

According to FutureFashion, “Fashion uses more water than any industry other than agriculture. At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles.” It makes sense to incorporate our everyday plastics into fashion, cutting down on the use of virgin materials.

Gen Art and Plastics Make It Possible partnered up for the "Fresh Faces in Fashion" show in Los Angeles this October. Photo: Gen Art

Gen Art and Plastics Make It Possible partnered up for the "Fresh Faces in Fashion" show in Los Angeles this October. Photo: Gen Art

But recycled fashion doesn’t have to look like a high school art project or an unflattering baby doll dress that resembles a burlap sack, and creating clothing from trash is no longer just a challenge for Project Runway contestants. In fact, September’s New York Fashion Week proved recycled plastics are not only stylish, but they’re actually wearable.

Plastics Gone Vogue

Bodkin designer Eviana Hartman used recycled polyester and organic cottons in her spring 2010 line. Using the streamlined theme of air and water, the breezy, casual collection was filled with mix-and-match separates that could be easily incorporated into any wardrobe.

The collection was voted “Most Wearable” at Fashion Week by Ecouterre. Bodkin is also a recent winner of the Ecco Domani fashion award. The designer uses post-consumer recycled products, vintage fabrics and organic dyes sourced from all over the world.

But plastics didn’t stop in New York. Similar trends are popping up in spring collections in London, Milan and Paris as designers are utilizing pre-consumer waste to create everything from patent-leather shoes to crisp blazers.

“More and more designers are working with plastics as they look at lower impact methods of producing clothing, so I think that [the usage of these materials] will increase,” says Kristen Amato, fashion consultant for Gen Art, a leading arts and entertainment organization dedicated to showcasing emerging fashion designers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists.

Amato says even some luxury designers – Vivienne Westwood and Alexandre Herchcovitch – have embraced the plastics trend. We can expect to see recycled materials, especially plastics, grow and expand to a variety of collections for fall 2010.

Photo: Gen Art

"The best thing about the competition is that so much of the clothing is completely on trend," says Gen Art fashion consultant Kristen Amato. Photo: Gen Art

See It For Yourself

Gen Art partnered with Plastics Make it Possible to present a series of events showcasing the creative use of plastics in fashion design and the ways in which designers are applying them to today’s trends.

In October, the team announced a nationwide fashion design competition, challenging new and current designers to create plastic-based looks. Designs will be posted to Gen Art’s online community, where consumers can vote for their favorite looks.

So far, the response has been huge. Amato says the competition has seen entries from up-and-coming designers such as McTega, a resin jewelry line, and Lialia, a design team of two sisters who learned to sew from their grandmother (who was trained by Balenciaga).

“The best thing about the competition is that so much of the clothing is completely on trend,” Amato says.

“The fabrics that are made with plastics are things we wear every day like voile, a type of cotton that is often used to make button-down shirts and blouses, silk and embroidery and a lot of prints are done with plastic materials.”

Beyond the Runway

Looking towards the future, as climate change and conservation continue to take center stage in both the political and social realms, industry experts expect fashion to push forward with more sustainable, stylish collections.

“From rugged fleece to runway couture, plastics and recycled plastics are the building blocks for stylish and high performing looks throughout the fashion industry,” says Steve Russel, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. “And by recycling more of the plastics we use, we can look good – and feel good – about the choices we make. Remembering to recycle means today’s plastic water bottle can be tomorrow’s little black dress.”

Amato agrees that more designers will pick up on the trend, as pioneers like Stella McCartney and Bodkin have proved you can make a sustainable product both chic and sensible.

“So many strides have been made in creating wearable and beautiful clothing that is made from sustainable materials […] A number of those designers that pioneered the efforts have been getting recognition which makes it easier for others to follow suit and have success,” Amato says. “It takes effort but there are designers out there doing it and its catching on more and more.”

Recent Posts

Latest posts by Amanda Wills (see all)


  1. Pingback: Green Luxe on a Budget -

  2. It’s so hard to buy clothing that’s “green”. I have made, and failed at, commitments to only buy secondhand in the past, but I always end up with that $5 Target t-shirt one way or another just to save time. I’m glad to hear that big designers are embracing this trend, and hopefully their influence will trickle down to larger chain stores where busy moms like myself shop.

  3. Wow! I am so glad that big name designer are doing this! It makes me PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN (designer!)

  4. They better make these recycled plastic fabrics available for us diy and at home fashion designers who aren’t willing to pay hundreds extra just because some famous person put it together and had people in 3rd world countries mass produce it.

  5. Pingback: Home Green » What to Do With Those Old T-Shirts?

  6. I think it’s really cool that you can make clothes out of plastic. But what do you do with the left over material cause I mean you probroaly try to use all the material but I’ve made clothes before, and it’s hard to use up all the material. I wish I could have a fancy dress made of plastic.

Leave a Comment