Philly embraces sustainable fashion this Earth Day

A clothing swap attendee shows what they found in the swap at Sustainable Fashion Week in Philadelphia. (Swap Across America Team)

A clothing swap attendee shows what they found in the swap at Sustainable Fashion Week in Philadelphia. (Swap Across America Team)

Sustainable Fashion Week has made its way from New York City to Philadelphia for the first time.

The four-day event will have the glitz and glam of a traditional fashion week, but its mission goes beyond displaying beautiful clothing. Rather than focus on high-end brands, the week highlights local designers and invites everyone to learn more about sustainable practices in their wardrobe and beyond.

Clothing swap participants upcycle a shirt at Sustainable Fashion Week in Philadelphia. (Swap Across America Team)

Bridgett Artise founded Sustainable Fashion Week back in 2019, though she’s been working as a sustainable designer since the early 2000s. To her, the week is about accessibility — for independent designers who otherwise may not have the opportunity to showcase their work. It’s also about sharing information about sustainability for everyday fashion.

“I feel like this platform is a perfect way to get people excited and educated while they’re having fun,” said Artise, who teaches about sustainable fashion at Fashion Institute of Technology.

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Artise is based in New York City, but has strong connections to the Philly area, where she used to spend summers as a kid.

She’s known Nyambi Royster, the owner of Nyambi Naturals, a Philly-based beauty and apothecary company, for several years and hosted a seed and clothing swap with her earlier this year. Based on the positive reception to the event, Artise decided that Philly should be the first city the sustainable event series expands to.

The week, which officially kicked off on Thursday, April 21 with a panel about clothing and our planet, is a collaboration with All Together Now PA, Swap Across America, BK Style Foundation, retrievr, along with local organizations and companies like The Discovery Center, FABSCRAP, Circular Philadelphia and Nyambi Naturals.

The partnerships are intentional, said Artise, so participants get the best of both worlds and the experience is “not just about fashion.”

Every event during the four-day-long “week” has a different focus.

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Clothing swap participants search through clothes at Sustainable Fashion Week in Philadelphia. (Swap Across America Team)

On the second day of the festival which falls on Earth Day — Friday, April 22 —  there’s a designer showcase at The Discovery Center, in Fairmount Park near the East Park Reservoir, which features a combination of local and out-of-state designers.

“It’s definitely about designers that use only sustainable fabrics and or designers that completely upcycle so they’re not even using anything new,” said Artise. “ And then you have your zero-waste designers that might buy a bolt of fabric, but they use every bit of that fabric, so there’s no waste whatsoever.”

Then there’s a seed swap and plant walk talk with Nyambi Naturals, also at The Discovery Center, on Saturday, April 23, followed by an afterparty in the evening.

The week wraps up on Sunday, April 24, with a clothing swap and workshop, also at The Discovery Center.

“You [get to] see these amazing fashions that you wouldn’t think were sustainable, but then you’re also getting a panel and you’re also getting the swap,” she said.

Participants at the clothing swap are allowed to bring five pieces to the swap and leave with up to five pieces. Everything is free. Plus, it’s fun, says Artise, especially for people who have never done it before. “It’s giving the consumer that other shopping option.“

Whatever is left over gets donated.

In addition to the clothing swap, attendees will be able to shop from local vendors and also join a mending, upcycling or tie-dying workshop, where they will learn creative ways to fix up clothing that has stains or holes, or transform an existing garment into a completely new one. The goal is to extend the longevity of an item of clothing and make it more wearable for the owner.

“The ideas are limitless,” said Artise, who wrote the book, “Born-Again Vintage: 25 Ways to Deconstruct, Reinvent, and Recycle Your Wardrobe.”All events for the week are low-cost or free. Those interested in enjoying the events can sign up at sustainablefashionweek.us.

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