Haven’t you heard? Green is the new black. No, not the color silly, we’re talking about the environment. That’s right, while many car companies, oil tycoons and energy companies claim the green way, eco-fashion has finally been picking up steam and garnering a lot of attention. But it’s not just the kinds of clothes you wear that determine your eco-fashion level (or lack thereof), but also how you buy, clean and take care of your clothes. And hey, you can still look great without wearing all hemp clothes and accessories.
Many designers are turning away from conventional production of clothes to “greener” pastures. In fact, during the 2009 fashion week, there was also the GreenShows Eco-Fashion Week, which premiered only fashion committed to eco-friendly, ethically sound, fair-trade fashion in NYC. Partnered with the Rainforest Action Network, the GreenShows features designers such as Izzy Lane, Bahar Shalpar, House of Organic, Lara Miller, Mr. Larkin and STUDY by Tara St. James [Source: Design Taxi]. Still other designers like Marc Jacobs and Burberry are touting their collections as eco-friendly [Source: Discovery]
Of course, like the corporate world, the fashion world is full of greenwashing that can mislead the buyer. Not all companies are using sustainable practices and may just use any kind of green marketing as a way to attract environmentally friendly consumers. For example, Banana Republic launched a green collection where only the buttons and paper price tag come from recycled or sustainable materials. But does this make their clothing anymore eco-friendly than say Rogan’s that use free-range alpacas and no toxic dyes in their sweaters? Of course not, but the average consumer has very little information on what goes into making sustainable clothing.
Buying clothing made of organic cotton can help but not if the actual process of treating the shirt is as harsh as that used for regular cotton tees. [Source: Fast Company]. The same can be said for bamboo clothing. While the plant itself is very easy to grow and requires very few pesticides, so many harsh chemicals are added in the process of changing the wood fiber to textile that it almost renders the sustainable bamboo clothes moot. In order for the fashion world to truly embrace the green lifestyle, they must first educate consumers about their purchases and disclose all of the details on their product from eco-friendly to not so eco-friendly parts.
The easiest way to be eco-chic, however is either:
1. Don’t buy as much (easier said than done)
2. Buy “used”.
Now “used” does not necessarily mean from a thrift store-although that’s always a good idea since not only are you reducing the amount of junk, but generally supporting a good cause – it can also mean made from used products. There are many artisans that have reused old cans, pop tops and glass to create beautiful jewelry (check out the stuff at etsy.com). Even more complicated accessories like hats and belts can be made out of reclaimed rubber, metal and leather. Of course, the number one concern is the actual clothes and shoes that we wear. But don’t fret, there are plenty of ways to recycle your old clothes into a new outfit. There are even some companies that specialize in only these types of clothing, like Super Lucky Cat and Deborah Lindquist. Both of these companies gather cast off clothing to create a different look. Deborah Lindquist is also very high-fashion and uses vintage cashmere, lace and kimonos to achieve a glamorous yet effortless look.
There is certainly a growing interest in the fashion industry to push for eco-friendly clothing, but a lot of the work also has to be done by the consumer. Rather than just throwing out clothes when they rip, learn how to stitch the seams back together and sew buttons back onto that favorite jacket. Simple repairs like this can increase the lifespan of your clothes, thereby decreasing the amount of junk thrown into a landfill (did you know that 85% of recyclable clothes are thrown out needlessly every year? [Source: WikiAnswers]). Taking good care of your clothes also will contribute to a longer life. Always follow the directions on the care instructions on your clothes/accessories. And while you’re at it, you can find green dry cleaners and even environmentally friendly laundry detergent and fabric softener.
It doesn’t take much effort to look great and save the planet. The easiest way is to make sure the clothes you buy will always be in fashion (you know how fickle people’s tastes can be), but if you must buy or have the latest look, then think green before you buy.