'You only see trash if you choose to' - Zero Waste Daniel

Daniel Silverstein, whose fashion company is Zero Waste Daniel, creates clothing from bits and bolts of leftover cloth, with an eye to using, reusing and recycling all that he can.

"The more people that do this, the more we see a solution," said the New York-based designer. "Our goal is not to sell up, up, up and more quantity and more quantity and more quantity. It's to say we have this much waste, let's sell it down, until it's this (hands forming a zero) much waste."

From a storefront studio in the city's Brooklyn borough, he makes unisex jogging pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and jackets, mostly black with colorful patchwork, as well as cloth pouches and patches.

He typically starts with fabric from FabScrap, a local nonprofit where designers and other clothes makers deposit a cornucopia of leftover bolts, samples, scraps, zippers, buttons, yarn, tassels and ribbons.

"I see potential almost everywhere," Silverstein said. "It's always about looking at things from a different perspective. You only see trash if you choose to. I am able to look at these little scraps every day and say, 'You're going to leave here as something beautiful and not in a garbage bag,' and that feels really good."

Nearly three-fifths of all clothing winds up burned in incinerators or dumped landfills, according to the New Standard Institute, a fashion industry sustainability group.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in 2017, about 17 million tons of textiles were created and more than 11 million tons were deposited in landfills. About 2.6 million tons were recycled.

Hoping to have an impact, Silverstein is one of several designers paying attention to sustainability in their work.

Silverstein takes pride in putting sustainability at the heart of what he creates.

"I don't think of sustainability as a filter or a lens," he said. "It's important to start by using things we already have. And the scrap material that's available is the number one resource that's already here."

More than 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions is produced by the apparel and footwear industry, according to the New Standard Institute.

Also, consumers are keeping their clothing purchases about half as long as they did in 2000, according to a 2016 research by McKinsey & Co. Management consultants.

Sustainable fashion can mean upcycling fabric into new fashions, like Silverstein does, minimizing water usage, dyes and pesticides or making goods to last and not quickly discarded for the next fast-fashion trend, experts say.

Silverstein, 31, attended New York's Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for a handful of designers before setting out on his own.

In 2015, he started Zero Waste Daniel to give new life to fabric scraps.

With his husband and business partner Mario DeMarco, Silverstein sells directly to consumers online and from his store.

For now, he does not work with retailers but said he would be open to collaboration to spread his gospel.

"It's not just about making money. It's also about making an impact," he said. "We make so much choice and difference and impact with our purchases and with our habits. I mean, stores are starting to incorporate sustainability into their mission because they see it as a consumer trend. But what else could we change with our consumer trends? We have so much ability to do that."

Silverstein donned his models with FabScrap material in his spoof immersive fashion show titled "Sustainable Fashion is Hilarious" at Arcadia Earth museum on Wednesday (February 5). It's his version of the fashion world, coinciding with New York's semi-annual Fashion Week.

(Production by Andrew Hofstetter, Soren Larson, Ellen Wulfhorst and Roselle Chen)