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Designer Bonnie Young discusses decision to only use deadstock

By Jackie Mallon


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BY. Bonnie Young Fall 21

After a 20-year career working for Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, having been based in both Europe and the US, Bonnie Young has a deep understanding of how the fashion industry runs. But as a member of a family of environmentalists she is also acutely aware of how the industry gets it so wrong. One of her earliest jobs at Donna Karan was head of fabric development based in Milan, then in the mid-00s when she became Creative Director of Collection for Donna Karan, she honed a luxury aesthetic and traveled the world finding inspiration, looking for the latest and the newest. Those were different times. Today as founder of BY. Bonnie Young, her decision to use only deadstock fabric and existing materials for all forthcoming collections demonstrates how she has come full circle.

Young is no longer looking for the latest and newest, instead sifting through the old with a view to renew, but her gaze remains fixed on the future, and the generations to come. “My husband and children have had a great influence on me. They are all environmentalists and are very in touch with the issues we are facing today. They are outraged by all the waste the fashion industry is responsible for,” Young tells FashionUnited. “The conversation is ‘save the planet,’ but the planet will adapt and survive. The real question is will the human race survive. On this I must do my part to protect the future.”

Designer Bonnie Young

Fashion industry’s complex relationship with sustainability

The word sustainability no longer resonates with Young as, like many, she has come to question its meaning and the authenticity of its use in our industry. Her quiet but assured collections with an artful sensibility and attention to detail have become a go-to for a discerning clientele seeking luxe without logos. The decision to purchase no new fabrics however involves significant modifications to the business she has built. Young puts it in simpler terms: “Sometimes I am forced to compromise my vision.” Sustainability as a guiding principle, not an afterthought or a marketing tool.

Sourcing from deadstock is not a long-term solution to the fashion industry’s irresponsibility towards the planet. Existing materials will inevitably become exhausted as a resource, and discarded garments still end up in landfill. But for designers like Young the measure can be a steppingstone to the next innovation in our global sustainability quest. Yes, we’re in this fix together, but each business owner must forge their own individual course forward, and perhaps it’s enough that we are headed in the same direction.

BY. Bonnie Young Fall 21

As we emerge from the pandemic, and the industry rallies to recoup its losses, brands are posting quarterly profits for the first time in several years. Early indicators make it appear unlikely that consumers have committed to radically reduce their fashion spending. Brands will continue to create product to meet our demand and Young, as owner and creative brain behind a manageable sized business, considers her decision a positive move but also remains ready to pivot when new avenues towards meeting our collective sustainability goals become evident. “It will take a while for existing materials to exhaust. That will only happen when most of the industry upcycles,” says Young. “Eventually all our businesses will have to adapt.  My business is still quite small so I am not under pressure to constantly produce large collections.”

Bonnie Young
Sustainable Fashion