Dress with a Nod to the Environment
For many, the idea of purchasing sustainable apparel is still a foreign concept; however, thousands of designers around the world have been creating “conscious” brands for decades – long before the words “eco” and “fashion” were spoken together.
As a designer myself, I have always felt that creating consciously in fashion is crucial and it ensures the environment, consumer health and the health of millions of people in the fashion workforce around the globe are protected and respected throughout the entire process. It’s not an easy task — for decades we have worked to build a complex production model that exploits both humans and our planet in the name of profit — and for fashion, profit has never been better. It’s a billion dollar industry with huge margins but also with carefully hidden horror stories that rarely meet the public eye.
Luckily, these stories are emerging and creating change where it’s needed most so many of the materials used to create what we wear are highly toxic to both manufacturers and us as final consumers.
With labels like H&M and Topshop under scrutiny for reports of slave labor and images of eerily bright blue factory runoff from blue jean manufactures in China killing wildlife and poisoning locals, it’s time that we all take note of what we are really supporting every time we make what we think is a “fashionable purchase.” After all, there is nothing fashionable about children with cancer and a slew of species going extinct because of our ignorance or greed.
According to Earth Pledge, a non-profit organization committed to promoting and supporting sustainable development, “At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles and 25 percent of the world’s pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton. This causes irreversible damage to people and the environment, and still two thirds of a garment’s carbon footprint will occur after it is purchased.”
For Los Angeles-based contemporary women’s wear designer Sandy Skinner it made perfect sense to create her luxury brand, ecoSkin, using only environmentally sustainable fabrics woven, dyed and sewn in the United States. “I think everyone has the responsibility to make a difference in whatever their field of work may be,” Skinner said. “I want to make sure I give customers a sustainable product that is fashion forward, comfortable and easy to wear.” Celebrity supporters such as Amy Smart love Sandy’s brand and its cutting edge styles that dispel any lingering myths about eco fashion being associated only with hemp and granola.
Designer Jodi Koskella of the brand Charmone feels the same way and has brought eco awareness to footwear. “We don’t use animal products because the process of tanning leather is extremely hazardous to the environment and to the workers in the leather factories,” Koskella said. “Today’s high tech microfibers and eco-friendly fabric behave much like leather in terms of molding to the foot, breathing and wearing well for years, not to mention being gentler to the environment, animals and people!”
The challenges Jodi faces are many and, like all designers working to make conscious couture more prevalent, she shares that the biggest challenge was finding the right materials. “It’s one thing to be eco-friendly, it’s another to be sustainable and find products that are self-generating like bamboo, which we haven’t really been able to use for shoes yet. There’s also not currently a good alternative for plastic heels. More options are available each year, and we’re constantly scouring the globe for the most advanced types of sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics that are beautiful and fun to wear.” Natalie Portman, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba and Emily Deschanel are fans and the brand is growing internationally each year.
Designer Lindee Daniel also creates fashion with a firm commitment to all things natural and gives back to her local community by committing 5 percent of annual sales toward severely at-risk youth in Los Angeles. Her exquisite gowns feature exotic fabrics made of wild silks, which save millions of silk worms from being killed for use in this luxury fabric. She also uses organic cotton, safe non-toxic dyes and processes free of chemicals or synthetics and her collections are handmade in the United States.
Her work has been featured internationally and she is another encouraging example of style that goes far beyond just being “green” and accomplishes much more. If only every designer’s choice was to create conscious couture, the entire industry and our planet would be a very different and truly more beautiful place.
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