The Gallery Los Angeles should receive a distinction award for presenting The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show at Smashbox Studios during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Of all the Spring 2008 shows, the LA fashion scene anticipated the one with a universally charged message: Think Green. Finally, a revolutionary turn in the heady yet heedless world that is fashion.
Compassionately produced by The Gallery Los Angeles, a philanthropic public relations firm dedicated to promoting socially responsible designers, five eco-friendly collections came together to raise global awareness and broke stereotypes of the environmentally conscious. Worn with easy hair and confidence, clothing struck a chord with exceptionally fine-looking organic fabrics that retained its attention to quality and detail. Integrating a pro-green mindset did not reproduce the shabby or unkempt appearances of early 90s grunge nor did it bore us with bland interpretations of granola garb. Designing for the betterment of humanity and the earth we live on apparently lent a purity and refinement to clothing catering to like minds. Lauren Bush, whose humanitarian efforts through sponsoring the FEED bag has raised funds for hungry children nationwide, sat front row and center admiring the clothing and the cause.
M the Movement, Protect the Element, Peligrosa, Vintage China, and Wet Cement brought our attentions to earth-friendly threads with high quality intact. Clothing exhibited something I will unofficially coin as “dirty chic” as it reeked of the dirty goodness of the earth and sheer fashionability. Fabrics made out of bamboo, hemp, cotton, soy and natural fibers stayed true to the ecological theme. As the show was designed to raise awareness, the majority of styles fell into the category of casual everyday wear suitable for the average consumer.
M the Movement presented breezy visions of Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch without the attitude. Men donned suit jackets with relaxed jeans and polos for a fresh take on spring attire. Linen khakis, grey denims, white separates, cowboy boots, wintery greens, vests and scarves completed the show's rugged landscape. Women were dressed in similar street smart fashions, flaunting denim knickers, cotton Ts and button shirts. A luxury line known for using organic pima cotton and alpaca knits from Peru, M the Movement put its best foot forward during the show with nature-inspired designs and crisp colors.
Peligrosa and Protect the Element were elegant lines that produced exclusive items made from organic wool, cashmere and recycled cotton. Peligrosa founders use only natural mordants and organic dyes derived from roots, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Their creations are a testament to the quality and benefits of ethical manufacturing. Aside from producing fashionable silhouettes in organic fibers, handtags are printed with soy-based inks on recycled cardboard. Roshi Salim, the earth mother behind Protect the Element, resorts to organic bamboo fabrics to avoid the use of harsh pollutants in her divine collection. Her goal is to stress the importance of wearing clothing that is free from chemicals and pesticides.
Vintage China made its grand entrance with an emperor and empress dressed in ornate costume guarding the runway, lending a truly authentic semblance to the culture from which the line originates. The collection retraces inspiration from old Chinese roots through fashion forward style while embracing new age humanitarian values and sustainability. I had heard about this distinguished line on my own and was psyched when I saw their logo project from the green fluorescent lighting.
Vintage China showcased pared-down couture which featured military jackets, hoodies and special occasion denim. There was a definite rock star look to the combinations, pairing high end denims with glamorous pieces and introducing functional staples for trendsetting men and women. Denim seems to be their brightest gem, supplied in the generous forms of pants, skirts, shorts and capris and exclusively detailed with Asian silk-lined pockets. Constructed with bamboo fabric, denim was all the rage with oxidized vintage buttons, discharged denim treatments, hand-sewn dragon embroidery and Chinese character embellishments. A number of pieces featured peacock feathers stitched into the back pocket designs (how appropriate, as VC really stood out and beautifully!) Outfits would stand out in a crowd most definitely, but could be worn during the day or night without stopping too much traffic. Men’s apparel was noticeably hip and imitable with its high street style and ample bearing of skin. Women paired knockout denim shorts with heels while men looked every part the superstar wearing organic Buddha bead necklaces and bracelets. Vintage China should be dubbed the “LA of environmental rock star” line as it successfully fuses standout hip hop/surfer trends with benevolent mythical designs to produce eco-friendly apparel.
My favorites were the high quality hoodies and studded jeans. Artfully conspicuous on both were large copper studs worn by imperial leaders from ancient dynasties. The red woven jacket in particular replicated the red doors of the Imperial Palace in China during the Ming Dynasty. Along the zipper and sleeve edges were golden rope embroideries, reminiscent of the heavy silks embroidered with dragons in gold thread that signified leadership ranking in the olden days. According to owner Elton Chung, his Vintage collection “uses indomitable Chinese tradition as inspiration and seeks to push the clothing line to a new caliber of vintage appeal with modern luxury, quality and style.” By utilizing hints of organic fabrics while spreading humanitarian messages written in Chinese script, Vintage China is able to interpret an elaborate culture and translate exclusive creations into the quintessential American wardrobe.
The show that encapsulated the green theme most directly and effectively was the aptly named Wet Cement. A line rich with earth-friendly metaphors and political nuances, designers Andrew Lee and Stef Z knew exactly where they were going with their gritty ready-to-wear collection. It was a bit Urban Outfitters, a bit Planet Funk, a bit pajama party and a lot green. This is a collection for the casual dresser with edge (but much cooler of course...) that you could rumble-and-tumble in while getting into heated arguments about our government officials and rainforest destruction. The logos neatly spelled out across boy bottoms were “SAVE WATER” and “WEAR DIRTY” with just enough green material to spare. Reminding us of nature’s resources and enforcing the need to save water brings us back to the recycling chain. Recycle materials to save more trees, which aids in reforestation, preserving the forests that purify our water. “Wear Dirty” promoted ethical fashions whether it be wearing a hat made of biodegradable peanut shells or rejecting to carry a leather handbag. The dirty implied is pure and of the earth, anything else should be questioned for the sake of sustaining our green cause.
Clothing ranged from mini dresses to versatile tops, accentuated by edgy layering and symbolic designs. The purely organic pieces are hand-made and custom-screened for a unique fit and feel. The dirty chic look brilliantly applies here, raising the eco-stylish bar even higher with bold twists. The green tube dress with grey top looked all the more hip for excluding one sleeve. The outfit throws you off a bit with its matching yet reversibly black and white numbered prints, designed distinctively as a pocket-patch and the one long sleeve. A bracelet with frayed seams accessorized the sleeveless arm, visible proof that recycling leftover fabric can result in precise creations.
My favorite was the t-shirt and green shorts worn by the model with a mission. One look at his shirt and the signs are blatant. Deconstructed at the neck to outline the shape of a tie, the exposing flesh signals rebellion. Underneath the tie construct you see a vest which represents the yuppy professional. The ripped shirt and dog tag necklace symbolize the rebelliousness of military men while the tie and vest speak to blue collar workers. In this one fascinating design, the priorities of the government and the working class coexist and clash. The imaging is very illusionary; sometimes you see one class more than the other, superbly entwining aspects of the alpha male and working class culture. The message that resonates here is, what happens to our environment when we are so busy fighting in wars and working to sustain a living? The pair of green shorts is disreputably the last thing we notice. To prevent our environment from suffering, we need to strive for peace in our surroundings and care for the green.
Wet Cement is communicating to a society that has the power and potential to become greener with the “wet” cement notion of making positive changes rather than keeping important environmental issues dry and unaffected. Being eco-friendly means cutting down on wasteful habits of consumption that lead only to the demise of our planet. And as the barefoot models demonstrated with utter cool and conviction, wearing organic clothing is hardly a bad place to start.
The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show was a clear indication that eco-friendly clothing is becoming a trend for all the right reasons. In light of global warming, air pollution and another budget crisis to name a few, it was uplifting to witness the fashion industry making a statement to the masses. Recycle. Reuse. Respect the environment and the people around you.
If you take a look around, our citizens seem to be shaping up and taking heed from creative environmentalists to seek alternative methods when the environment is concerned. As designers and consumers are gravitating toward eco-friendly fashions, hopefully we aren’t opting for burlap simply because it's the hip thing to do. Unlike many transient moments in fashion, we were given deeper aspirations to revel in and were honored to have been part of such a remarkable show. The Gallery Los Angeles brought to surface what we can do for the greater good known as Earth and the human race. Judging from the energy at the show, something green is happening and we don't plan on jumping off the ecological bandwagon anytime soon.
For more information on The Gallery Los Angeles, please visit www.TheGalleryLA.com
Photos courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week