Feature

Why Green is the New Black

Green is the new Black

Credit: Andrew Lee

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On the catwalk

In October 2006, Paris held its third annual Ethical Fashion Show, which showcased ethically and ecologically responsible fashion. The show, held over four days, attracted around 60 exhibitors, three times more than the inaugural event in 2004, and welcomed an estimated 4,000 visitors.

During New York Fashion Week in 2005, a ‘FutureFashion’ event was staged to showcase eco-friendly fashions by 28 top designers, including Diane von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta. Models sashayed down the catwalk in designs created using only fabrics that were renewable, reusable or more environment-friendly than conventional material.

And in the UK, ‘Well Fashioned: Eco Style in the UK’ has been the most visited exhibition hosted by the Crafts Council in the last 10 years.

“So few examples [of ‘eco’ clothing] that make it through to the consumer are worthy of consumption or press,” says Rebecca Earley, a London-based textile designer and researcher at Chelsea College of Art and Design who curated the Well Fashioned exhibition.

“But the last couple of years have improved in terms of design and availability, and once you get a few coming through, then people get excited and there’s a natural acceleration of interest.”

Some of these designs belong to high-profile names and include Katharine Hamnett, the British designer as famous for her politically-charged T-shirts (such as “Education, Not Missiles” and “Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now”) as she is her sharp tailoring.

In 2005, she launched her chemical-free menswear label, Katharine E. Hamnett, saying that she was determined to make clothes with minimal impact on the environment and in an ethical manner (hence the ‘E’ in the name).

In the March 2005, Ali Hewson and her rock star husband, Bono, along with the designer Rogan Gregory, launched a clothing brand called Edun. The label, which Hewson described as a “socially conscious clothing company”, aims to increase trade and create sustainable employment in the developing world.

Rogan is also the man behind the hip US eco-denim label Loomstate whose maxim reads, “people who give a shit are sexy”.

The mainstream

But it’s not just rock stars and high-fashion designers who are becoming more eco-aware. ‘Mainstream’ brands are also taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint:

  • Patagonia, the US-based outdoor clothing company, was one of the first brands to explore using less polluting fabric back in 1991. They developed recycled fleece and polyester, began using less-harmful cotton and now offer an entire line of recyclable clothing.
  • Levi’s introduced their Levi’s Eco line of jeans to the US market in November last year. The range features 100% organic cotton, natural indigo dyes, recycled buttons and zippers.
  • Nike have set a target to introduce five per cent organic cotton into all their cotton-containing products by 2010.
  • The grande dame of the British high street, Marks & Spencer, has just launched its own fair trade line.

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