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July 3, 2007

By Daniel Vosovic

We’re all dying and we’re bringing the planet with us. Whether you believe that or not, there’s NO WAY you can argue that half the stuff we do to the environment [isn't] actually bad for it: carbon dioxide emissions, overwhelming piles of refuse, and CROCS. Ok, that last one isn’t exactly bad for the environment, but they are ugly and they hurt my eyes, which is never good because if I can’t see well and then I can’t recycle.

Everybody knows why organic food is good for you … but organic fashion is a new concept to most people. The clothes we wear are a direct expression of our personalities, beliefs and lifestyle. If you eat organic food, there’s no better way to spread the word than by wearing organic and eco-friendly clothes, and for those of you who don’t eat organic … well you can still look good, while doing good. These days, style is as important to environmental clothing companies as the greenness of their fabrics and, besides, organically produced fabrics have all the fair trade benefits of organically-produced food.

I hate to admit it -- especially because they have such cute commercials and are working so hard at revamping their image -- but crisp white cotton, though thought of as a natural and environmental fabric, is actually more damaging to the environment than most synthetic textiles! Cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging crops grown in the world. Since it is not a food crop, cotton is routinely sprayed with an even heavier cocktail of pesticide poisons than agricultural food crops. In developing countries, more than 50% of all pesticides used in agriculture are sprayed onto cotton fields. The result is wide scale water pollution, chronic illness in farm workers, and devastating effects on wildlife. In industrial countries like the USA, cancer rates in cotton producing states are significantly higher than neighboring states. Add to this the effects of bleaching the final fabric, and possibly spraying it with a fire-retardant, and your “natural look” garments seem distinctly unnatural.
Organic cotton is manufactured from organically grown cotton plants. No chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used to grow it, and the final cloth is unbleached and dyed with natural plant dyes.

Organic wool is luxuriously warm for cool summer evenings, and looks fantastic in naturally unbleached shades or dyed with organic plant dyes. Unlike regular wool, organic wool is free from some particularly nasty irritant chemicals called organophosphates. Most non-organic sheep are sprayed with carcinogenic organophosphates, and many scientists and environmentalists link their use to the rise of BSE.

Hemp is the original eco-fabric. Grown by the early American settlers, hemp denim is what the first Levi’s jeans were made from. More resilient than cotton, denim hemp is just as soft and versatile and the hemp plant is one of the most amazing eco-friendly plants known on the planet. Industrial grade hemp produces three times more fabric per acre than non-organic cotton, whilst using no pesticides or herbicides. What’s more, the hemp plant actually replenishes the soil it is grown in, leaving it richer in essential nutrients than before it was planted. It also grows extremely fast, so it’s an excellent crop in terms of productivity for the farmer. Ultimately though it’s the wear ability and natural style of hemp that makes it an increasingly favored textile for multinational fashion companies like Giorgio Armani and Adidas.

Synthetic textiles like polyester and nylon are hugely damaging to the environment. According to Ethical Consumer magazine, over 50% of nitrous oxide emissions in the UK come from nylon production. However, some synthetic fabrics offer fantastic eco-benefits, whilst being easy to wash, lightweight and funky. My favorite synthetic textile is called eco-spun fortrel. It’s a high performance fully washable fleece made from recycled soda bottles. The basic process takes plastic pop bottles and chips them to make plastic gravel. This is heated, melting the plastic. The molten liquid is then spun to produce fine fibers, which are spun into a cozy and durable fleece fabric. Love it!

Another great synthetic textile is cotton-backed polyurethane. PU looks like PVC leatherette, but unlike PVC, it’s much kinder to both the environment and the wearer. PVC has been linked in numerous studies to oestrogen-mimicking chemicals, and additives in it cause asthma. PVC also contains chlorine, a toxic chemical which produces dioxin during its manufacture. PU provides all of the glamour of PVC, without harming our environment to this extent.

Viscose and rayon are made out of cellulose from trees, which at first sight seem very ecological. However, wood pulp used in the manufacture of viscose is processed with huge amounts of acid chemicals. Much of the waste from production is dumped into rivers, raising the pH and severely damaging the entire ecosystem.

Of course, the greenest clothes of all are recycled and vintage clothes, but you don’t need to run down to your local jumble sale in order to be eco-friendly! Many top fashion labels are reusing and recycling vintage fabrics this season, collaging different textile stories into funky and original collections. Lots of top stylists source clothing and accessories from specialist vintage clothing stores like Steinberg and Tolkein, the Clothing Exchange and American Classics. The result is a look that you like without harming the planet; great style without cruelty.

Here are some fantastic eco-fashion companies that will make you look and feel great:

Hip, luxurious and special eco-fashion worn by Cate Blanchett, Sienna Miller and Macy Gray.

Sea Salt
The UK’s first fashion brand to have their organic cotton clothes certified by the Soil Association.

Pioneering American outdoor clothing company with strong eco-awareness.

Eco-fashion designed by Ali Hewson and Bono with New York clothing designer Rogan Gregory.

Gaelyn & Cianfarani
Elegant and innovative New York style from recycled materials.

Linda Loudermilk
Luxury eco designer with the perfect little black dress.

Under The Canopy
Casual and hip organic clothing.

Glo 4 Life
Urban, funky, design-led eco-tees.

Softest Peruvian organic cotton jeans and baby eco-fashion.

Everyday eco-luxury for all the family.

Cool Green is grateful for the expressed permission of the author, Daniel Vosovic, to reproduce this article. www.danielvosovic.net. This article originally appeared in his BravoTV Project Runway blog on July 3, 2007 - www.bravotv.com/blog/danielvsblog/2007/07/ecofashion.php?page=1



Daniel Vosovic

Designer Daniel Vosovic, www.danielvosovic.net
Top 3 winning fashion designer on BravoTV series, Project Runway.

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