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Published on December 17th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans

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Eco-Chic Fashion and Organic Clothing

Organic cotton, hemp, recycled fibers, sustainable style—all buzz words fast becoming hip lingo around fashion design studios.

While the environmentally friendly styles of old bring to mind swaths of burlap and racks of Birkenstocks, the story today is entirely different—and, extremely stylish!

Over the last few years, designers have seriously upped the eco-style ante with fashion-driven, wearable pieces that giveCloset Clothes consumers a mission—an improved sense of style and a clear conscience.  No doubt, considering that 55 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on non-organic cotton each year alone, or that a cotton T-shirt blended with polyester can release approximately one quarter of its weight in air pollutants and 10 times its weight in carbon dioxide.

As designers and consumers become more aware, green style is picking up steam with everyone from CEOs and celebrities to eco-conscious moms. Options abound now more than ever with entire clothing and accessory lines devoted to sustainable production practices (i.e. running facilities off wind power, using only organic fibers, and donating profits back to earth-friendly causes).

The Great Outdoors

Much of the eco-fashion movement launched with performance-oriented companies that cater to the outdoor industry—those that outfit the bikers, snowboarders, skiers, rock climbers, and kayakers of the world.  The movement was, of course, a natural for an industry so close to nature.  Today, eco-fashion draws inspiration from the Great Outdoors in addition to literally drawing natural materials directly from the earth.

One exemplary company is Prana, which designs and distributes style-conscious clothing geared to climbing and yoga enthusiasts (as well as the person who simply wants to be comfortable and look good).  One of the causes near and dear to the company is the utilization of wind power—a clean, renewable energy source that produces no greenhouse gas emissions—for its headquarters in addition to many of the company’s retail partners.  To this end, Prana supports wind farms across the country and around the globe.

Prana’s wind power program was launched in 2005 and today supplies wind power to a total of 400 retailers worldwide, in addition to Prana’s corporate headquarters and homes of full-time employees.  According to the company, their Natural Wind Power Initiative “prevents the emission of 22,112 metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere (the equivalent of removing almost 5,000 cars from the road).”

Consumers with a penchant for green clothing can support the cause by pointing their dollars at clothing lines that take the earth into consideration. Look for organic cottons, natural materials like hemp, recycled clothing, and companies that give back to the earth in a variety of ways.

Another sustainable style leader in the outdoor industry is Patagonia, a company born in 1970 to provide for a need for proper climbing garb and gear.  Today, this progressive company utilizes organic cotton throughout its line and recycled soda bottles to create fleece (company reports claim that to date, its efforts have kept 86 million soda bottles out of landfills).

Eco Friendly Hiking Apparel Patagonia is, generally, doing what it can to keep unwanted items out of the landfill.  Launched in 2005, its Common Threads Recycling Program enables consumers to return certain Patagonia pieces for recycling.  The long-term goal is to take environmental responsibility for everything that the company makes.  Patagonia’s recycling partner in this program, Japanese fiber company Teijin, estimates that by recycling 3,000 T-shirts, it can reduce energy consumption by a number that equals the yearly energy usage of one household in Japan.  It also estimates that this amount of recycling reduces carbon emissions equal to the environmental benefits produced by 228 cedar trees.

Performance footwear companies like Teva (pronounced tev-uh) and Keen have also joined in the eco-style initiative.  Teva, a company specializing in water shoes and trail runners, recently launched a new curbside collection that boasts styles made from post-consumer recycled materials.  The inventive substances used for this line, which boasts the motto “Give trash a chance,” include recycled clear plastic bottles, car tires, and factory scrap rubber.

Keen is an outdoor footwear company created with a new environmentally-conscious business model in mind.  The company is hosting a 1,000-mile outdoor industry cycling initiative in August 2007 that will take riders from the company headquarters in Portland, OR, to the outdoor industry’s largest trade show, Outdoor Retailer, in Salt Lake City.  The purpose of the ride?  To save carbon emissions along the way while generating awareness for The Conservation Alliance and the wild areas that ride sponsorships are helping to protect.

Fashion with a Passion

Not to be left in the proverbial dust, high fashion is also wrapping its arms around the environmental movement.  New York’s famed fashion week featured earth-friendly designs by famed style purveyors like Oscar de la Renta and Diane von Furstenberg.  Green is definitely the new black of high fashion, especially for designers like L.A.-based Linda Loudermilk, whose sought-after haute couture line employs organic materials, reclaimed lace and beading, and natural materials like soya and sea shell.

At newly-launched Viridis Luxe luxury fashion line, the mission is to provide sustainable and luxurious clothing for the person making the choice to tread lightly on the planet.  The line has a signature organic fabric (exclusive to the company) that blends the finest cashmere with long-fiber hemp.  Other pieces are made of exotic bamboo or sheer silk-hemp fabric.

Hemp is anti-microbial and highly resistant to insects, thus, it never requires the use of herbicies, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.

Other clothing companies are trying to literally project a message with their apparel, while simultaneously utilizing sustainable production methods.  Mission Playground’s approach is to create awareness through environmentally conscious and globally mindful designs.  Organic cotton T-shirts with clever sayings and designs get the message across: “Trees are bad for pollution,” “This is a fight not a fad,” and “Nature Rocks” on a shirt emblazoned with an electric guitar.  Even rock stars like Bono have gotten into the game. His line Edun, which he created with wife Ali Hewson, is a collection of socially-conscious clothes all made in family-run factories in countries that uphold fair trade practices.

Wearing Your Heart on Their Sleeve

Consumers with a penchant for green clothing can support the cause by pointing their dollars at clothing lines that take the earth into consideration.  Look for organic cottons, natural materials like hemp, recycled clothing, and companies that give back to the earth in a variety of ways.  Your eco fashion choices will recycle back into supporting the sustainability of our planet’s future.

Article Contributors: Erinn Morgan





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