In a recent talk, designer Heron Preston outlined just how he went from being a Kanye West collaborator to running a sold out fashion label built upon sustainability. Preston noted that he has always been interested in fashion, beginning with his fascination with uniforms. After starting a clothing line in high school, Preston would go on to study at Parsons School of Design in New York. He then went on to link up with fellow Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh, and the two (along with Matthew Williams) founded Been Trill and assisted Kanye West with creative direction on various projects. But during a trip to the Mediterranean, Preston saw first-hand the state of pollution in the world while swimming in the ocean. The realization led Preston to face reality, and that the fashion industry is the world’s second biggest polluter. This epiphany set the wheels in motion his unisex clothing collection that showed at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. Check out an excerpt from the talk below and read the piece in full here.
“Then I realized that the New York City Department of Sanitation has a uniformed force that cares about the same things I do,” he says. As it turns out, the DSNY was the first municipal organization to have an artist in residence, beginning in 1978: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, a performance artist obsessed with maintenance, is famous for the piece Touch Sanitation Performance, which entailed shaking the hand of every one of the DSNY’s 8,500 workers and telling them, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive.”
Preston tracked down Vito Turso, a self-appointed “deputy commissioner of explaining stuff” and the man who brought Ukeles on board all those years ago. He sent him an e-mail with the subject line “Big Idea,” and pitched a collection of reworked DSNY uniforms. Once the department realized it could make money off the project to support 0×30, a citywide initiative to eliminate waste sent to local landfills by the year 2030, the officials were sold. “It was actually Vito who suggested we present the collection at Fashion Week,” says Preston. “Apparently, he always thought it would be a fun idea.”