Photo: Mackenzie Stroh, Cooper Hewitt Museum

I was flipping through Smithsonian Magazine yesterday and happened across this Q&A with popular fashion designer, Isaac Mizrahi, whose dress designed of salmon skin is going to be on display as part of the “Design for a Living World” exhibit at New York City’s Cooper Hewitt Museum.

The exhibit, which opens May 14, was produced by the Nature Conservancy, which commissioned 10 designers to “develop new uses for sustainably grown and harvested materials.”

Mizrahi’s dress is made of discarded skins of Alaskan salmon sewn onto chiffon. The result is an elegant, simple sheath dress, accompanied by shoes made of the same material.

Sounds good, especially when the Nature Conservancy says that Mizrahi’s design is “an ingenious and provocative ensemble that celebrates the tactile beauty and strength of salmon leather as a material salvaged from the abundant waste of the fishing industry.”

Yet the fact that the dress and matching shoes give new life to a material that would otherwise go to waste doesn’t necessarily make the dress an ideal expression of what can happen when fashion and environmental consciousness intersect. I was left with a few lingering questions not answered by the Q&A:

-What’s the carbon footprint of Alaskan salmon skins shipped from a processing plant to a New York City fashion design office?

-What other materials went into the creation of the dress and shoes? Surely, the salmon skin had to be treated with something in order to be wearable.

-What kind of energy was used to make the dress? There’s a big difference between hand-sewing a dress and using a sewing machine to make clothes.

-What’s the expected lifespan of the dress and shoes? Even if a product is deemed green in its design, is it truly green if it has to be replaced quickly?

Interestingly, Mizrahi makes no claims to being a green designer. In the Q&A he admits:

“Frankly, unless something is really glamorous and amusing, I’m not going to sell my artistic principles short for the sake of ‘going green.'”

What do you think about Mizrahi’s “green” dress? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION:

Matador member Insolent Minx recently attended the Green Fashion Show 2009 in collaboration with Funkshion Fashion & Music in Miami and photo blogged from the event. Check out the green fashion here.

Feature photo: Needa Lind