Sustainable clothing is in fashion - Poughkeepsie Journal

One of Caitlin Millard’s favorite items of clothing is a motorcycle jacket she made from upholstery fabric bought at a yard sale.

“I love the idea of working with reclaimed material, not only for sustainability and the environment, (but) it makes them more special,” said Millard, owner of Zephyr in Rhinebeck.

She sells dresses, accessories and gifts in her almost 200-square-foot shop, many of which were made with an environmental sensibility.

Millard’s clothing prices start at $150 and include locally designed fashions plus apparel from small-batch designers and larger labels. One label, field day, makes clothes made one at a time in Oakland, Calif., using sustainable materials, such as reclaimed vintage bedsheets and organic cotton from California.

Likewise, Prairie Underground in Seattle is committed to sustainable fashion, as is Sula Clothing, whose offerings include slip dresses that run from $200 to the high $300s at Millard’s shop.

According to LOHAS Online, an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, the United States market for goods and services related to the environment, health, social justice, personal development and sustainable living is an estimated $290 billion. Of that, $10 billion is from the natural lifestyles sector, including apparel, home furnishings and other products.

Noted environmental entrepreneur and adviser Marci Zaroff is credited with the term “ecofashion” that describes the blending of ecology and fashion. Zaroff is founder and former CEO of FASE, Fashion.Art.Soul.Earth, and chief marketing and sustainability officer of the Portico Brand Group that encompasses sustainable fashion and home and spa/hospitality brands.

“Many manufacturers, brands and retailers express confusion at a lack of information, certifications, support and definitions in the sustainability arena,” Zaroff said in a 2010 released statement. “With the emergence and rapid growth of the ‘green revolution,’ consumers are increasingly opting to buy more authentically sustainable products and services.”

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Millard said it’s difficult to get a sense of manufacturers’ labor practices. For example, while embracing domestic suppliers is an important way to support the United States economy, she said, goods made here but with exploitative labor practices don’t support sustainability. In the same way, products available through foreign manufacturers that follow Fair Trade principles do, such as Mata Traders, one of Millard’s clothing lines that’s based in India and works to educate, employ and empower women through fashion.

“Every single decision made along the apparel supply chain is accompanied by an emotional, human, economic or ecological impact, and therefore an ethical choice,” said Melissa Halvorson, a Marist College professor who teaches a class on sustainability and fashion, plus other fashion topics. “If a piece of clothing is unbleached, for instance, that is only one factor of its impact among hundreds. Does that mean it qualifies as eco-friendly or sustainable?”

Rather, she said, it’s important to consider the entire supply chain from a sustainable perspective, including design, manufacture and distribution of apparel, with an eye on industry reforms and consumer education.

“Even if it weren’t for the sake of a better world, and it was simply a question of profit, the fashion industry has to adopt sustainability and all that it implies: worker well-being, supply chain transparency and environmentally sensitive manufacturing, to name a few things,” Halvorson said.

Perhaps surprisingly, Halvorson said the high-end or designer clothes market is the easiest place to implement sustainable practices because of the costs involved, leaving eco-friendly retail apparel out of most consumers’ reach. For now, anyway.

“The planet is finite, we know, but there are also a finite number of places on it with labor left to exploit,” said Halvorson. “Very soon, and this is a good thing, it may be impossible to buy a $4 shirt. We should embrace this as an opportunity to consider what we truly value, individually and as a culture; to ask what ‘the story’ is behind everything we buy.”

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Fortunately, she said, the Hudson Valley has shops where artist-made products are readily available and supporting such retailers, even if their goods cost a bit more, lets shop owners know what’s important to their clients.

“Nobody could argue that organically grown, un-dyed baby alpaca from a U.S. farm is not a luxurious material,” Halvorson said. “Still, there is much work yet to do in getting people to care as much about the sources and quality of their clothing as they do about their food. Maybe organic cotton is the next kale?”

Cora Hales, owner of KOSA in Hudson, Columbia County, sells sustainable fashions, accessories and décor items that reflect her beliefs and concerns for the planet.

“I care what happens to the Earth, I eat primarily organic foods, I don’t believe in depleting the natural nutrients in the earth with chemicals,” Hales said.

Her shop’s fashions are made primarily with organic, recycled or green fabrics, including those made from renewable resources, such as bamboo, hemp, linen or organic wool.

“I feel that recycled fabric is the best all-around solution,” she said, “as it is not negatively affecting the environment and it is also addressing the overabundance of waste in this country.”

Some 85 percent of Hales’ customers shop with an ecologically conscious awareness, while 10 percent of them buy solely with a sustainable mindset, the discrepancies of which, Hales said, relates to pricing. Dresses available through the KOSA website range from $48 to near $300, with most in the $100 to $200 range. Likewise, most of the tops shown on the site cost in $100 to $200 range, although several are shown for less.

Hales’ friend, Helen Suter of Hudson also is a customer and has lived with a sustainable sensibility since she was a teen, including bypassing synthetic clothes.

“I would say that my sort of driving force is to seek out people who are trying to promote clothing that has some sort of awareness of where it comes from,” she said.

Two labels that offer particular appeal to Suter are Prairie Underground and Colorant, both available at KOSA and both committed to eco-friendly fashion in eye-catching designs.

“I just find their clothing so absolutely and utterly fabulous,” she said of Colorant, in particular, of which she owns a naturally dyed 100 percent wool dress and leggings.

Suter works around the relatively high cost of the clothes by opting for select pieces, with a focus on the durability that natural fabrics provide.

“The word needs to be spread around,” she said. “There are wonderful new designers in this country. Wonderful things are being done.”

via fashion - Google News

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