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Fashion Goes Green with Eco-Friendly Designs

Eco-Friendly Turquoise Market Bag - Base
Eco-friendly bag. Image by starlitafternoon via Flickr

There is a new movement in the fashion world and it’s all about eco-chic. Designers are taking an interest in environmental issues and creating eco-friendly clothes and accessories that help the environment. Not only are designers doing this, but boutiques and department stores are as well.

Some may think “green” clothes and accessories are not fashionable because many people think “hippie” when they think about “green” — but that’s not the case. From high fashion to everyday street clothes, one can look very chic and classy while still being environmentally friendly.

Jennifer Lezan of Chicago Fashion Trends Examiner, an online media company featuring the work of citizen journalists, said green clothing comes in a variety of versatile fabrics: raw, unprocessed cottons, fabrics made of soy, hemp, recycled fabrics, refurbished garments and naturally hand-dyed fabrics.

Lezan referred to a report from the Texas Organic Exchange, which stated that “organic cotton cultivation has zoomed to 152 percent during 2007-2008.”

“This shows the increasing awareness of organic clothing among the consumers,” Lezan said, adding that the positives of this trend are that these organic clothes are “good for the climate and world, and good for your body!”

Heather Kenny, a wardrobe adviser, personal shopper and style expert in Chicago, agreed.

“It builds awareness and may perhaps in the future make a significant impact on the environment,” she said. Kenny thought the only negative aspect of this trend was that these clothes “are generally still pretty expensive.”

Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren, Lara Miller, Nike, Timberland, and Stewart and Brown are just a few familiar names creating eco-friendly lines. All around the Chicagoland area, there are stores that feature “green” clothing, such as Pivot Boutique, She Boutique, Alo Clothing and Frei, which is a local Chicago brand.

Natalie Ruttan-Stack, a fashion design apparel technician at Columbia College Chicago, talked about an April 2007 Cosmopolitan Hong Kong magazine that featured a 25-page eco-awareness section to help educate readers on the importance of green living.

In a 2005 consumer report from the U.K.-based Future Foundation, Ruttan-Sack said 35 percent of consumers have actually felt guilty about unethical purchases. “The world’s taste for organic products is not just limited to food,” she said.

“Green” fashion is definitely on its way to becoming a well-known phenomenon and will continue to become more chic for the fashionistas in the world who want to live a more “green” lifestyle. Cameron Diaz, Mary Kate Olsen and “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart are just a few of the celebrities that are making the news in their eco-chic clothes and accessories.

Organic cotton accounted for just $85 million of retail sales in the United States in 2003, (the most recent statistic date available) according to the Organic Trade Association. This was a very small fraction of the American clothing market that year, only about 0.05 percent.

Kathleen Haines-Finley, a faculty member at the International Academy of Design and Technology said, “There is an increase for these garments due to global warming awarness, which boosts the demand for organic products.”

Haines-Finley is also the membership chairman of the Chicago Fashion Group International, a global, nonprofit organization of the business of fashion and design and helps its members become more effective in their careers.

“The pros of this growing trend are that we are not overloading landfills with products that are not biodegradable and the elimination of chemicals in the fabrics will help environmental health,” Haines-Finley said.

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