Interview with Fashion Designer Alexis Walsh: Sustainability in Fashion
We were fortunate to interview Alexis Walsh, current 3D fashion design innovator and creator who has an active role in the New York City fashion industry. Receiving her degree at The New School, part of Parsons School of Design, Alexis’s work has revolved around sustainability and resourcefulness, turning heads around the world.
She’s had countless showcases in Germany, France, the U.S., and other countries, and has even received a purchase from Lady Gaga. Read on to learn her insights about sustainability in the fashion industry.
1. How long have you been in the fashion industry? What initial ideas did you have coming into the industry?
I’ve been working in the fashion industry professionally for four years, and part-time for another four years doing internships and freelance work while I was a student attending The New School. I was interested in exploring different materials for garments, and started off with explorations in metal and wood.
Toward my second year, I was taking industrial products design courses and fell in love with 3D printing, which seemed like an unlimited resource for new design innovations.
2. Was sustainability a goal from the start? If so, how did you create and implement the idea? If not, how did you come to adopt it into your practices?
Using sustainable materials and practices was always something that was important for my work. When I first started experimenting with 3D printing, I was drawn to how many sustainable approaches this method of manufacturing had. Between the materials themselves and the manufacturing processes, additive manufacturing has a ton of options for sustainable design. This was really exciting for someone coming from a fashion design background, which historically has been generally unsustainable (until recently!).
Selective laser sintering, also known as SLS, is a zero-waste process that uses lasers to form structures from 3D design files from nylon powder. There are also several types of biodegradable plant-based plastics that desktop 3D printers can use for filament. My brand utilizes both of these processes for every garment and accessory that’s created.
3. What materials are used for sustainability purposes in the fashion industry, both with 3D printed design and fabric design?
In the fashion design industry, the most commonly used sustainable materials are recycled polyester and nylon. Poly can be recycled through post-consumer plastics, which entails gathering plastic garbage that has already been used by consumers and then processing it into yarn that can be woven into polyester fabrics.
Nylon is typically recycled through post-consumer fabric waste, or through discarded nylon fishing nets that are collected from the ocean. Some brands like Reformation use dead stock fabrics, which helps to use up already existing fabric yardage so that no additional material is being created.
4. What techniques have you used to be resourceful with the materials you are working with?
I’m really passionate about upcycling. Upcycling is the concept of taking materials that already exist and reusing them for your work, without creating additional waste. A lot of the fabrics that I’ve used have come from NYC-based programs that collect discarded fabric from fashion companies.
5. How have you seen different clothing companies in the fashion industry shift gears on going green?
At this point, most big players in the fashion industry are trying to use some form of sustainability. It’s become so mainstream that it’s something you are expected to do. Consumers are starting to specifically shop at a sustainable brand over an unsustainable brand.
It’s really exciting to see this shift in the industry, because even two years ago sustainability was considered something very niche. For example, almost every large outerwear brand is using recycled fabrics now. It’s such a positive change.
6. In what ways have you seen sustainability be successful for your personal work in the fashion industry?
I love to highlight the sustainable aspects of my work. I think people really look for it and are supportive of it. I feel proud to let people know when I’m using a compostable plastic for my accessories or a zero-waste process in my manufacturing. There are also opportunities for work that is sustainable to be highlighted, and I’ve been able to present my work in a fashion show held at Javits Center in NYC that showcased “green” fashion work.
7. Do you see sustainability becoming a widespread movement throughout the industry? If so, what are the next steps?
I definitely see sustainability becoming a major movement in the fashion industry. A lot of brands are incorporating recycled fabrics, including Gap, H&M, Everlane, Madewell, J. Crew, Patagonia, Columbia, Athleta, Outdoor Voices, and more. And luxury fashion brands like Stella McCartney and Gucci are focusing on faux furs or faux leathers for cruelty-free fashion.
Now that these major fashion brands are publicly committing to using eco-friendly and green methods, it’s only a matter of time before more and more brands follow suit. It’s a very exciting time to be in fashion, and I can’t wait to see where this movement goes!