The New York brand Collina Strada takes sustainability seriously – its website describes it as “a platform for social issues and awareness” rather than a fashion brand – but it’s loved by a younger demographic because it brings the fun, too. Its contribution to New York fashion week on Wednesday was no exception.
Rather than a show, a film called The Collinas was debuted at the Angelika cinema. A spoof of a reality TV show documenting a hapless intern, Tommy, joining the Collina Strada team, it sent up the dogmatism associated with sustainability with the eye rolls, vocal fry and side eye recognisable to viewers of shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Hills.
The use of a disposable cup is greeted with a damning “ew” while Tommy’s pastrami sandwich is a thing of horror to other staff members tucking into raw carrots and broccoli. “I haven’t seen a dead animal since 2013,” says one.
This film is a surprise for a brand so known for doing sustainability well but perhaps the irony is a reaction to the rise of Collina Strada – and fashion’s increasing engagement with sustainability – over recent years. Hillary Taymour founded it while a fashion student in 2009, a year when terms such as “sustainability” or “deadstock” would have led a brand to be labelled niche rather than seen as an industry trailblazer.
Collina Strada is now very much the latter: it’s produced in small batches in New York, prioritises more sustainable fabrics and has a partnership with a Ghana-based textile waste not-for-profit called the OR Foundation to reuse materials.
Crucially, Collina Strada’s clothes are made mindfully but they also have a Y2K, club-ready aesthetic that appeals to Gen Z. All the actors in the film wore the colourful, cut-up, more-is-more designs of the brand. The audience at the Angelika mirrored the style of those on the film, suggesting the invitees were also friends of the brand. Many, including Taymour, wore the tie-dyed, oversized, arty clothes that Collina Strada is known for.
The casting for shows and films has also been ahead of the game. Models are always diverse – across age, size, ethnicity, gender and physical ability. The 70-year-old mother of Taymour’s collaborator, Charlie Engman, is a favourite muse, as is Aaron Philip, the black, transgender and disabled model. Both appeared in The Collinas along with the models Cory Kennedy and Jazzelle Zanaughtti; the executive editorial director at Dazed & Confused, Lynette Nylander, and – to make it really meta – a real reality TV star, Whitney Port, who made her name on The Hills.
Wider fashion is finally catching up with Taymour. Nominated for a CDFA award in 2019, she was selected by the Gucci designer Alessandro Michele to be part of 2021’s digital festival, GucciFest, and has collaborated with Levi’s and Reebok. Celebrities including Rihanna, Rosalia, Charlie XCX and Camila Mendes have worn her clothes. Speaking to the Financial Times this month, she described what drives her. “My goal with Collina is to teach people and have fun,” she says. “We’re just trying to make fashion a little less horrible.”