Save the Manimals: Wear bamboo.
Going green isn’t just about saying “no” to SUVs and plastic bags; it’s also about saving the Earth, one soybean-based garment at a time. There was a time when environmentally responsible clothing could be defined by baggy hemp drawstring pants and a shapeless sack of a top. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.
The green revolution has inspired a plethora of labels with killer designs that just so happen to use sustainable methods to produce their clothing. A quick search on Google will reveal dozens of labels in Canada alone, and even more in the United States.
“It is a necessity rather than a luxury in today’s society to ‘go green’ whenever and wherever possible,” says Tara St. James designer for Covet, an eco-friendly Canadian label based in both Montreal and New York. “We are lucky to be able to work on a collection we love, therefore we give back by trying to leave a zero carbon footprint from our work.”
Covet works closely with its factories to develop new materials that are not yet common on the consumer markets. Bamboo, soybean, organic and recycled cottons, tencel and viscose blends, silk and most recently, organic wool, are all materials used in the production of Covet’s clothing.
While the “eco trend” is growing steadily in the North American market, we have a long way to go when compared with Europe. That being said, the trend of eco-friendly clothing is taking a firm hold in North America.
Last year, the sustainable style showcase S(eco)nd, debuted at the Pooltradeshow in Las Vegas. S(eco)nd – as in “it only takes a second to change the world” – featured a fresh crop of around 50 Earth-minded designers, including Canadians Velvet Leaf and Nicole Bridger, and noteworthy Americans, such as Linda Loudermilk, manimal, and Ryann.
“Now, we have an opportunity to lead by example on what is seemingly the issue of our time,” said Mindy Wiener, director of operations for Pool and creator of S(eco)nd.
“We recognize that timing is very important in the fashion industry. We’ve been working to raise awareness for the last few seasons but have not felt like the timing was quite right to take a stand. Now, there is no doubt that (people and) businesses have become more aware and are implementing changes that are impacting the industry.”
Sisters Laura and Becky Carter, who founded Velvet Leaf, believe in being accountable for the way their clothing is produced in terms of both the environment and human rights. Their products are certified with the ECO SKAL seal of approval.
“The main changes happen in the farming process. Cotton is about 50% of the textile market, knowing that, it takes about one-third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to produce enough cotton for one t-shirt,” says Laura Carter, whose first taste of organics came from her vegetarian parents.
“…Our cotton is grown without any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This helps to reduce damage to the environment including the plants and all beings that exist upon it. We also use low wastage dyes, and sustainable packaging.”
Fellow S(eco)nd exhibitor, the Loudermilk Insitute’s LUXURY ECO Stamp offers up a seal approval to sustainable companies. The accreditation process evaluates products, manufacturing processes, energy uses, labour practices, environmental impacts, aesthetic design and luxury-quality status.
Meanwhile, former model, Hungarian-born Hanjulka Mandula, is well-known for her organic clothing. She’s taken Vancouver by storm with her high-end lines, incorporating into her designs such unorthodox items as bicycle inner tubes, porcupine quills, skeleton keys and natural gems.
She uses coffee, tea, pumpkin seeds and other organic products to create Earthy lines that are still urban-chic and very much sought after.
Eco clothing labels are now migrating from an esoteric niche to the mainstream market, boosted by a budding global awareness that our consumption is putting a strain on the delicate ecosystems we call home. But, let’s hope the trend lasts.
“We are hoping the ‘green trend’ will spread to other brands and become a necessity in production rather than a trend,” says St. James. “By expanding the market share, consumers will become more educated and aware of their impact on the environment and hopefully reduce their footprints in other aspects of their lives.”