After a 20-year career working for Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, having been based in both Europe and the US, Bonnie Young has a deep understanding of how the fashion industry runs. She is also a descendant of environmentalists and acutely aware of the mistakes made by the fashion industry. Donna Karan’s first job was as head of fabric development in Milan. She then became Creative Director of Collection in the mid-00s. There, she developed a luxurious aesthetic and traveled the globe looking for inspiration. Those were very different times. Today, as the founder of BY. Bonnie Young’s decision to only use deadstock fabric and other existing materials in all future collections is a sign of how she has come full circle.
Young is no longer looking for the latest and newest, instead sifting through the old with a view to renew, but her gaze remains fixed on the future, and the generations to come. “My husband and my children have had a tremendous influence on me. All of them are environmentalists and very aware of the current issues.” Young says that they are shocked at the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry. “Save the Planet is the conversation, but the planet will adapt and thrive. The real question is whether the human race will survive. This is what I can do to help the future.”
Fashion industry’s complex relationship with sustainability
Young’s calm, assured collections have been a favorite of discerning clients who seek luxe without logos. However, her decision not to buy new fabrics will require significant changes to her business. Young puts it simply: “Sometimes, I am forced to compromise [my vision]. Sustainability is a guiding principle and not an afterthought.”
Sourcing from deadstock is not a long-term solution to the fashion industry’s irresponsibility towards the planet. As a resource, existing materials will eventually run out and discarded garments end up in the landfill. Young, a designer, believes that the measure is a way to move forward in the global sustainability quest. We are all in this together, but each business owner must determine their own course. It may be enough that we are heading in the same direction.
Early indicators suggest that it is unlikely that fashion consumers will make a commitment to drastically reduce their fashion spending. Young, the owner and creative brain behind a small business with a manageable size, believes her decision to be a positive one. However, she is open to re-orienting when new opportunities for meeting our collective sustainability goals are revealed. It will take time for the existing materials to run out. Young says that this will only occur when the majority of the industry goes through upcycling. “Eventually, all businesses will need to adapt. Because my business is small, I don’t feel pressured to produce large collections.”