organic clothing

Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

Well this style icon could not have been more right and more relevant in this moment. As we all look to make small adjustments to our lifestyles to do our part to help the planet, we can sometimes forget that the shirt on our back (and indeed the 40 others in the closet) is a huge part of our carbon footprint. But is there a way to not have to sacrifice your personal sense of style and be an eco-friendly clothes horse? Being green is on our minds and we are living and breathing it – so what are ways we can green our closets?

When we think of being sustainable we still jump to certain stereotypes, and one of the big stereotypes is the style of dress. Yup, I am talking about that image that comes up of the dreadlocked, hemp tunic with wool socks and Birkenstock wearing character. (whether there is actually a person that exists and dresses like this is something I have yet to see, but I do clearly see this image when some says, eco-fashion). Now if you are this person and this is your choice of style, wonderful, but for those trying to turn their everyday jeans and t-shirts into something eco where do you go when you need to incorporate you personal style that may be something other than hemp?

Now many fashion houses are coming out with eco-friendly lines or claiming their lines are “green”. In 2008, New York Fashion week was all about sustainable design and it has now become the new trend in design. But what makes clothing green? The answer is, many things and the fashion industry does not have a body that is regulating green practices, so there is not stamp to look for – you have to be your own green detective.

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Here are some clues to look for to get you started:

  1. Organic Cotton – make sure that it is also fair trade and it is in naturally grown shades like cream, pale green and light brown (which means harsh chemicals were not used to bleach or dye the organic cotton).
  2. Vegetable-based dyes- look for clothing that uses veggie dies versus chemical ones, though not always on the label use company websites to help you find out more information on their clothing lines.
    eco cert
  3. Eco-Cert – some clothing will come with the Eco-Cert label, indicating the product is 3rd party certified as organic & sustainable.
  4. Peace Silk or Vegan Silk – This type of silk will ALWAYS be clearly labelled and This kind of silk is made from the worm casings gathered only after the moths have emerged and moved on. This versus the traditional way of boiling the silk worms once they have created their cocoon (gross!).
  5. Bamboo – a resource that is easy to grow and is anti-bacterial. But watch out for it being chemically treated, much like organic cotton, look for natural colors and veggie dyes.
  6. Polyester – look for polyester made from recycled plastic bottles or recycled polyester. Polyester is originally made using petroleum based chemicals, but designers are able to create this fabric using water bottles and other plastics – it is no becoming a fabric that helps promote plastic recycling.
  7. Ingeo – this is a new fabric made from fermented plant sugars and normally derived from corn. Making Ingeo requires almost half as much energy as it does to make cotton – even organic cotton.
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Make sure to check out these style retailers:

H&M starting March 25th will launch their Garden Collection. This 80 piece collection uses organic cotton and linen, recycled polyester and tencel ( a fibre made from dissolving wood pulp) which is a renewable material. Though other collections at H&M have had some “green” pieces within them, this is the first collection that has been designed as all “green”. Remember to take your re-usable shopper with you as you pick out some of their new pieces that draw inspiration from the 70s Flower Child.

lululemon athletica – this brand does not go about advertising that it is “green” but rather just uses (and always has), used sustainable practices. As a company, lululemon does not ship using cardboard boxes, but rather re-usable tubs, that are picked up when emptied at each of their over 100 stores in North America, when new deliveries are dropped off. Their retail stores use re-furbished wood for floors, non VOC paints, low energy lights and many of their stores help to create recycling programs in malls and communities that did not have them in place to start. They make headbands out of scraps left over from their tank tops and they were one of the pioneer of handing out the re-useable shopping bag, free of charge! Many of their pieces are able guaranteed to last 5 years (so less waste replacing them) and use materials like bamboo, organic cotton and seaweed. This is the example of a company just using “green” and “sustainability” as part of good design.

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Other places to find eco-style:

  • Simple Shoes – who use, recycled inner tubes, bike tires, organic cotton, wool, felt and hemp to make their cute as a button shoes.
  • Vegan Queen – who makes gorgeous luxury bags, made of 100% PVC free, reptile free vegetal “leather” (these bags are actually made from a pure rubber extracted from trees that looks like leather) bags with organic leather linings.
  • American Appeal – on top of their no sweat shop policy, this big retailer has now got an eco line up of comfy clothes.
  • Patagonia – from socially aware to environmentally friendly. This brand does its best to be eco and ethical as much as possible. Their private label is made up of clothing that has longevity and uses sustainable materials (wool, bamboo and organic cotton). Their website and stores are a haven for how to live a green and active lifestyle.
  • People Tree – works with artisans from around the world using the World Fair Trade Organization guidelines and looks to improve the life and environment of artisans and farmers in developing countries who work to produce materials and products for them.

There are many more brands and companies out there, but looking for “green” clothing with style does require you do a bit of leg work from home. So get out your deerstalker and magnifying glass and call you trusty pal Watson to help you!

Sue is a mom of two little girls and has a passion for finding things that will bring more fun to the everyday. Making the choice to be as eco-friendly as possible, this gal knows that eco does not mean sacrificing your personal style.

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