by Avery Mack
Eco-friendly fashion used to be an oxymoron, synonymous with frumpy clothing and ugly shoes. Now designers and manufacturers are finding ways to provide attractive and healthier alternatives to common fabrics, especially polyester.
After World War II, cotton, wool and linen fell out of favor as wash and wear, stain-resistant, permanent-press polyester arrived. Annual production of the synthetic fiber, consuming petroleum, coal, air and water resources, today exceeds 22 billion tons. Americans alone discard 14 million tons of clothing each year—80 pounds per person—with 80 percent going to landfills, where polyester takes 20 to 200 years to biodegrade.
A host of suppliers are responding to a rising demand for comfortable, trendy, easy-care, high-quality and eco-friendly clothing that’s actually good for you. Here are just a few of these innovators.
Ably Apparel, in Seattle, makes hoodies, T-shirts and jogging pants, using Filium-activated, 100 percent cotton fabric free of chemicals and nanoparticles. It repels spills and stains. When wet, it dries 40 percent faster than other materials. Perspiration evaporates through the breathable natural fabric, so Ably clothing doesn’t absorb odors or need to be washed and dried as often, saving water and energy.
Do less laundry. Live stain-free. Travel lighter. Smell better. Save the planet.
~ Ably Apparel motto
“The retail industry is one of today’s largest polluters in the world,” says Raj Shah, co-founder of Ably and co-creator of Filium. “Ably apparel saves time and reduces both carbon emissions and chemical detergent usage, resulting in cleaner water supplies. We’re the first to apply the benefits of Filium to clothing, but hope other companies will follow suit.” The company has three stores and ships worldwide from its website.
Farm2Fashion made its New York debut in 2014, featuring ponchos, scarves and wraps crafted from manufacturers’ pre-consumer, recycled cotton scrap, plus local virgin farm fiber under the guidance of Laurie Perrone, creative director and president. Located in Cornwall, New York, the company’s artisan-inspired products are available through stores and the Web.
“Our philosophy is simple—design classic products in America with substance and sustainability, while creating a low carbon footprint,” says Perrone. “We encourage customers to pass our products from generation to generation. Apparel and other textile goods in America used to be made at home for families and friends. We want to bring some of that back to life.”
Orgotton’s classic “little black dress” takes on fresh personalities via two long straps that change its appearance from a modest one-shoulder to a dressier backless version, halter style or a variation with cap sleeves. Made to order in Philadelphia, the five-way short dress expands a woman’s wardrobe with a single purchase. The dress is 65 percent bamboo, 27 percent organic cotton and 8 percent Spandex; it’s washable in cold water and dries flat, saving energy. Orgotton’s Infinity Collection comprises a long dress, short dress, romper and bodysuit.
Tinyurl.com/27EcoFashionBrands shows trending sustainable options for women.
TheGoodTrade.com/fashion offers organic, fair trade and ethical brands for men/women/children.
Alis Living lifestyle boutique, in Scottsdale, Arizona, is owner Janet Ellis’ creation. “In 2007, I taught meditation classes and noticed the women were not enjoying life fully. Life should not be stressful,” she observes. “The skin is the largest organ on the body and clothing fabrics are often treated with formaldehyde. So we exclusively focus on organic clothing.”
Her motto is, “Dress healthy, look good, have fun.” The clothing she carries are so simple and versatile that a change in accessories can take a dress from daytime business wear to evening elegance. “It used to be harder to find eco-friendly clothing. It’s easier now,” Ellis remarks. “We carry Blue Canoe, Indigenous, Onno, Shupaca and Synergy fashion lines, adding more brands as we discover them.”
As a Master Gardener, Ellis also offers organic cooking classes for customers, harvesting from an onsite garden, thus creating a conscious community for women. “We want to serve one another and live joyously, but too often don’t make time for ourselves,” she says. “We’re concerned about human health and the planet. We believe that we don’t have to do harm in order to enjoy good fashion, food and fun.” Fashion personality and creation, organic gardening, mindful art, meditation and yoga on the lawn are other classes offered onsite.
Eco-friendly clothing used to have little appeal for fashion buffs. Now designers and manufacturers are finding fresh ways to provide the attractive and eco-healthy clothing more women want to wear.
Connect with the freelance writer via AveryMack@mindspring.com.