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Sustainability is South Florida’s Newest Fashion Trend

Big changes are coming to Miami Fashion Week. This November, haute couture will meet high-tech, and the glitz and glamour will have an eco-friendly elegance to it. Plus, you might nab something cute wear in the Metaverse.

Cassidy Winegarden | MediaLab@FAU

Sep 28, 2023

Miami Fashion Week is the glittering gem of the city’s cultural calendar and is no longer merely about couture and glamour. The second-largest fashion week in the country announced in April that the event would be moved to November to refocus on the intersections on sustainability and technology with a new community focus. 

A fashion revolution is brewing, and Miami’s world-renowned fashion scene won’t just be about the expensive clothes and beautiful models anymore. The haute couture will meet high-tech, and the glitz and glamor will have an eco-friendly elegance to it.  While sustainability has long been a hot topic at previous Miami Fashion Week (MIAFW) events, this year the runway will be bigger -- and some of it, digital.

Megan Kaspar is one of the main figures leading the stylish collision of tech, fashion and sustainability as the new lead of the Digital Fashion Council to MIAFW. Kaspar, deemed “a pioneer in the digital fashion realm” by NFT Paris, is a fashion and tech mogul: She is no stranger to either world aims to bridge the gap between the two.

“I have anticipated this moment when we would see blockchain technology disrupt the fashion industry by offering new business models and monetization layers,” Kaspar told NFT Now.

Kaspar, the first person to ever wear NFT clothing, recently made history as the first person on the cover of a magazine, Haute Living, wearing digital clothes. She also helped found Red DAO, which is the first digital fashion investment company. But what set her apart from the runway crowd is her vision of how digital fashion can make big environmental and social impacts. 

While there have been two Metaverse Fashion Weeks held in Miami, separate from the main MIAFW, one of the reasons Miami is known as such a major fashion hub is because of its innovation. In fact, this event will be the first Council of Fashion Designers of America globally recognized fashion week to take part in Metaverse Fashion Week, according to Innovation & Tech Today.  

MIAFW has long led the pack in sustainability and ethical practices, but this year it is clear that the intersection of sustainability, technology and community will all work to enhance one another and become a global reference for a newly reimagined industry. 

While much is still shrouded in secrecy, traditional shows will remain the focal point as immersive events and metaverse activities will take place simultaneously. By creating an event that can be experienced in real life as well as inside different metaverses, the once elite and high-society exclusive event will be available for people everywhere. The fashion industry as a whole is being reimagined: It’s no longer for just those who can fly to expensive places or drop thousands of dollars for a designer piece. 

One of the most innovative announcements yet is that of L’Atelier, which is described as “the first NFT gated members-club dedicated to the fashion industry… a space where they will be able to create, innovate and build a community, which has sustainability at the forefront,” according to L'Atelier's website. It was here that some of the metaverse runway shows took place during this year’s original dates, as a preview of what’s to come. L’Atelier also hosted a viewing of a Sustainability panel which allowed people around the world and those stuck on the other side of the city to watch, reinforcing MIAFW’s new community focus. 

While an event as big in budget and name as MIAFW has been able to grab headlines with its environmental advocacy, the South Florida community has been long invested in sustainability. As luxury fashion is just beginning to focus on eco-friendly options, there is no doubt it was inspired by the local communities and businesses that have thrived under the South Florida sun. 

Mana Fashion Services is one local brand which hosts a variety of monthly workshops that cover practices such as upcycling, which is the process of turning already existing garments and scraps into new clothing. “What I love about creating my own clothes is knowing I’ll never walk into a room wearing what someone else is wearing and I guarantee I’ll do it with more pizazz,” said one attendee of the workshops, Ava Sysmanski. 

Mana has long prioritized community fostering with the local fashion scene of like-minded individuals looking for new ways to create fashion and art while helping the earth. In the spirit of this, they collaborated with Planet Fashion Media and Morph Media to create a two-day Sustainability Conference in April. The conference covered innovations in fashion, ocean conservation, bio-diversity, renewable energy, and lifestyle products.

Since the pandemic, there has been growing popularity of thrifting clothing, which is incredibly beneficial and ensures clothing does not end up in a landfill or the ocean. MIAFW is now putting even more attention on second-hand garments, a big shift as luxury fashion has historically used materials that pumped out enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses. 

Secondhand garments may be new to luxury fashion, but it certainly is not to Miami, where communities have been long forming around it. There are growing numbers of stores and pop-ups like Magic City Flea Market which is self-defined as “Miami’s Finest Vintage Clothing and Local Artisan Craft Marketplace '' and holds events nearly every Saturday.

Vendors and shoppers alike rave about the community fostered at the Magic City Flea, which is one of creativity with an emphasis on sustainability. There are racks lined with perfectly worn-in tee shirts, vintage dresses, and vests that are no longer made how they used to be, and a variety of other unique items sold at reasonable prices supporting small local businesses.

Kelly Nugent sells upcycled clothing through French 75, which she founded. 

“It is such a great community that supports and inspires each other to create new things and do them in better ways,” said Nugent. 

Items like the colorful and now one-of-a-kind ones that fill the Magic City Flea Market are a token from the time when popular fashion retained styles for years and decades at a time, a stark difference from today’s fashion climate. Tainted by garments that are made to keep up with demand and style rather than to be long lasting, fast fashion has become an overwhelmingly concerning reality. For over a decade, experts have warned of fast fashion, a practice in which clothing is made cheaply and only to last for a short amount of time, at the expense of the environment and those making it. 

While popular companies like Shein or Romwe are profiting immensely, it is not without cost. Fashion pollution is filling up landfills and oceans at an unsustainable rate. In 2022, nearly 80 pounds of clothing were pulled from Miami’s Biscayne Bay by the non-profit Debris Free Oceans in tandem with Clean Miami Beach volunteers.

To combat this and inspire a more eco-friendly fashion industry, former Miami City Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, announced the Fashion Forward Fund at an event at Mana Fashion Services last July.

“The Fashion Forward Fund is an initiative intended to create systematic change in the textile, fashion, and apparel industry in the city by prioritizing economy, equity, environment, and engagement,” said Levine Cava.

Yet for some, even with business incentives like this, it can seem very overwhelming or out of reach to transition to a more sustainable business model or lifestyle. Lindsay Zuckerburg, created and owns Zuke’s Refillery, which is a shop in Delray Beach that promotes low-waste living.

“It’s really just about ethical conscious living,” said Zuckerburg. “My business is zero waste, plastic free, and plant-based but I prefer to not use these terms because it can seem daunting and intimidating when it’s about making simple switches.”

But with the backing of MIAFW, there are hopes that more people will make small changes in what they wear and consume. The goal, organizers say, it to get the wider community to realize that sustainability is a fashion trend that isn't going out of style anytime soon.

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