Daniel Silverstein, Fashion Design ’10
Margaret Bacon, Fashion Design ’10
As Earth Day approaches, we wanted to showcase Daniel Silverstein and Margaret Bacon, both Fashion Design graduates from the Class of 2010, who recently launched a new eco-conscious clothing line, 100 Percent NY. The business, which grew out of a class assignment at FIT, upholds a 0% waste motto by making efficient use of fabric that ends up on the cutting room floor. Learn more about the ecological mission and philosophy behind this zero-waste brand!
We see many alumni collaborate or partner up in business after graduating. Did you two meet while studying at FIT?
Yes, Marge and I met in our 4th semester block. We had a very funny first encounter. I approached her to compliment her on her show piece, which she later won the Critic’s Award for, and told her how impressed I was with her design and sewing. Just as she could utter a “thank you,” I promptly told her there was an area of gathering in the back of her robe that I thought could use a little work. Marge told me how much she appreciated my honesty, and that she had questioned the exact same seam, but her friends had all reassured her that it was fine the way it was. In the end, she fixed the sewing and we have been inseparable ever since. We are always quick to tell each other when the other’s work is beautiful and when it needs a little improvement.
How did the idea to launch an eco-conscious brand come about?
I first developed my concept for 100 Percent NY while at FIT. I was in a class, and we were presented with the design challenge of developing a pair of eco-friendly jeans. Rather than simply using organic cotton or natural dyes, I thought it would be an interesting idea to try to create a zero-waste product (before I even knew that there was a name for that!). I did not win the design challenge, but 6 months after graduation, while working for a major mass market company, I saw firsthand just how much waste there really is in fashion: everything from fabric, to water, to jet fuel, to plastic bottles. It was then that I decided to use my original concept from that student design project, and put the plan in motion to become a real fashion company.
It’s great that you’ve continued to carry out an idea that originated at FIT! Are there particular classes that influence your work today?
My favorite classes included Sharon Rothman’s 7th Semester Portfolio class, Draping 2, and E-portfolio. I felt like I learned so much about the industry and myself in those particular classes. I also loved Fashion Past and Present 1 with Professor Daniel Cole. One of the most important learning experiences for me was interning at Swimwear Anywhere, where I really became aware of what happens to clothes after they are designed.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by a great number of mentors, including Stephen Stipelman, Sharon Rothman, Barbara Arata-Gavere. Some personal mentors outside of school include Doreen Wright, a family friend and huge inspiration in business, and my father, Jim Silverstein, who has run his own small business and gives us constant support, insight and encouragement—without which 100% NY would not be possible.
What are your respective roles in the company?
I’m the Creative Director. I focus on our direction, key inspirations, and fabric manipulation techniques for each season. I also do most of the back-end work of running the business including some accounting, payroll, etc. Marge is our Head of Design. She focuses on taking our designs and perfecting, fitting, refining, and patterning our work. She also focuses on the color and finishing of each piece and most of the cost analysis.
Efficient use of fabric is the brand’s focal point. Tell us about the actual process of creating an entire garment.
We use an entire width of fabric cut from the bolt for each piece we make. We then use our innovative patterning and draping to turn the fabric that would become scraps or trash, and transform them into embellishment. Our signature embellishment is something called the Spine TM. We developed the spine, a repetitious stitching of rectangles off of a central seam as a beautiful way of saving fabric that would otherwise be discarded. What I love about the spine is that the pieces we use to create it are never even cut from the pattern— they are literally a part of the dress. It makes some of our patterns pretty crazy looking, but nothing is impossible.
Do you let the pieces of fabric dictate the design, or do you have a design in mind that you stick to when piecing the garment together?
I typically design with more of an approach in mind than a set design. I will envision a specific seam, style line, or applique idea and let the fabric guide me the rest of the way. Marge often takes a half-finished concept, drapes and takes them the rest of the way to completion. It’s definitely a sort of tag-team operation.
Do you implement other eco-conscious practices beyond fabric use? Is there a green initiative in particular that inspires you?
We are nuts about recycling! We use an eco-friendly JUKI 9000 series sewing machine, and we ship using fuel-conscious methods. We are constantly improving the smallest practices, even something as minor as using compact fluorescent bulbs makes a difference. Also, my favorite material, Repreve TM, is a poly fiber made from recycled soda bottles and milled in America! American treasure made from American trash if you ask me!
Recycling and repurposing is gaining popularity in different forms of design. Do you feel fashion design is at the forefront of this movement?
I think designers and buyers seem slow to catch on to this trend. Customers are not demanding it, so buyers are hesitant, but the public is not fully aware what is out there for them, and much like the oil industry, major retailers and manufactures are turning a blind eye to the realities of waste, fuel consumption and unfair labor in order to keep prices low. I hope more people will catch on to the responsible trends of the future soon.
Do you have anything planned for Earth Day?
We are working on an online event to benefit a charity for Earth Day. We will be producing a limited edition ‘recycled’ product from which the proceeds will go to our current favorite, local, green charity! For more details, keep up to date by Liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter or checking out our website at www.100percentny.com!