If you haven’t heard of The Square Project or Tara St James yet, this is your moment. The Square Project is the brainchild of New York-based ethical fashion designer Tara St James and the design collective, Study NY. Tara has been at the forefront of the ethical fashion movement for many years now and has recently branched out as the head of Study NY.
The Square Project is a study of shapes in relation to the human form – starting with (naturally) the square. For last season’s Green Shows at New York Fashion Week, Tara produced a small clothing collection for the collective in which she experimented with how different square shapes form to the body in interesting and wholly unique ways. The collection was comprised of nine styles in two colours, all created using a different number of squares.
Beyond fashion, the collective also produces jewelry, photography, music, video, graphic design and fine art projects all with a mission for sustainable production. Every artist in the collective aims to use recycled and organic materials as much as possible with the least amount of carbon impact as possible.
Prior to launching Study NY, Tara St James has worked as a fashion designer for over 12 years, mainly designing for denim brands. More recently, she has been the mastermind behind a sportswear label called Covet, which has been featured in the likes of Elle, Lucky and Women’s Wear Daily.
For Fall 2011, she is partnering with the Peru-based Awamaki Lab project on a collection which incorporates traditional woven textile techniques from Peru. This will include some really intricate and elaborate sweaters, how exciting! The first official launch of the Awamaki Lab project is happening on this Thursday at Guilded in New York, so if you are based in NYC – you won’t want to miss this.
Tara has also just won the coveted 2011 Ecco Domani award. As one of only seven designers to win the $25,000 grant to present at next month’s New York Fashion Week, the abundance of her talent is more than evident.
For Tara and for many ethical fashionistas, fashion has always been about more than trends and style but also about wearing our personal philosophies as brands. With Study NY, she wants to dispel the myth that ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ fashion cannot be luxury. Quite the opposite. Tara strives to show that fashion design (and especially ethical fashion design) can still very much be an art form – a wearable one, at that! You only need to take a quick glance at The Square Project collection for proof.
While the industry has improved massively over the last couple of years, Tara has expressed concern – and rightly so – about the fact that production methods and factories in general are still severely lacking and could definitely use an overhaul. This is one reason why Tara often tries to incorporate recycled and dead-stock materials into her designs and uses a zero-waste approach in her patterns. Not only that but she enjoys the mathematical challenge presented by no-waste pattern making. She also relies on a fair trade factory in India and a women’s co-op of knitters in Bolivia.
Tara has also recently become a core team member of the innovative initiative, The Uniform Project, and is the designer of its LBD (Little Black Dress) designs. The Uniform Project was established in 2009 by Sheen Matheiken who pledged to wear one little black dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainability and as a fundraiser for an organisation providing education to children living in Indian slums. Tara is now working on the second series of The Uniform Project – One Dress. One Month. One Cause.
Basically, we could go on forever about all of Tara’s amazing ethical fashion endeavors. Keep an eye on her and Study NY in 2011!