Daniel Silverstein, mostly known as Zero Waste Daniel, is a Brooklyn-based fashion designer and zero waste lifestyle connoisseur who uses pre-consumer waste sourced from New York City’s garment industry, as well as other hard-to-recycle materials, to create his line of genderless clothing and accessories. Screen Shot went to Sustainable fashion is hilarious, his New York Fashion Week show to find out who—and what—killed fashion.
Carrie Bradshaw once described Fashion Week as the only time “the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future.” As a young girl, attending fashion week had always been on my bucket list. Dialling it back to 2016, I received my first invitation but had to decline. By 2017, I found myself down at Pier 59 attending shows surrounded by celebrities I had only ever seen on TV. Enthralled with excitement, I also realised that my experience wasn’t what I imagined it to be.
By 2018, my enthusiasm for fashion weeks had almost died out. It was no longer the ‘it’ thing to do—the excitement, the passion and the purpose of it all was gone. And as I later found out, I was not the only one that felt so. New York did too. That’s why, as hard as it is to hear, fashion truly is dead. Zero Waste Daniel said so.
The fourth instalment of Silverstein’s show consisted of a 15-room immersive experience at Arcadia Earth, a climate installation museum in downtown New York. Honouring fashion through an investigative series and a eulogy, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) alumni opened the show with a speech about the fashion industry, what it represented and what it no longer stands for.
Zero Waste Daniel then asked attendees the simplistic yet deeply layered question: “Who killed fashion?”
As Silverstein’s show took me through the lifespan of what once was a thriving industry, I was faced with the various culprits, each represented by models wearing signs reading who and what are guilty of this. The first one? Saying goodbye to Bryant Park. Since 1993, New York Fashion Week was famous for its Bryant Park tents where small designers used to showcase their lines to the rest of the fashion industry. In 2010, New York Fashion Week grew to nearly 300 shows a week, which meant that tents had to be removed from Bryant Park and relocated to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
What was once a highly-exclusive event, much like the overly anticipated Met Gala, became easily accessible via Youtube and Instagram live streamings. Influencers are now the new celebrities. and personal style blogging is the new reported press. “Was it polyester or was it stretch pants?” read a sign held by a model during Zero Waste Daniel’s show.
“Was it online shopping?” reads another sign, acknowledging the fact that we are in an age of fast fashion where brands like Fashion Nova and websites like Amazon can deliver an ‘inspired by’ look to your door in three days or less. Fashion today is no longer representative of how consumers shop. Fashion weeks were meant to highlight collections that were not available for at least six months. Now, this is gone, too.
Each of Silverstein’s models metaphorically plays detective in what would’ve been a police lineup aiming to identify who the guilty party is. As the show wraps, I reached the understanding that all of these things had a hand in the slow and painful death of the fashion industry; all bound by one commonality—greed.
“We mourn the death of…” Silverstein notes in his written eulogy paying respect to trends gone too quickly and the falling of fashion brands like “Fubu and Baby Phat.” Drawing from his personal experiences and knowledge of sustainability, Silverstein created Sustainable fashion is hilarious to serve as a gateway.
“We make too much, and we buy too much, but that doesn’t have to mean we waste too much,” he said during his show, an idea that relates to an interview he previously had with the New York Times where he shared why he felt compelled to take on the world of sustainable fashion: “When I think about what I want in terms of brand recognition, I would love to see [Zero Waste Daniel] as a household name. But I think that’s very different than dollars. And I don’t want to be any bigger than I can guarantee it’s a zero-waste product or that I feel happy.”
Will Zero Waste Daniel be the one to bring fashion back from the dead and offer it a new breath of life? Or will consumerism and capitalism continue to rob us of an industry that we all once knew and loved? Only time will tell, but the clock is ticking and only Silverstein and a few others seem to realise that.