Earth Day is coming up on Sunday. It started in 1970 during a time of anti-war sentiment and concerns about the environment. Sad to say, those concerns are just as prominent today as they were back then.
Historically, the environment hasn’t been a priority among the fashion set. The luxury industry is forever linked to conspicuous consumption. That said, designers today are becoming more eco-conscious. Zac Posen, Lauren Bush, Derek Lam and Behnaz Sarafpour among others gathered in Manhattan to support Clean By Design, an initiative with the Council of Fashion Designers of America with Vogue Magazine that aims to reduce the negative impact fashion has on the environment. The initiative wants to educate fashion designers.
The current state of pollution was a major inspiration in the designs at Qinghai Design School’s graduating class for Shanghai Fashion Week. Outfits included turtlenecks that converted into facial protection and color coordinated face masks.
So what can YOU do to green your own wardrobe?
1) Be a locavore. Buying food from local sources has gained momentum in recent years. Apply the same principles to clothes. Support designers like Nanette Lepore who manufacture domestically, which provides employment to the local economy or designers from your home town. Items that don’t need to be shipped via boat or plane obviously have a smaller carbon footprint.
2 2) Buy vintage. Tailoring, construction and design details rocked in decades past. Television shows like Mad Men have made wardrobes the real star. Buy the real thing from great vintage shops or find a bargain at reputable thrift stores like Salvation Army. Believe or not, they are a stylist’s secret weapon and actually partner with a lot of high fashion sources to manage their chic offerings.
3 3) Recycle to upcycle. If you find that great vintage or thrift find, perfect. If not, get creative and transform a castoff into something fabulous. Need ideas? Great sites like Threadbanger have a lot of DIY instructions. Not crafty? Seek out designers who do it for you. BabySteinberg out of Canada transforms garbage into couture creations. Designer Christopher Raeburn updates older pieces for the modern hipster.
4) Style swap. Broke? Clothing swaps around the country are a hit. Find your fashion soulmate and trade your favorites for new favorites. Find some in your hometown with swap groups on Meetup.com.
5 5) Eco-friendly fabrics. Clothing made from green materials aren't the granola, harsh fabrics of the early days. Bamboo knits come in amazing color palettes and are super soft. Hemp silk bridal gowns have a luxurious look and texture. Warm fleece made from discarded water bottles help reduce a bit of the landfills. Lyocell, tencel and other new plant-based fabrics are gaining popularity. Technology is constantly bringing new materials to the industry as well. Learn more about these at Ecouterre.com.
5 6) Planet-friendly accessories. There are a huge range of accessories that can be made from eco-friendly materials that might not work in clothing. Nahui Ollin’s bags made from candy wrappers have been seen on the arms of hipsters, television stars and fashion icons. Vegetable tagua is a great alternative to make beads. Craft fairs are full of jewelry made from everything from soda can tabs, vintage book covers to scarves felted from old clothing. The handbag design competitionawards top prizes to Best Green Handbag and Best Socially Responsible Handbags, proving that style with a conscious can also be super-chic.
7) Pass on packaging. I know part of the thrill of the shopping experience is the tissue paper, glossy bag and pretty box. Truthfully, the pleasure of that only lasts a few seconds. Packaging costs a lot of money to produce and has been factored in to the cost of your item. Taking your goods home in your fabulous handbag is more glamorous and creates a lot less garbage.
8) Multi-task your items. Put your stylist skills to use. Find items that can be worn in different ways…Imagine a dress that can be worn as a top, cardigan, tunic and skirt, then folds into a bag. Look for convertible garments that are designed to be worn different ways so you have several styles to choose from. We like the 5 in 1 dress from Thieves Boutique. This also makes packing for a trip a breeze!
9 9) Buy better, not more. Invest in better pieces. Having a ton of cheap, crappy clothes doesn't impress anyone. What’s more, cheaply made mass market duds are more likely to be made at factories with less standards for the environment, worker safety and quality.
1. 10) Support good companies. Research and buy goods from companies that you know to have good practices. Eileen Fisher produces a pretty Eco collection with their own employees as models. At their headquarters, they practice every day polices like a central garbage disposal for the floor that encourages employees to produce less waste if they have to travel to get rid of it.
Happy Earth Day!