I’ve seen a lot of budding designers come and go. But meet Daniel Silverstein – we think he’ll be around for awhile!
By Chere Di Boscio
Europe has Project Runway, but in America, Fashion Star is one of the biggest TV shows, where designers compete to become the ‘star’ of the catwalk. Now past its second season, the show whittles 13 hopefuls down to three finalists, and ultimately just one Star.
All contestants are mentored by big celebs, including Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie, and buyers for the likes of Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue determine who moves up, or out.
Our favourite contestant from the last season was Daniel Silverstein, whose clever use of textiles resulted in a collection that mixed thick rope with delicate silks and transparent panels juxtaposed with bold designs.
This sustainable concept was something Daniel started learning about as a student at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2010. A year studying abroad at FIT in Milan served to highlight the importance of eco-friendliness further, and by the time he was back in his native Brooklyn, Daniel incorporated zero waste techniques into his own work.
He realised that in doing so, he could create stylish clothing without wasting fabric, and more importantly, he could challenge the current industry norm that sees much reckless waste. In 2010, just after graduating, Silverstein co-launched his collection, 100% NY – so called because his New York based company used 100% of its material.
Meet Daniel Silverstein
Since appearing on season 2 of NBC’s Fashion Star, Silverstein has re-launched his brand under his own name, but he still strives to create collections that merge a strongly urban aesthetic with the zero waste design techniques he has developed; namely, a unique draping technique that keeps fabric waste close to zero.
His early work was defined by “spine” details and bold embellishments that contrast sheer panels. His dresses wrapped around the body to use the full yardage of fabric put into each piece. Simple, clean shapes and strong finishings, such as black bindings and zippers, also characterised his early style.
Since then, Silverstein has relaxed a bit, offering more streetwear than couture. We asked him a bit about the change.
Why have you shifted from couture to streetwear?
I just thought it would be a way of making sustainable fashion more accessible to more people.
Is it still zero-waste?
Yes of course! We work on eliminating textile pollution from the manufacturing process and that is done by being very creative with our pattern makings. Normally when you cut patterns with a marker in traditional fashion you will waste 15% to 20% of the material that is cut and goes straight into landfills and is scrapped. So all of our patterns for all of our clothes put together make some jigsaw puzzles, so that this is eliminated or brought down to less than 1%.
Your designs are quite diverse. What’s the uniting thread, so to speak?
I’d say sustainability.
I’ve always been a fashion designer in my heart. I have been drawing pictures of dresses since I was a child; it was the first thing I doodled when I was a two year old. I was taken by the female form and adorning it. I grew up in the East Coast, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, I studied at FIT and the training and exposure I got to the industry there and at the sister school, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, encouraged me to incorporate sustainable practices into my business.
And just as a member of youth culture, I think it’s a very important thing to be concerned about the future of our planet, so also when I think about employing people and truly being innovative as a designer, what I want to bring is not just a sense of style, but a way of making things that is better for us, and for the planet.
I’ve been doing this for four years but now my team and I rebranded as the Daniel Silverstein collection last spring, so this is the second collection under my own name.
How are you eco-friendly yourself in your day-to-day life?
Simply in the little things that can change the big picture. At work, for example, we encourage everyone at the office to recycle. We use leftover materials for other projects, we donate scraps to an artist who works only with textiles, and our interns run all around the fashion district with tote bags, no plastic bags from my office!
A New Direction
Silverstein isn’t just keen to help save the environment with his zero waste designs, he also wants to contribute to causes of social justice.
The young talent has made many statements about LGBQT+ rights, supports diversity, and body positivity. He has also created wedding wear for gay couples, and has made more of his collections completely gender neutral.
In fact, one example of his politics can clearly be seen in his latest collection of swimwear and activewear, created from regenerated nylon. Shorts, maillots and shirts bear slogans like WOKE or the image of the Statue of Liberty, representing freedom, of course.
Whether it’s on TV, the runway or in film, given his incredible talent not only for fashion, but for spotting the zeitgeist, Daniel Silverstein’s work is something that will be on the cultural radar for awhile.