Category Archives: Eco-Fashionistas

Q&A With Ecco*Eco’s Abigail Doan

Abigail Doan is one cool chick. With her knack for writing about sustainable fashion and the fact that she is always jet-setting to some far-away place, Doan has an eye for all things in the eco spotlight. Whether focused on her own artist blog or managing the one-stop spot for sustainable fashion, Ecco*Eco, Doan is certainly at the forefront of the eco fashion movement.

Check out what she had to say when I asked her some questions a few weeks ago!

1. First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing for Ecco*Eco?

“I am an environmental fiber/textile artist who creates site specific, land-based projects as well as sculpting fiber forms with recycled/organic materials – principally fiber and vegetation. I started writing about sustainable fashion in 2005 as there was a lot of interesting overlap with my art work and what designer friends were doing in fashion and product design. I originally documented some of my ideas on my own artist blog, http://abigaildoan.blogspot.com, but then there became a need to create a separate blog for ideas that were a bit more fashion-oriented. Ecco*Eco became a way for me to organize and share some of these discoveries.”

2. What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

“Sustainable fashion is very much about creating a system that works for you, your sense of style, and your lifestyle. Included in this are standards/ideas about environmentally friendly materials; social responsibility (fair trade initiatives, ‘locavore’ philosophies, and sustainable economic development); knowing oneself and one’s personal style so that one’s purchases are long-term; and perhaps most importantly, creating a relationship with the environment that is non-harmful and/or regenerative in some way.”

3. Do you think that the phrase ‘sustainable fashion’ could ever become redundant? If yes, how so?

“Perhaps not redundant, but rather contradictory. Sustainable fashion needs to continue to be both aesthetically and functionally pleasing without being exclusive as a moral/ethical agenda. Having attended a few fashion weeks over the past several years, I think that the best fashion is about thoughtful style and the dialogue that the designer creates with her/his materials and devoted followers. People want to be a part of the fashion story, and if more and more people believe that fashion is part of their lives, the term sustainable fashion might just melt away. That is, as they take more and more interest in how they dress while also greening their lives, the definition as we once knew it might need to be reworked and updated.”

4. Are there any eco designers that you feel have already bridged the gap between mainstream fashion and eco fashion?

“Yes, John Patrick ORGANIC, Eviana Hartman/Bodkin, Alabama Chanin, and perhaps Patagonia. Of course, these designer are still touted as being part of the sustainable fashion camp, but I believe that editors recognize them as being fashion-forward, first and foremost.”

5. Do you think that eco fashion can be profitable? Do you have any proof?

“I am not a designer, so I am not really privy to numbers. One example, I might share, though, is that fact that eco fashion stores/boutiques in small towns and communities in the U.S. are actually surviving and developing a dedicated following.

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The 2011 Observer Ethical Awards Are Here!

By now you are probably sick of looking at all the pink and emerald green dresses that showed up on the red carpet this past Sunday at the Golden Globe awards. With about a month until the Oscars in late February, there is something else to think about in the realm of sustainable fashion…..

THE OBSERVER ETHICAL AWARDS!

Six years ago, the Observer Ethical Awards began showcasing designers, fashion houses, and retailers, with a serious commitment to sustainable fashion. This year the fashion and accessories categories, which have been called the “green oscars,” are being sponsored by Vogue.com (UK).

According to Vogue UK fashion features editor Jessica Bumpus,

“This year boasts a judging panel that includes model Lily Cole, actor Colin Firth, Vogue.com blogger and owner of Eco Age Livia Firth, director of sustainable fashion at London College of Fashion Dilys Williams, co-founder of The Body Shop Gordon Roddick,”

Model Lily Cole

and of course the Vogue.com writer herself!

How awesome is that?

Luckily, the deadline to participate is March 11th, so if you are looking to show off your sustainable skills you do not want to pass up this awesomely-green opportunity!

Enter here.

Q&A With CocoEco’s Johanna Bjork

Simply put, Johanna Bjork is amazing. She wears many hats in the industry as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Goodlifer and writer for CocoEco. Not only is she an expert in the field of sustainable and eco fashion, but she has this awesome ability to articulate all of her intelligent thoughts in a powerful and interesting way. I was so delighted to get the change to interview her and I thought it was imperative to share her expertise with you all.

1. First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing for Coco Eco and Goodlifer?

“I grew up in Sweden, where a lot of sustainable thinking is ingrained into our daily lives. When I moved to Miami ten years ago I was struck with what I felt was a total lack of concern for the environment — it was impossible to recycle anything and people drove these big cars and ate all this highly processed food. I was very disheartened for a long time, and it wasn’t until I started putting together a sustainability-themed issue of a magazine for a design organization I was on the board of that I felt like I had found an outlet for the thoughts in my head. People don’t like to feel like they’re being preached to, even if they wanted the advice in the first place. I found the internet to be the best outlet for me, since people will not come to a site unless they were actually looking for something. I guess it’s a sort of passive preaching that suits me very well.

I started Goodlifer shortly after I had moved to New York. Like for many others, it was that classic moment of feeling down on the world after seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” and not knowing what I could do about it. The newsmedia just feeds us with all this negativity and it’s easy to feel powerless. I decided that I needed to find the good stuff that was out there — people and companies doing great things rooted in sustainable thinking — and figure out what defines Good Life in the 21st Century. Since I was doing all this, I felt like I wanted to share it with anyone else who may be in that same place. Thus, Goodlifer was born.

The team behind Coco Eco and I found each other through mutual friends in the sustainability world, and since our philosophies had many synergies we decided we needed to work together. When it launched two years ago Coco Eco was the first “glossy” magazine to go entirely digital. I’m not sure if there are others out there now, but that kind of trail-blazing spirit is what I think we need to create positive change in the world.”

2. What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

“Well, I think the term is sort of an oxymoron, because fashion, by nature, is based on the new and the now. The fashion industry today moves at a ridiculous pace. Instead of two collections a year there are now at least four, people don’t even have time to take off the price tags before something is last-season!

I’m more interested in style and individuality. Fashion bloggers and sites like Lookbook have changed the way we look at fashion and style. It’s not about trends and who has this or that it-bag, it’s about creating a personal style that others can be inspired by. Designers are increasingly borrowing inspiration from streetstyle sites like The Sartorialist (instead of the other way around). I’ve always shopped at second hand stores and I keep everything I buy forever. It’s about creativity. Creating an amazing look from things you have in your closet is so much for inspiring, challenging and innovative than buying a runway look off the rack.”

3. Do you think that the phrase ‘sustainable fashion’ could ever become redundant? If yes, how so?

“I hope so. In my ideal vision of the future, sustainability will be something that everyone just does—because it’s smarter, cheaper and more efficient. People are starting to question things, and nobody wants to wear something made with toxic materials or using child labor. Information is power—if we spread awareness, the industry will have to change to meet our demands.”

4. Are there any eco designers that you feel have already bridged the gap between mainstream fashion and eco fashion?

“I really don’t think there should be a differentiation between eco-fashion and “regular” fashion. Eco-fashion is just fashion that’s smarter and better. That said, John Patrick (Organic by John Patrick), Eviana Hartman (Bodkin), Natalie Chanin (Alabama Chanin) and sportswear company Patagonia are good examples of designers whose lines are being sold in mainstream stores.”

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Image Fest: Start 2011 Right With A Visit To SAVA Fashion

Just before the new year I went to visit SAVA Fashion in Philadelphia. After speaking with the line’s brilliant designer herself, Sarah Van Aken, I just had to plan a little road trip to see her beautiful garments and the store in which they are housed.

I was very impressed! The store is very welcoming and the garments are all so colorful and unique. I was so excited by the hang tags, which explained the sustainable elements that went into each garment.

Check out the photos below—and don’t hesitate to follow your desire to book a trip down to Philly! It is well worth it!

***There are more after the jump!

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Q&A With Project Runway Winner Gretchen Jones

With her natural inclination to be eco-friendly, Gretchen Jones turned a lot of heads when she won Project Runway last season, and there is no question that her name will be around for years to come. After chatting her up last week, I believe that Jones is a force to be reckoned with. With her Southwestern charm and an unbelievable knack for all things fashion-forward, this girl has got it going on.

Check out her insightful answers from our Q&A (Be Warned: You’ll Get Hooked!)

1. First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your design background?

“Well, I am self taught. I didn’t go to school for design and I kind of came to the decision to do that because I really think of fashion design as an art and art schools are not really always able to guarantee you anything afterwards and I felt that it would be better for me to, rather than investing in an education that could be potentially very costly and not come with a good job or what I was looking for after my education, I chose to work in as many different facets of the fashion industry as possible while I continued to sew.

I don’t have tons of experience when it comes to production, distribution, and manufacturing, so that is kind of where I am now needing to find my support. But I feel like taking a hands-on approach has really given me a realistic idea of what being a successful designer really means.”

2. What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

“I think it has a lot of negative connotations to it actually. As I move forward, how I identify myself to be is a conscious designer. I don’t like the term sustainability or green or eco because I feel like people have stereotypes that they have created and that the media has created to what that means. I even dealt with that kind of on the show, you know, it can be granola or tree hugger or your a hippie, and that is not really what I identify with. In my design process I have and do make ethical decisions day to day and to me the umbrella that the word sustainable encompasses and covers is so wide that it is really not the right term…So I really identity with trying to be a conscious designer rather than a green designer.”

3. How does your current collection allow you to embrace your idea of sustainable fashion? Is it produced locally? What materials do you like to use?

“A little bit of both. I am currently relaunching as Gretchen Jones (her previous line was called MothLove), so the choices I am making right now are basically going to be the ones that I model my career after. My goal certainly is, as I move forward and make money, to embody more and more green practices, but that all costs money. So right now I am really big on local production and supporting the economy and the economic needs of my community at large. So I am trying to produce within the New York area.

I do want to incorporate sustainable materials as I can but sustainable materials to me are a pretty broad spectrum because if you think about cottons and dying, there is waste everywhere. So I am trying to use as much natural materials as possible like silks and wools, because not only do they lend themselves to my aesthetic but also because they are protein based and can be made without tons of processing. Bamboos and all those cellulose based fibers are not fibers. They take huge amounts of processing to even get into the materials that then can be used, so for me, it is about using as many natural materials as I can.  But, I don’t want to ever design with green practices as my goal. My goal is to create beautiful clothing and be purchased first because it is highly competitive and forward design first and than my practices may be through the purchasing process of a customer, they want to learn more.”

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Samantha Pleet’s Spring 2011 Collection Featured on Refinery29

One of the first designers that turned me on to eco and sustainable fashion was Samantha Pleet. From the moment I laid eyes on her totally unique and exquisite aesthetic, which just happens to be environmentally friendly to boot, there was no turning back!

Photo Courtesy of Fashion Copious

So when I came across her Spring 2011 collection showcased on one of my favorite fashion websites, Refinery29, I was beyond ecstatic! If any eco-friendly fashion designer deserves the spotlight, it has got to be Samantha Pleet. Not only does she have a knack for making the most amazing clothing, but she is also quite the charmer.

When I interviewed the Pratt graduate at her quaint studio in Brooklyn, we talked about her design aesthetic and the choices she makes when it comes to materials and production.

“I never really considered myself an eco-friendly designer. It is really about the design for me first. Of course I care about the environment, but I am just so un-attracted to materials like plastic and in my life I even try to not have any plastic. I am really influenced by history and I really like good quality products.

When you are wearing something, it is on your skin and you should be concerned with what it is. Sometimes with recycled materials, I stay away because it is really more about the feel of the material and knowing where it came from. Like a happy sheep, you know? Things like that really make a difference to me. I am really into supporting local businesses, so my wool comes from a farm in Vermont.”

Photos Courtesy of Refinery29

So far it seems that Pleet’s point of view has worked well for her and I can’t wait to see what she does next. One thing is for sure, she is one eco-friendly, talented designer that is certainly here to stay!

To peruse Samantha Pleet’s to-die-for collection, head on over to Bird, Kaight, TG170, Honey in the Rough, or Court in NYC, or Revolve Clothing, Satine, Ten Over Six, in LA, or stay home and shop online at I Don’t Like Mondays and Sunday Brunch Dress.

Rachel Sarnoff Explains ‘Upcycling’

So I am sure that you have all heard the phrase ‘you learn something new everyday.’

I hate to be cliche, but this phrase is totally and completely true—and I can certainly relate. When it comes to sustainable fashion, I am constantly being introduced to innovative concepts and totally creative individuals that have something unique to bring to the table at all hours of the day 😉

Rachel Sarnoff

Rachel Sarnoff, who has written for PlanetGreen.com and Tree Hugger, wrote an excellent and intriguing piece on her eco-fashion blog, Eco Stiletto.

Entitled, “Upcycling is Even Better Than Recycling,” Sarnoff explained the difference between these two green concepts, drawing attention to the benefits of upcycling in this day and age.

We all know that recycling is a great way to reduce air and water pollution but according to Sarnoff,

“The hottest eco-fashion trend since organic cotton is upcycling, which truly transforms trash into treasure. Mainstreamed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s 2002 book Cradle to Cradle , the concept takes landfill diversion one step further: Instead of recycling waste into new materials of similar value or downcycling it into lower-quality materials), ‘upcycling’ repositions it into a new product that’s even more valuable.”

Sounds like a dream to me—right?

Fortunately Sarnoff is not the only one to have caught wind of this greatly green concept. Some of my favorite sustainable fashion designers have taken on this mind frame when producing beautiful garments, such as Tara St. James of STUDY, Bahar Shahpar, Feral Childe, and Nina Valenti of Nature vs Future.

STUDY NY

 

Feral Childe

Whether you’re ready to take recycling to the next step (UPCYCLING) or not, at least you’ve learned something new…for today at least.

Ecouterre Talks With Uluru’s Caroline Priebe

When talking about sustainable fashion, one of the most often unanswered questions usually involves profitability. Is there a place for sustainable fashion in the market? Can sustainable designers make money? Luckily I stumbled upon this amazing article on Ecouterre, written by Uluru designer Caroline Priebe.

Priebe is completely open and transparent (something everyone in sustainable fashion would stand up for), explaining the fashion industry’s obstacles as well as the importance of having a creative business model.

Having earned a degree from the California College of Arts, Priebe shares her expertise and her FORMULA FOR SUCCESS.

Click here to sneak a peak at Priebe’s 11-step formula. Get you pen and paper, because you will definitely want to take notes!

Video Time With Graham Hill

So a few days ago you read about Tree Hugger creator, Graham Hill, but now you can watch him in action! (and listen, of course).

Check out this awesome video by one of my favorite green fashionistas Greta Eagan, who sat down to talk to Mr. Hill about sustainable fashion!

Meet Eco-Fashion Innovator: SANS

On a Saturday morning, Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Label cafe was bustling with people. As I sat face-to-face with Eliza Starbuck, the Ohio native and founder of Bright Young Things, I felt as though I had met the epitome of a sustainable fashion designer. Not only was she decked out in an inspiring, head-to-toe thrift store look, but she also had a boundless amount of knowledge to share.

(Did you accidentally miss out on reading my Bright Young Things post? Check it out here.)

Starbuck told me all about her fashion industry past and her mission to change mainstream fashion. She explained her design inspiration her long-term goal of establishing a brand of “recycled couture“.

“My mission is really about reaching out to people and inspiring them to be fabulous, but in a responsible manner.”

In addition to talking about her own endeavors, she greatly acknowledged the work of sustainable fashion’s other innovative geniuses. One in particular was Lika Volkova, the founder of SANS, an eco-fashion label that is unlike any other. While the eco and sustainability calling has led some designers to pick up hemp, linen, and organic cotton, Volkova has decided to take a new approach.

SANS is all about promoting home-sewing to reduce the garment industry’s energy consumption and waste. Volkova designs intricate pieces, but she only sells the patterns. Starbuck explained, that SANS encourages buying patterns even if you cannot sew. Ultimately it is more sustainable to take the pattern to a local tailor and have it produced locally with locally-sourced fabrics.

Sounds like an eco-fabulous plan, no?

To learn more about SANS, check out the video below. And if you can’t get enough of the Bright Young Things designer, visit her blog or the brand’s Facebook page!