A look at environmentally conscious happenings from around the world.

Fox Tales

Can fur be politically and environmentally correct? Yes, according to Nikolas Gleber, the scion of a conservationist father and grandfather, founder of the carrot-top only model agency Redhead and idea generator in the fashion and lifestyle arenas. His new pet project, Friendly Fur, uses the certified pelts of German red foxes shot in ecologically mandated population culls.

Rather than let the skins go to waste, he fashions them into glamorous capes, stoles, hats, muffs and a variety of other accessories such as fox slip-ons for the arms of sunglasses. The collection comprises 15 items and each style is limited to 100 pieces. When all pieces are sold the style is removed from the line.

Designed in Berlin and manufactured regionally, the collection debuted last summer at the Premium trade show’s Green Area, and is currently sold “by demand” until agents are found and official sales start in 2009. Prices run up to 1,500 euros or about $2,000 at current exchange. “That’s fairly expensive,” Gleber said, “but I don’t want to just dump a rarity of nature.”

— Melissa Drier



On The Green Carpet

Green2Greener.com, a Hong Kong-based nonprofit trading platform that supports environmental charities, is set to make a big splash on Thursday with EcoChic, a touring fashion show that features a remarkable gamut of eco-friendly design.

On display will be one-off couture creations by Diane von Furstenberg, John Rocha, Nathan Jeden, Madam Marie, Thakoon and British house Arrogant Cat, alongside local design stars Barney Cheng, Sonjia Norman, Tania Mohan, Johanna Ho, Dorian Ho and others. “We wanted high-profile designers to use their influence, to show what they can do,” said Christina Dean, director of Green2Greener.com.

EcoChic will feature one-of-a-kind couture dresses, eco-friendly ready-to-wear labels, vintage pieces donated by Hong Kong celebrities and socialites, and recycled chic — eccentric dresses made from recycled materials. In the latter section, Hong Kong designer Barney Cheng has created a gown from a vintage Alexander McQueen tank top and two dresses. “To be creative, one does not have to start from scratch,” said Cheng.

The parade of 15 environmentally friendly rtw labels includes Belle and Dean, Crossley, Eco Boudoir and Sharkra Chakra. Dean said she has been especially happy to give a leg up to newer eco-friendly labels. “These labels haven’t had a chance [for such visibility] before, we want to give a platform so that they can show their sustainable business practices. These companies aren’t really in it for the money; they don’t spend on advertising,” said Dean.

Guests attending the event will receive a luxury eco-friendly tote bag from Fiona Kotur, men’s cuff links made from recycled materials by Barney Cheng and silver Bamboo Silver Slim bangles by John Hardy. And to gain admittance, each guest must bring an article of clothing to recycle.

— Constance Haisma-Kwok



A Cut Above

At the end of the day, most design studios are littered with scraps of fabric left over from cutting garment shapes. Pieces of silk, leather and even fur are simply thrown away. “We would use these extraordinarily expensive fabrics just to wipe off the squeegee,” said designer Mark Liu. “We weren’t trying to make waste. It was just a by-product of the process.” Liu aims to change that process with a new pattern-cutting technique called Zero Waste Design.

The London-based designer lays out his patterns like a jigsaw puzzle, cutting the shapes so that the curve of one angle fits into a curve on another part of the garment. The goal is to use every possible inch of fabric and eliminate waste. Liu estimates he is able to save 15 percent of material per garment that would otherwise be wasted through conventional cutting. As an example, using Zero Waste Design he said he made 16 garments using just 10 meters of fabric.

Liu’s goal is to make clothes that are both eco-friendly and fashionable. His last collection, which can be purchased on his Web site, markliu.co.uk, was shown at London Fashion Week’s green designer showcase, Estethica. “I’m trying to do something both eco-efficient and beautiful, and that is the hard part,” Liu said.

— Chaniga Vorasarun



Clean Living

China’s smog-filled skies and other pollution problems may have gained international attention during the Olympic games, but at least one local company is trying to make a change.

URBN Hotels, a luxury boutique hotel firm that opened its first outpost in Shanghai earlier this year, touts itself as the country’s first “carbon neutral” hotel option. Built from 90 percent recycled materials — including reclaimed wood and old Shanghai bricks — URBN’s environmentally friendly features include low-energy lighting, solar window panels and water recycling, as well as awareness education for the staff on low-carbon living. The hotel tracks its carbon dioxide emissions and purchases credits to offset usage, and also offers hotel guests the chance to erase the carbon footprint from their travels (a round-trip economy flight from New York to Shanghai results in nearly 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per person, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, and can be offset by planting three trees).

In a country with well-known pollution problems, such efforts can feel like a drop in the bucket, but URBN is focused on its one-hotel crusade and is in talks to open more outposts around the country.

“On the whole China is not eco-friendly, but we wish to show people that it could and should be,” said Douglas McAlpine, the company’s sustainability director. “We intend to be leaders on the road to a sustainable China, and every journey has to start somewhere.”

— Betsy Lowther

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