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Julie Gilhart on Sustainability, Philanthropy, and Life after Barneys

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Barney's former fashion director discusses her future plans, and how to enact positive change in the fashion industry.

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Julie Gilhart has been flying fairly under the radar since her dismissal as Barneys' fashion director in November (aside from touting favorite socially-conscious causes via Twitter), but Friday she appeared at Afingo's Fashion Forum at FIT to discuss sustainability and philanthropy, and revealed a bit about her personal priorities and plans in the process.

“It’s about how we can improve the state of our planet, in everything that we do, and fashion is one aspect.” Gilhart said, sitting on a panel that included Costello Tagliapetra’s Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra and Lulu Frost founder Lisa Salzer.

Gilhart said the best way to make an impact on the fashion industry is to “attack the big guys” like H&M, Nike, Wal-Mart, and the Gap. “Those are the people who are really impacting the planet from an environmental point-of-view,” she said.

She went on to contrast those mass power players with the “fabulousness of it all,” as exemplified by the Costello Tagliapietra designers seated to her right. Gilhart said the perfect plan for positive change would integrate power players in high and low fashion, and revealed she is currently working to educate a few “key people.” The Afingo program identified her as a "Fashion Consultant," and while Gilhart didn’t name names, she did seem to know a lot about François-Henri Pinault’s strategy at PPR.

At the end of the day, she said, her strategy for minimizing the fashion industry’s effects on the environment is about education, not marketing “eco-fashion.”

“You have to educate the people who are at the top of their field on why they want to do it, you can’t tell them how to do it,” Gilhart said of her compatriots in fashion. “They’re creators; they’re designers.”

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