Tag Archives: jessica minkoff

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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A Sustainably Chic Outfit For Any Frigid Winter Day

Lately I have been struck by some amazingly crafted, totally fashionable garments and accessories from some of my favorite sustainable designers and I just couldn’t help but piece together a fabulous outfit for any chilly, winter day.

I know how frustrating getting dressed can be this time of year. Often the freezing cold temperatures force you to put on the same go-to sweater, pants, and boots that you have been wearing all winter long.

Put an end to that habit by checking out this fantastically chic look that will not only keep you warm, but is 100% sustainable!

Clockwise from Top Left:

Lulu Frost Mesh Necklace With Deco Clip, $125, available at Kaight NYC

Feral Childe Crater Tee, $125, available at Kaight NYC

Heidi Ackerman Pant

Stewart + Brown Eliza Thermal Cardigan, $408, available at Stewart + Brown

Cri de Coeur Allison Open Toe Wedge, $375, available at Cri de Coeur

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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This Just In! Wool’s Popularity Grows!

When it comes to sustainable fashion, it is not always about organic cotton and recycled fabrics. After speaking with several eco-fashion designers, I have learned that being a sustainable designer takes intelligent decision making and patient design practice. Sometimes it’s about looking at fabric choices and realizing what you have to work with.

Interestingly, some fabrics are NATURALLY ECO or SUSTAINABLE!

Take a fabric like WOOL—which has been around forever! Wool has always been a natural fiber that can be used without much processing or harm to the environment. It seems that wool has been REDISCOVERED and picked up again with the momentum of the sustainable fashion movement.

The San Francisco Chronicle spoke to Lindsay Sullivan, the owner of SET Boutique, a fair-trade website devoted to ethical fashion. She explained in a Press Release earlier this week that while working in Kathmandu, Nepal, she saw women hand spinning wool fiber into yarns—something that would not be possible with synthetic yarns that are acrylic.

“Synthetic yarns are also harmful to the environment since they are typically derived from petroleum. Wool is a sustainable fiber since it is a renewable source, and it also gives small produce groups the chance to gain income from their craft.”

The Press Release went on to explain that wool is also environmentally friendly because designers can avoid dyes and use it in its natural colors, such as ivory and charcoal.

Sounds good to me. I think I’ll go put on my favorite wool sweater…. 🙂

Eco-Fashion Highlights of 2010

Can you believe that 2011 is just around the corner? It seems like 2010 has come and gone so quickly! So before the clock strikes midnight and we say adios to 2010, I thought it would be fun to recap some Eco-Fashion Highlights from the past year! Enjoy!

1. Summer Rayne Oakes Launches Source4Style

2. Emma Watson As The Face of People Tree

3. Gretchen Jones Wins Project Runway

4. FIT Hosts Eco-Fashion: Gone Green

5. Sass Brown Releases Eco-Fashion

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Tree Hugger Gets Schooled In Sustainable Fashion

I am usually not one to enjoy staying inside all day, but with the crazy post-Christmas snowstorm that hit NYC, I have had a lot of time to catch up on all my favorite eco blogs and websites.

I came across this really great post on Tree Hugger entitled, “Sustainable Fashion Lessons From Put This On, Billykirk, and the Late William S. Burroughs.” Anyone who follows sustainable fashion knows that Tree Hugger is out of this world and always on their A-game, but this time they really knocked it out of the park.

I was very much intrigued by the post, especially the personal commentary of author Chris Tackett,

What’s the Sustainable Fashion Lesson? To me, sustainable fashion means investing, editing, and caring. Invest in quality craftsmanship, good materials and classic designs that can be work for years. Edit what you have so you don’t need a lot of space to store it all. And care for the things you keep so they will last.”


That is definitely some quality advice—and I completely agree. It is not about pushing the “green” or “eco” label, but about delivering truly amazing, yet conscious fashion. Furthermore, I know that some of my favorite eco/sustainable designers (i.e. Tara St James, Gretchen Jones, Caitlin Mociun, Samantha Pleet, Feral Childe, etc.) are putting forth a great effort to provide beautiful, one-of-a-kind garments that make it beyond easy to follow Mr. Tackett’s suggestions.

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.

Will Sustainable Fashion Ever Be Mainstream?

The fashion industry is one of the most influential entities in our world today. And while sustainable fashion is gaining momentum in a beyond fantabulous way, mainstream fashion isn’t going away so soon. While it may be difficult for sustainable fashion designers to bridge the unfortunately-large gap between the mecca that has become the fashion industry and the sustainability movement that we all know and love, there still may be some hope.

How about established, highly-successful designers incorporating sustainable design into their DNA?

Ecouterre highlighted a great example of this in a post last week about the high-fashion shoe-genius, Giuseppe Zanotti.  When I came across the title, “Giuseppe Zanotti Creates Eco-Chic Boot-Sandal Hybrid From Factory Waste,” I did a triple take. Yes, triple, not double. I could hardly believe that an eco piece was coming from one of the most elite shoe designers, who almost always has a feature in the top fashion glossies like Vogue, Elle, and Bazaar.

Giuseppe Zanotti Sandal-Boot on Ecouterre

Ecouterre’s Jasmin Malik Chua explained in her usual charming way that Zanotti chose to abstain from both “waste and haste” with his latest offering,

“an ultraluxe boot-sandal hybrid ($585) constructed almost entirely out of design samples and factory-floor waste.”

Can you believe that something so stylish could be put together from discarded handbags, leftover leather scraps, and hemp?

Well, I have to say hats off to Giuseppe Zanotti.

Chua also noted that the shoe was featured in the November 2010 issue of Vogue, which I remembered was the issue with one of the most glorious spreads of eco-friendly ethos by Vogue Fashion Director Tonne Goodman.

I just had to check out the issue again, so I went back to the archives (my closet) and flipped right to the page. Honestly, this kind of thing never gets old. I was just as delighted to see beautiful, sustainably-made garments from Stella McCartney, Michael Kors, Monique Pean, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, Vera Wang, Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein, John Patrick Organic, and Rag & Bone, as I had been the day the November issue hit newsstands.

So as cliche as this may sound, all I want for Christmas is more of this amazing,  sustainable innovation. Is that too much to ask?

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.



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.