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Fit, feel and function are basic for green fashions
BY LINDA MILLER | Published: April 16, 2012
Kermit the Frog of “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show” didn't think it was easy being green.
To him, green was just a color. Fast forward a few years, and “being green” has become a term synonymous with environmentally responsible. And it's getting easier every day to be green, especially when it comes to the way we dress.
Eco-chic, earth-friendly, green couture, upcycled and sustainable style are among terms used to describe clothing and accessories that are friendly — or at least friendlier — to the environment.
It's the result of a movement to protect the planet that started 32 years ago with the first Earth Day. Since then, technology and innovation have erupted with plastic bottles being melted down to produce new yarn and converted into fabric and creative people turning old products into new ones with even greater value.
Companies as large as Nike and as small as Juniper Ridge, which specializes in perfume, soaps, room sprays and essential oils, are finding ways to incorporate sustainability into their products. At the same time, more shoppers are learning the importance of organic cotton, raw denim, bamboo, cork, soy fabrics, hemp, dying processes that use fewer chemicals or vegetable colors, and fair trade practices.
Shop Good in downtown Oklahoma City strives to educate its customers about products that are friendly to people and planet, and in the process it gives a percentage of each sale to a cause, community or charity. The store sells T-shirts made with water-based ink; all-natural rubber flip-flops that are recyclable, biodegradable and dyed naturally; organic cotton jeans; and totes and clutches upcycled from burlap coffee bags.
“We try to make sure everything we sell is ethically made,” said Justin Falk, who owns the store with his wife, Audrey. Ethically made means fairly traded goods and services, healthy working conditions and environmentally responsible production.
Sustaining road of life
Two decades before Shop Good opened, another store across town already was focusing on products made of recycled components, items that were handmade and manufacturing processes that were chemical-free.
“In 1989, our business plan included five principles that drive our buying,” said Jeanette Koenig, owner of Route 66 in 50 Penn Place.
She said she continues to strive to find items that are handmade, made in America, made with recycled components that are chemical-free and made with personal care, and anything else that is a metaphor for the road of life.
One of the store's standout fashion pieces is a sweeping lavender and pale yellow coat made from vintage curtains by Love Apples by Stephanie. Another is an Allison Parris coarse organic silk skirt lined with fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. It's fun and flirty, eco-friendly and made in America.
Koenig said about 80 percent of the store's fashion is made in America.
“I want to make sure people in the garment district keep their jobs,” she said, adding that customers are interested in products made in the U.S. as well. “It's one of the ways we can rebuild our country.”
Environmentally friendly clothes and accessories aren't just showing up in boutiques, thanks to large companies such as Nike, Eileen Fisher and every shoe manufacturer that's embracing cork soles and uppers.
Nike takes materials from an old shoe or shirt, grinds them up and transforms them into new products. It has expanded its use of recycled polyester and discarded plastic bottles to transform performance material. Even special yarns are used to reduce waste on Nike shoes.
Eileen Fisher uses a dying process on its women's clothing that requires fewer chemicals, less water and less energy. The company also uses organic cotton and other eco-friendly fabrics. Organic cotton is important to the environment because healthy soil and healthy plants attract fewer pests. Harmful insects are trapped rather than sprayed. Eileen Fisher also has a fair trade relationship with workers in Peru who knit organic cotton.
“As consumers are becoming more aware of reducing our carbon footprint, being green has gained a strong following,” said Melissa Merriman, regional communications director for Dillard's, which carries Eileen Fisher, Nike and Eco Swim by Aqua Green.
Eco Swim suits are made from 100 percent recycled content. What's more, they're flattering, comfortable and stylish.
While many people are willing to try green products, everything from apparel to toilet paper, if it isn't as good as the original, no one wants to use it.
Just try to tell the difference between naturally dyed silks and ones that use chemical processes. Or a swimsuit made of recycled contents versus one made with nylon and spandex.
When fit, feel and function are good, it's easy being green.