Fashion Week Dispatch: Samantha Pleet proves eco-couture need not "scream green"

Video: Samantha Pleet SS 2011, Starring Victoria Legrand, Directed by David Black.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week might have a new location this year at Lincoln Center, but the freshest and most creative fashion presentations arguably were found off-site. A perfect example was Samantha Pleet's Spring/Summer 2011 presentation, which was part of the Greenshows downtown. A film created by Pleet's friend David Black featured BeachHouse singer Victoria Legrand as a star-crossed lover. The film and still images were projected onto the walls surrounding models styled by Christina Turner in jewelry by Bliss Lau and shoes designed specially for Pleet by Osborne.

Nothing about the clothing looked particularly eco-friendly, ethically sound or fair trade, but it was nice to know that fantastic design and styling can be all those things without screaming "green." To top off the evening, Pleet gathered friends and fans at the Classic Car Club, where she and I grabbed a seat in 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder for a quick interview...

(Photographs by Kristen Philipkoski)

KP: How did the film collaboration come about?

SP: Dave and I had worked on my last spring film. We're really good friends. My friend Turner also really wanted to style the film, so the three of us came together went down to Baltimore's Pretty Boy Dam. (Beachhouse is from Baltimore). We were a tight crew of eight people and we drove down in two cars, and shot the whole thing over a weekend. It ended up being this lost lovers film of finding something 10 years later and having this melancholy but beautiful feeling towards it which really went well with the collection.

KP: What was your inspiration for Spring/Summer 2011?

SP: Twin Peaks is always an inspiration for me. I'm really influenced by film: Godard, David Lynch, Czech new age films. I think the subconscious element really comes out in my designs. I was also reading Franny and Zooey and Moby Dick, so the line has a nautical New England twisted preppiness with the collared shirts. They're very masculine.

KP: What's your over-arching approach to designing clothes?

SP: I want the girl to be able to create her own story and feel special in the clothes. I'm not so trend driven. You could put (one of my pieces) on five years later, or give it to your grandchildren one day. I wear my grandmother's clothes from the 50s. But i don't want my clothes to look vintage. I want them to be modern but have that feeling.

KP: I loved the bathing suits!

SP: I personally love going to the beach, but i go with friends. So i don't necessarily want to wear a string bikini. I love high waisted pieces. One of them you can wear high waisted or you can make it low -- it's the new reversible. I generally like either really high or low. I don't really like the in between mom waistline.

(The print on the white suit) came from artwork on a 15th century manuscript called Hours of Catherine Cleves that my husband (an architect) found. We spent weeks creating it, it was very challenging. It was all original artwork that we reinvented on Illustrator.

KP: You work on your designs with your husband. What's it like to mix work and marriage?

SP: We are best friends we share everything. He's so creative but we are very different. I'm very fast with a million ideas, and he's very deliberate. Our two minds work well together in our relationship and our work. We have a very strong relationship; we're very lucky.

KP: Tell me how your line is "green?"

SP: I work with all local business and source my material as locally as possible. I work with people who i really believe in, like Osborne. I'm pretty much a one-person company. I produce everything locally in New York City. I use organic cottons. I think I have a really small carbon footprint. I hand-deliver my garments to stores in New York, and as I've been growing bigger that hasn't changed. All the clothes in my collaboration with Urban Outfitters were organic.

Above: Dave Black and Samantha Pleet.


  1. There is a giveaway though – you can tell that the models are avoiding putting pressure on our scant agricultural resources, by not eating food.

  2. Hand-delivering is remarkably inefficient in most places, but New York is one of the few areas that it makes sense to do so. As long as she doesn’t drive.

    1. Actually, sometimes the fact that clothes look bad and hang badly on models is a sign that they may be good clothes for those not about to die of eating disorders.

      Clothes that hang well on fashion models cannot be worn by the healthy without bursting the seams. Clothes that look good on the healthy make the models look extra gross-o by accentuating, rather than concealing, just how skeletal they are.

  3. One problem, from a business standpoint: “In America, we live everyone to know about the good work we’re doing anonymously.” -Jay Leno. Things that green but don’t scream it get ignored.

  4. Don’t know what that car is in the final photo, but I’ll bet that the carbon cost of building and driving it is just a wee bet higher than what is saved by “using organic cottons”. Rationalization is such a blessing…..

    1. Your snark’s a bit off base, Charlotte. The entire event was sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, beyond this one designer’s show. The car company provided vintage, midcentury cars (read: OLD) as props/branding elements throughout this show and others, as I understand it.

      1. i think that car is a relatively new maserati (4.2L V8, 400 horsepower, although i’m sure given the nature of their work this one is a hybrid).

  5. Can we stop with the comments about eating disorders? Some people are naturally skinny. My mom is a size zero. I am a size 3, and people would make fun of me and *assume* i was starving myself because I was/am skinnier-than-average.

    I know people who are struggling with eating disorders. But it’s crazy to erase thin people by assuming we’re just starving ourselves.

  6. To clear up the car confusion: Mercedes Benz sponsored the larger fashion week event, but Pleet’s show was separate from that and part of The Greenshows:, which was a collection of “green” fashion presentations. The after party was a separate event altogether and was held at The Classic Car club, where members can borrow fancy cars. @Baldhead, we meant that the clothes don’t aesthetically scream green. Since Pleet was part of “The Greenshows,” the eco factor was quite prominent marketing-wise.

  7. I like the clothes, but I think mostly when people make “ecofriendly” clothes look ecofriendly it’s because they include that in their concept, there’s no shame in that.

    I think she totally failed in trying to make the clothes not look vintage. they look like something Nancy Sinatra would wear (that’s not a bad thing in itself, but as “Not making them look vintage” I think it’s a fail)

  8. While I understand your point Anon #10 (if that’s your real name), I have to say that the fashion industry resorts to the overly thin far too often for it to be considered a healthy depiction of the nature of women in the world. While I can accept that a certain number of women (and men) in the population are naturally this thin, the fact that only one of the women depicted in the images above doesn’t need to EFS (Eat a Fucking Sandwich) is as negligent and disrespectful to average sized women as the comments regarding eating disorders are to the naturally thin.

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