By Chere Di Boscio
It’s not often that videos about eco-fashion techniques become viral, but so beautiful is the work of Cara Marie Piazza, the video of her using flower waste to create gorgeously dyed clothing has been seen by millions around the world.
Perhaps it’s because people love the notion of using beloved bouquets – given by lovers or used in weddings but all too soon wilted and faded – for clothing they’ll use forever. Or maybe it’s because the colours nature endows flowers with are just so stunning. But either way, it seems that Cara Marie’s floral dyed fabric video (below) has made her the world’s most famous fabric dyer (even though she’s already worked with several established fashion designers, including Eckhaus Latta, Alice Waese, Dena Yago,Sorry Archive, 1-100, Tosia NY, Club Monaco and more).
Cara Marie’s work may be very pretty, but further inspection shows that this is a woman with an edge. A woman’s woman. An artist. On her website, she harkens back to ‘the days of the witches, when spells were cast and potions brewed, the sorceresses would soak their undergarments in their magic to hold their incantations closest to the most powerful parts of their body. The most intimate layer between you and the world, your underwear, should be imbued with power, magic and love.”
Here, she tells us about a very haunting blue, the beauty of cracks, and the torture of Thai takeaways.
So…why did you choose to do this kind of work in the first place?
I chose natural dyeing because I wanted to work within the fashion industry in a sustainable manner. Natural dyes are a medium that can be applicable to fashion, art, healing and more. When I first learned of the craft, the light bulb went on and I knew it was the path for me.
What are some of your favourite dyeing techniques?
My favorite techniques include bundle dyeing, ombre and hand painting.
What inspires your work?
The obvious answer is nature. I think of myself merely as a conduit for her to act through me and the craft. I’m also inspired by artists who explore control and minimal abstraction through their work, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, and so on. I’m also inspired by esoteric movements, choreographers like Merce Cunningham and recently I’ve been haunted by a blue that keeps appearing in my dreams…
What are some of your favorite materials to use for dyeing and why?
My favorite dye stuffs are flowers, working with their subtly and delicateness is an exercise in patience, and intimacy.
Of all the garments you’ve helped create, which stand out for you most?
I love creating my landscape works. Working large scale and ombre is a technique I am looking to explore more.
In which ways do you believe the fashion industry is moving more towards sustainability?
I believe it begins with the customer. When customers ask questions about the way their garments are produced and respond in kind with their purchases, the industry listens and begins to make changes. More designers are embracing organic and locally grown textiles and creating small batch pieces that are more geared toward selling a story. The CFDA is awarding sustainable designers, and larger institutions are building in green initiatives and rewards for innovation, which I think is a sign for new exciting and great things to come.
And so where does the industry need most improvement?
This is a hard question to answer. Personally I think it starts with the consumer, as our dollars control what the market will sell. Fast fashion, garments made with cheap and unethical labor, is an easy answer but I think when people respond buy not buying pieces they ethically don’t believe in change can happen. The practice of “Quality Control” also contributes to wasteful practices. Many large companies will “slash” or discard garments that can’t go to retail because of small structural issues such as hem’s being a fraction of a centimeter off, or different from the lot, coloring being different from the lot, and so forth. These garments then typically get thrown in the bin. A lot of companies won’t donate or recycle them either because they are worried about “brand integrity”. I personally don’t think that this structural homogenization is beautiful or interesting. When we can embrace these little imperfections or create garments from the onset that are meant to be different, and embrace uniqueness, I think we can all help begin to usher in a larger wave of change.
How are you green in your own personal life? And what’s your greatest eco ‘sin’?
Greening my life is and has been an ongoing process. I am the first to admit I was not born into a “green” environment. I grew up in Manhattan, as a 90’s baby, where excessive consumption was encouraged. Turning over my “more is more” mentality I think was the first part of greening my personal life. I never buy fast fashion anymore, opting only for well made artisanal goods that will last me my lifetime, or collectible vintage pieces. I try my best to eliminate plastic packaging where I can, like: bringing my own shopping bags and bringing my own coffee thermos, minimizing non – ecological beauty products and opting for herbal remedies instead of pharmaceutical drugs. Sigh, here’s the embarrassing part now: my greatest eco sin. That would be take out. Sometimes I still really love ordering take out Thai food. It’s the hardest habit to let go of.
If you didn’t do this work, what do you think you would be doing?
I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
What are you proudest of in your work, so far?
I didn’t realize my ideology would truly touch so many people. I have had a beautifully overwhelming response of kind comments and people who feel they can relate to wanting to wear something made with love and intention. Knowing that there are people out there who are moved by these feelings too is really what it’s all about for me.
Any last words?
I’m going to leave you with a Leonard Cohen quote. “ There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”