Photo by AFP

Culture | 02.16.2022

Start-Up Designer Uses Hemp Materials To Reflect An Increasingly Sustainable Fashion Industry

Emma Gage's start-up brand Melke uses hemp and other sustainable materials to lead by example.

From Minnesota to Brooklyn, fashion designer Emma Gage faced the pandemic’s wrath after losing her job in the fashion industry. Two years later, the 26-year-old decided to do things her own way and create the brand knowns as Melke. 

The designer’s main goal was to create a brand focused on environmental sustainability. Impressively, the brand made its big debut at this season’s New York Fashion Week that centered operations around sustainability. 

The fashion industry has long faced complaints and backlash for its effect on the environment, especially with fast fashion outlets wasting an excess of water and using materials that aren’t recyclable or good for the skin in long-term use. 

Photo courtesy of Melke

Gage’s brand Melke is said to utilize hemp as its main material, alongside organic cotton and recycled fabrics, all of which have shown to have a far less harmful environmental impact. But, in order to purchase said materials, Gage told France 24 that she’s dedicated to working with companies that make equity and respecting human rights a part of their core values.

“I would never want to come out and say like, yeah, everything’s 100% sustainable, everything’s perfect because that’s a lie,” Gage told France 24 from her studio in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. The designer explains that “zero plastic” is hard to achieve when synthetic materials are often found in recycled fabrics, but it’s still a goal she has in mind.

As of now, Gage is dedicated to “making pieces that will last,” which she creates using any fabric available. One of her favorite products using this method is the “scrap bag,” which was literally made from scrapped fabrics. Another top pick on Gage’s list is the simple sweater, soft and comforting to the touch. She ensures each piece has its own unique staple, so far, that comprises embroidered flowers, fish, and sheep.

Photo courtesy of Melke

What’s caught the most attention thus far was the designer’s second collection, inspired by “Autobiography of Red,” a book written by author Anne Carson. The collection has caught the eyes of many through its similarities to flowing lava, which features intricate contrasts between red and darker tones. 

Yesterday, Gage showcased her fall/winter 2022 collection at New York Fashion Week, which was designed to pay homage to a sort-of Irish medieval castle. The designer’s creativity is endless, and her newest creations continue to top the last, but using hemp and other sustainable materials is sure to put the Melke brand on the map. 

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