There’s Something About Zero Waste Daniel
As its name implies, Zero Waste Daniel is a zero-waste fashion brand that sends nothing to landfills. Every garment is handmade in New York City using pre-consumer cutting room scraps, design room waste, and leftover materials sourced from NYC’s garment industry. In other words, “this is the stuff that is usually sent to landfill before it is ever turned into clothing,” explains the Brooklyn-based brand on its website.
From trippy floral patchwork hoodies to stylish cropped mock neck tank tops to comfy yet sleek black joggers, customers look and feel good wearing Zero Waste Daniel’s genderless, upcycled clothes and accessories–each ZWD piece you purchase keeps about one pound of fabrics away from the landfills. Since going viral in 2017 via an onslaught of media attention, the inventive brand has collaborated with everyone from Alice+Olivia to the New York City Department of Sanitation and has been featured in The New York Times, Vogue, and more. Plus, Jennifer Hudson, Ilana Glazer, and several prominent drag queens including Jinkx Monsoon, Shea Couleé, and Bob The Drag Queen have rocked custom ZWD head-turning numbers. Looking to spice up your closet in a sustainable fashion? Then check out their online store or, better yet, visit their stunning new shop in Bushwick at 257 Varet Street.
We recently caught up with ZWD designer, founder, and co-owner Daniel Silverstein who went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and interned for Carolina Herrera prior to dreaming up and launching the groundbreaking brand. Silverstein chatted about his journey with Zero Waste Daniel, his design process, and where to eat, drink, and shop in the creative enclave of Bushwick.
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What’s your earliest memory of being interested in fashion?
Daniel Silverstein: I remember being in love with a sequined gown in the dress-up box at my preschool. Every time I put it on, I felt like Cinderella. At three or four, I was already experiencing the transformative power of fashion. Not only did this piece make me feel amazing, but I remember everyone standing in a circle around me and staring as I was wearing it—in that piece, I commanded attention. I thought, when I put this on, I’m a superhero.
Tell us a bit about your journey leading up to launching Zero Waste Daniel. Were you always into sustainability?
DS: I made my first Zero Waste collection in 2010 and started my business in 2011. I knew there was a need to innovate in the sustainable design space and make things that were wearable, fashionable and that also did not create waste. After about five years of experimenting with different collections, I created my first scrappy shirt in 2015 and Zero Waste Daniel was born.
How would you describe your label in five words?
DS: Fun. Inclusive. Authentic. Trailblazing. Head-turning.
Before ZWD, what did you think it would be like to run your own clothing brand? What’s the actual reality of it?
DS: I admit I thought it would be a bit more glamorous to run my own business, and I’m not exactly sure why I thought that. I come from a family of small business owners and know from first-hand experience what kind of dedication and work ethic it takes to run a business. My experiences working in fashion were mostly with established brands, which I suppose skewed my vision of my career path, but my actual experience is more similar to the one my parents modeled for me running their company.
In terms of your creative process, how long does it take from start to finish?
DS: A piece can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks depending on the size and scale of the design. One of our classic sweatshirts takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to create, but my custom mosaics and couture drag looks take days.
When did you move to Bushwick? Was it a no-brainer to open your new shop there?
DS: I moved to Bushwick in 2017, and I love it! Opening our shop here was a no-brainer. We wanted to be in the bustling area right by Beacon’s Closet and we’re overjoyed to find our location right here. We love the street art, style, and food in Bushwick. It’s a neighborhood where the culture is truly all front and center and visible right on the streets. Being surrounded by creatives and artists is so incredibly inspiring.
What’s your go-to restaurant in your neighborhood? What’s a must-order?
DS: You have to go to Leslie’s. It’s so underrated. The brunch menu is where it’s at. The huevos rancheros and chilaquiles are not to be missed.
Favorite Bushwick coffee shop? What do you order?
DS: I love Sey. Summer is all about cold brew, and when it’s cold out, I get an Americano in my reusable Zero Waste Daniel insulated tumbler, of course. They also donate their jute and burlap bags to us which we upcycle into totes for the shop.
Favorite Bushwick bar?
DS: I’m not much of a drinker, but I love Syndicated. Good food, the ambiance is great, the trivia is fun, and they never rush you out.
Any interesting shops?
DS: I buy lots of my grocery items at Precycle. I can shop in bulk and from local, sustainable brands and purveyors. Love that place!
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What would your ideal day-to-night look like in New York?
DS: My ideal day-to-night starts with brunch, probably at my favorite restaurant, Lighthouse, in Williamsburg (where my husband Mario and I got married). Then a slow walk over the bridge and through the Lower East Side and SoHo. We love to shop around and maybe meet up with a friend for a coffee. We’d likely end up in Midtown where we would grab tickets to a show. Then, if we’re up for it, walk back or take the train back to Bushwick, where we’d end the night at a local taco truck before we head back home.
What is your favorite song that reminds you of the New York you love?
DS: It’s hard to choose just one. I love so many iconic New York songs, but some songs have more to do with feeling like I’m in the city or reminding me of experiences and memories here. “If You Fall” by Azure Ray is a beautiful song used in one of my favorite films, “Shortbus” by John Cameron Mitchell. The song is used during a montage of scenes of Bushwick and almost feels like the soundtrack to the city in a way. It always makes me think of falling in love with Brooklyn.
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
DS: When I’m feeling uninspired I like to go outside, either gardening in my backyard or walking the city streets. I find that connecting with the outdoors, whether that’s in nature or the city, always helps me reconnect with my sense of wonder. I’m also someone who thrives on problem-solving or a creative brief so I will often revisit old ideas or unsuccessful designs when I lack inspiration for new ones.
What’s one item everyone should own from Zero Waste Daniel?
DS: Our classic black crew neck sweatshirt is something I wear almost every week. I have several in my closest spanning years all with slight variations. They never go out of style and can be dressed up or down. It’s a true must-have.
WORDS Alex Catarinella
PHOTOGRAPHY Bobby Pache