Fashion Is Going Green

11 Jan 2005|Leah Hunter

While wandering through Barnes & Noble, my home away from home, I discovered a new magazine. It might not sound like a big deal, but given the frequency with which I haunt this store and loiter in the café—I am a sad frappuccino addict, this was quite a surprise. Even more surprising was the magazine title, “Organic Style.”

I’ve always thought of organic in relation to food, not fashion. The word puts me in mind of Chez Panisse and peaches from the farmers’ market. It conjures images of chalky carob and the summer my mom thought wheat germ an appropriate ice cream topping. It does not make me think of shoes and shawls and style. Or, it didn’t until I read the surprisingly hip editorial in “Organic Style.”

In the words of OS editor Jeanie Pyun:

Vintage is cool. Bamboo is a cheap, chic answer to accessible green design. You can get health shakes everywhere, from Smoothie King to Bloomingdale’s (in a range of more attractive colors). What once seemed far out (acupuncture, unprocessed foods) now seems farsighted…Now the fringe has become fashion.

The magazine made me want to know more, so I did a little searching. Here’s what I found out:

Haute granola is already popular in Hollywood and high-fashion. Socially and environmentally conscious designers have a coterie of celebrity followers. With fans like Chloe Sevigny and Kirsten Dunst, Imitation of Christ reworks funky 80s dresses into fabulous one-of-a-kind creations. Madonna and Gwyneth both snap up creations by Koi, a cashmere recycler. Even Giorgio Armani is championing the cause. He produced his first line of eco-friendly jeans in 1995. Since then, he has launched an organic cotton knit line and has formally announced his commitment to enviro-safe farming and production practices. Armani uses ecologically correct fabrics including recycled denim, dye and pesticide free cotton, and hemp. (Roll those jeans. Don’t smoke ‘em.)

Expecting the trend to trickle down, mainstream retailers are starting to embrace organics. According to an Organic Style article, “both Nordstrom and Marks & Spencer are planning to make their in-house labels at least partially organic.” Neiman Marcus has picked up a certified organic line by Deborah Hampton, former head of design for Michael Kors. H&M is moving toward including post-recycled materials. Nike is sponsoring the 2005 “Wear Organic” fashion show. Even Hermes is using rubber sourced directly from Amazonian tribes to make rubbery-canvas coating for their signature Kelly bags.

This eco-focus is paying off. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), more and more ordinary shoppers are buying according to their beliefs. US consumers spent $85 million on organic fashion in 2003, and the OTA is predicting an 18% increase in sales over the next year.

That’s a lot of green.

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