West Hollywood, Ca - Organic clothing is undoubtedly associated with a granola-munching, non-make-up wearing, hippy-chic image. This is an image that eco-friendly designers are trying, and desperately need, to shake. Thus, designers like Annatarian, Del Forte Denim, and Deborah Lindquist are revamping stereotypical eco-friendly clothing into eco-couture. Yes, they are re-making organic and sustainable cloth into stylish, trendy, fun, elegant, and simply delicious designs that are ready-to-wear off the runway. While eco-couture designers do not have the couture clout as say Balenciaga, they are nonetheless on the rise.
In order to bring eco-couture to the fashion and entertainment spotlight, an eco-fashion show entitled, Eco-Petal, was held at the House of Petals on July 13, 2006. The House of Petals is the Los Angeles floral design studio and event space founded by model Joey House. For Eco-Petal, 28 eco-couture designers joined forces, and collections, to create a one-of-a-kind fashion show that celebrated the freedom, passion, and environmental responsibility.
Designers, both well-known and up-and-coming, combined pieces from their individual collections in order to create looks that ranged from casual to elegant. A few of these environmentally-dedicated designers included: Stewart and Brown, Deborah Lindquist, Del Forte Denim, Tara Lynn Scheidet, and Red Ginger Designs, and the newly launched Organic Leather. Although designers hailed from different genres of fashion, different levels of celebrity, and different backgrounds, they all shared a common passion and commitment to our environment. The designs featured in Eco-Petal highlighted the endless possibilities and opportunities produced by sustainability. Eco-Petal proved that creativity, functionality, and beauty do not have to suffer when sustainable methods of production are implemented in the textile factories.
But why are these fashion designers striving to create a world where sustainable methods of production are the only methods used in the textile industry? Well, fashion drives the textile industry. After all, those incredible Prada pumps had to come from somewhere!
Moreover, a fundamental pollution-related problem is the disposal of the large quantities of wastes and consumption of water and energy from the textile industry. In fact, the textile industry is one of the 4 top major contributors of pollution. This pollution has traditionally been related to the acids used in desizing of cloths, bleaching chemicals, and the production of dyes.
From cotton tees to leather handbags, even the most inconspicuous of clothes in our dresser drawers have had a hand in pollution. Cotton, in fact, is the most polluting product in the textile industry (Holme, I. and Hansen, J., 1993). The production of cotton is associated with pollution from pesticides that result in toxic waste released into the air, land, and water. It is estimated that every year in under-developed nations, of the 300 million kg of pesticides used, half is used on cotton (Dinham, 1992). In fact, cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of all pesticides (Allen Woodburn Associates Ltd./Managing Resources Ltd.). Moreover, approximately 10% of pesticides sold in the U.S. were applied to cotton in 1997 (ACPA). These pesticides are not only affecting the environment, we directly suffer as well. The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the U.S. as "possible," "likely," "probable," or "known" human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin). By the way, it took roughly one-third of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for one of those eber-trendy Morphine Generation tees (SCP).
Every year, a great deal of waste material is removed from animal hides and skins used for leather manufacturing. There are six steps in the preparation of leather: curing, soaking, dehairing and dewooling, bating, and tanning. The chemicals used throughout these processes pose a severe environmental problem. The manufacturing of wool also contributes negatively to the environment. Sheep farming can contribute to land degradation and wool processing requires the use of solvents and detergents that pollute the land and water.
In accordance with the sustainable and organic methods of production, new ecologically friendly fabrics are made with materials that cause less harm to the environment, like cotton and wool produced without synthetic chemicals or pesticides, or hardy, fast-growing plants like bamboo and hemp that are produced with relatively little pesticides or fertilizers. Organic leather is from the hide of sheep and cows that are raised humanely and organically, and is produced using sustainable tanning methods that do not negatively affect the land, air, or water. What's more, advances in materials science are leading to other new materials. These include biopolymers made from corn and soy, including a corn-based fiber called Ingeo by Cargill that is used by Versace and other designers.
In response to the constant destruction of the environment caused by the textile industry and other industries around the world, it seems that more and more people are choosing to invest in the sustainable market by buying organic items such as food, beauty supplies, and clothing. Throughout the past decade, the economy has seen a quick rise in the organic and sustainable market. LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) is a $226.8 billion dollar market. Organic clothing and housewares are among the hottest Eco Lifestyle consumer products with Eco Lifestyles representing $81.19 billion of the organic market. According to the Organic Trade Association, there was a 39% average annual growth in organic apparel from 2000 through 2005. It is quite clear that there is, in fact, a rising demand for organic and sustainable items. Unfortunately, the cost of these eco-conscientious items is significantly higher than that of their non-organic counterparts. As a result, the organic and sustainable market is not affordable for the majority of the population.
In addition to the eco-chic Eco-Petal fashion show, House of Petals also introduced their new line of organic flower designs during the event. Eco-Petal kicked off a 10-day eco-boutique at the House of Petals where buyers, press, celebrities and the public viewed the latest organic and eco-friendly clothing and accessories, most of which were by designers featured in Eco-Petal.
The fashion world undoubtedly holds an incredibly influential position in the textile industry and the textile industry's future direction. Although designers create beautiful collections, we consumers determine what particular clothing item or collection is in demand. After all, we are the ones buying and wearing those Citizens of Humanity jeans. By choosing to buy eco-couture, we as individuals and a community will strengthen the sustainability and organic movement, and ultimately force the textile industry to permanently and completely shift towards sustainable methods of production. The contributors to Eco-Petal have taken the lead in this effort by opening the public's eyes to the wonderful possibilities in the eco-friendly fashion industry.