Last spring, Heron Preston and Sami Miro Vintage released an upcycled, sustainable collection in collaboration, “Natural Disaster.” Addressing the climate crisis, it featured reworked denim, silks, organza, and knitwear in dresses, suits, sweatsuits, T-shirts, and jackets.
Preston’s eponymous label has long raised awareness around the need for sustainability in fashion. Driven by a personal love of nature, including U.S. national parks, and the unavoidable knowledge of his industry’s negative impact on the environment, he sees each new collection as an investigation into how we can do better with design. The designer shared with Whitewall how surprisingly responsive his digital following has been to sustainably focused initiatives, and what that means for the future.
WHITEWALL: What made you interested in working with Sami Miro on “Natural Disaster”?
HERON PRESTON: I love Sami’s process, her vision, her philosophy of recycling and reusing vintage clothing and materials, upcycling and reconstructing. Sami exemplifies the intersection of people who practice sustainable design and production but do it through the lens of culture—that’s always the real challenge. If you look at sustainability or eco-friendly product in the past, it has always been lacking the cool factor. So I think she kind of checked the boxes of many things that I value.
The conversation started with womenswear, but then we decided to introduce some menswear as well. We were looking at some of my past collections and some pieces that I had in stock, deciding how to upcycle and remix some of my designs through her process of cutting up, deconstructing and piecing it back together, making it sexier and brand new.
WW: What kind of message did you want the collection to send about environmental impact?
HP: I think fashion can be used to move culture and develop solutions. I think using my platform to put a voice behind something that I actually care about is important. I want to continue my journey of continuing to push the investigation of environmental solutions and inviting people into my world to help me tell that story. Sami is part of the journey amongst many innovators and collaborators that I have worked with and that I want to work with. Every collection and every season I want to continue this journey and allow my curiosity drive the investigation.
WW: Sustainability has been at the heart of the collection since its inception. Why is that?
HP: For me, it’s simply that I care about the environment and I’m fascinated with innovation. I grew up going on camping trips and ski trips, volunteering at museums in San Francisco, and developed a relationship with nature. There are so many amazing national parks around and outdoor activities. Once I did the New York Department of Sanitation project, I realized the impact that the fashion and apparel industry had on the environment. I figured out that what I was involved in, and contributing to, was destroying the very thing that I love so much. I realized that I needed to be involved in discovering new solutions instead of being another brand that does not care.
There is too much information out there about fashion’s impact to ignore. I have this guilty conscience, like where does all of this stuff go? And when it gets there, then what happens? Well, I started to look into it, and learn about it. It’s terrible, but there are better ways, newer ways, of doing all of this stuff, and there are tools that exist. Once I started to realize this, I had no choice but to act.
WW: How are you seeing the consumer respond to sustainable initiatives?
HP: I think consumers, specifically my consumers, know that sustainability initiatives are part of my process, so they are always engaged. It’s cool to have this direct connection with people, because I can get instant feedback. For me, it’s authentic and has been the foundation of my thinking of the collection since day one.
I think the crescendo in all of this was when I had recently posted about the Unfuck the World T-shirt, which was an edit of a Supreme T-shirt with Heron Preston branding. It was packed with a ton of meaning. I found some secondhand “Fuck the World” T-shirts, and embroidered “UN” in front of “Fuck.”
I asked my Instagram followers to comment how they would unfuck the world for a chance to win one of the T-shirts. The idea was not only about reusing materials in fashion, but a bigger concept about doing what you can within your control to get involved in things you care about. The result was thousands of passionate and inspiring comments from people around the world, voicing what they care about and what they personally do. I have nearly 600,000 followers, but I never get nearly that many comments. I was like, where the hell did all of these people come from? I was surprised.
WW: What role can fashion play in the current moment?
HP: Slowing down. Promote positive change. Advance developments in technology. Get involved in health. Don’t turn this into a trend. Show the youth there’s more to love. Preserve culture. Harness the power of fashion to design a better future.