Saving our planet; one bag at a time

December 12, 2006

Green fashion goes mainstream

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:40 pm

Green is the new black. Eco fashion goes mainstream.

Designer Linda Loudermilk offers a luxury eco line featuring dresses made from sustainable chiffon silk and lyocell, a biodegradable fabric spun from wood pulp.

Designer Heatherette exhibits a recycled polyester bustier and an Ingeo taffeta skirt at FutureFashion, a show for environmentally friendly designs at New York Fashion Week in 2005. (Courtesy of Earth Pledge). Patagonia is making fleece from recycled plastic soda bottles…

What’s this all about?

Green fashion is now going mainstream.

A decade ago, environmentally friendly clothing brought to mind hemp smocks and Birkenstocks. But today, eco-fashion is shedding its hippie image. Think low-rise, boot-cut jeans; think little black dress; think Versace and Armani.

With the help of name-brand designers and pop culture celebrities, environmentally friendly fashions are getting noticed and are poised for mainstream acceptance.

Companies like Nike, American Apparel and Eileen Fisher are offering eco-friendly items. Clothes made from organic cotton and wool, bamboo and even soybean and corn-based fibers are showing up on the catwalks and in stores across North America.

The outdoor sportswear company Patagonia pioneered the move toward environmentally conscious clothing.

Patagonia officials say the company struggled for the first few years after moving to organic cotton. The company had to lower its profit margin and decrease the number of products it offered to deal with the higher prices and scarcity of organic cotton, said Coley Glasgow, a spokeswoman for Patagonia. But she said the decision ultimately paid off.

“When we made the switch, we were counting on our customers to make the same choices we had made–to pay more for organics,” Glasgow said. “And they did.” Patagonia’s sales rose 20 percent over the last six years, topping $240 million in 2005.

With the growing popularity of organic foods and polls showing that global warming is increasingly an issue of concern to consumers, the fashion industry started to target the growing number of environmentally conscious shoppers.

“Companies get into this because they can see a market in formation,” said Rebecca Calahan Klein, director of program development for Organic Exchange. “Consumers under 30 are extremely environmentally aware; they’re a generation that grew up with recycling. And they are coming into the market in a big way.”

Fashion innovation typically starts with high-end designers and retailers because they have the budgets and affluent customer base that allow them to take risks. At New York Fashion Week last year, upscale retailer Barney’s teamed up with the environmental organization Earth Pledge to present FutureFashion, a runway show that featured clothes with ecological benefits. Designers included Diane von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta.

The move isn’t restricted to the upmarket brands. This year Wal-Mart became the world’s largest purchaser of organic cotton.

Mainstream chains like Target and Victoria’s Secret are now developing organic cotton lines that are expected to hit the stores in the next two years.

Some environmentalists aren’t completely sold on the eco-fashion trend. “Green consumerism isn’t that different from regular consumerism,” said Lynda Grose, who helped design a line of organic cotton clothes for Esprit in the early 1990s. “Producing and selling more garments is part of the problem.”

Grose, who now teaches sustainable fashion design at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, encourages her students to design clothing that lasts longer and breaks down more efficiently.

While all this is good news, what happens at the last mile, when the customer buys the product?

Not much use making all that environmental effort if the final product is carried home in a plastic bag, is it?

If you care about what your customers think about you, it’s high time you switched to a reusable fabric bag. They are far more affordable than most people think. Just look at the stuff on our website ( in case you can’t find the link.


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