Local 61-Year-Old is Working to Change the Fashion Industry

Kim McCormick's Recycling and Upcycling Practices
May 12, 2024 at 6:45 p.m.
Kimmi Designs was conceptualized by Kim McCormick of Burien. She’s shown her sustainable collections on the Eco Fashion Week Runway using vintage and reclaimed materials to create a modern twist on the past
Kimmi Designs was conceptualized by Kim McCormick of Burien. She’s shown her sustainable collections on the Eco Fashion Week Runway using vintage and reclaimed materials to create a modern twist on the past

Adopting recycling and upcycling practices to reduce waste and mitigate the environmental impact in the manufacturing processes have never been more important. The fashion industry knows this and significant changes are occurring with more companies incorporating animal-free leather to address animal cruelty concerns. Companies are utilizing natural materials, making investments in vegan fashion, and engaging in partnerships and collaborations in new ways.

At the forefront of this trend is Kim McCormick, who lives in Burien, and at age 61 she is hoping to change the fashion industry. 

Kim grew up sewing; however, her views on fashion are much different now than when she was 31 years old. 

“I would actually love to see a fashion reality show that focused on the actual process and environmental issues in the fashion industry, focusing on individuals who are environmentally focused and not personality driven,” said McCormick.

Seattle would be the ideal place to shoot just such a show for a host of reasons. There is a large thriving ethical fashion design community in Seattle. McCormick has had her clothes featured in several fashion shows around Puget Sound over the past 24 months. 

Born in Texas, McCormack lived in many different places because her father worked for the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

“We lived on various Indian reservations predominantly in the Southwest, in Arizona and New Mexico. So, I went to various public schools, and then to fashion design school in Houston, Texas,” said McCormick.

The fashion industry has been attacked over the years for displays of wealth and has even been labeled "psychotic consumerism." McCormick wants to change that view and how everyone looks at fashion. She is part of a new category called ethical designers. Sustainable fashion clothing is the consideration of how clothing is made and who is making it. These types of clothing are biodegradable and made of organic materials.

McCormick makes clothes out of recycled denim. “My goal is to show the possibilities of using recycled textiles to create clothing, entire lines of clothing made from recycled textiles,” said McCormick.

Denim used in jeans is a huge source of textiles that is readily available. Denim is versatile and there are a myriad of possibilities for designing new wearable clothing out of it. Further, denim is a widely loved fabric that is sturdy and long-lasting. However, denim is categorized as a resource-heavy, environmentally damaging textile. It is made from cotton but most of the cotton is grown with harmful fertilizers and pesticides.

“Creating new denim fabric is very environmentally damaging. Dyeing just one pair of jeans uses nearly 30 gallons of water, and chemical additives used with the water are highly alkaline and corrosive. So, using existing discarded denim is vital to creating an eco-friendly fashion environment,” said McCormick.

Thanks, but No Thanks

McCormick loves the whole process of what she is making, everything from searching for the textiles to designing the outfits. “For me, draping the fabric I’ve found and sewing it together is an entirely fun project, which I absolutely love,” she said. Reality fashion shows tend to strip away some of that fun by pitting contestants against each other.

“In the past, I’ve been approached to try out for shows like Project Runway. While flattering, that environment would not be fun for me. The time pressures and constant attempts to create drama are a big turn off,” she added. 

Currently, biochemists, engineers, and ecologists are teaming up to help change the fashion industry. One such team has developed a method to create synthetic spider silk at high yields while retaining strength and toughness using mussel foot proteins.

Scientists have long been intrigued by the remarkable properties of spider silk. It is stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight and flexible. Now, Fuzhong Zhang, a professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has made a significant breakthrough in the fabrication of synthetic spider silk, paving the way for a new era of sustainable clothing production.

Since engineering recombinant spider silk in 2018 using bacteria, Zhang has been working to increase the yield of silk threads produced from microbes. Higher yields will be critical if synthetic silk is to be used in everyday applications, particularly in the fashion industry.

The research team is now expanding the tunable properties of their synthetic silk fibers to meet the exact needs of each specialized market. The synthetic silk is made from cheap feedstock using engineered bacteria. It may represent a renewable and biodegradable replacement for petroleum-derived fiber materials like nylon and polyester.

A growing area of interest in fashion is fungi. It is a unique collaboration between the fashion industry, ecologists, biologists and designers. Bacteria and fungi are being used to grow textiles. Dutch designer Aniela Hoitink uses mushroom mycelium to weave dresses (https://www.designboom.com/design/aniela-hoitink-mycotex-dress-mushroom-mycelium-04-01-2016/ ) and she is just a small part of this new trend in fashion.

Industry-leading fashion companies are making significant progress toward achieving environmental goals addressing deforestation and biodiversity loss, ocean plastics, fossil fuel usage, and more. The “Transforming the Fashion Sector to Drive Positive Outcomes for Biodiversity, Climate, and Oceans” is a project by Conservation International in partnership with The Fashion Pact (TFP). A new report issued by this group shows progress among member companies toward the goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The report highlights the strides made over the last three years by 60+ member companies toward sustainability objectives concerning climate, biodiversity, and oceans. The Fashion Pact, launched as an initiative at 2019 G7 Summit in Biarritz, is the largest CEO-led initiative for sustainability in fashion, representing more than 160 brands, including Kering, Inditex, J.Crew, H&M, and Ralph Lauren. 

Editor's Note: And with Kim McCormick, Seattle is home to one of the people working on this new front. Kim McCormick's unique designs can be found at www.facebook.com/kimmidesigns

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