By  on January 26, 2009

Some say green is the new luxury, but it seems it’s becoming the new basic, particularly when it comes to intimates. Indeed, the industry has been caught in the green sweep, not surprising considering organic cottons make an obvious conscientious cloth for underwear essentials.

While plenty of exclusively eco labels such as Peau-Ethique and G=9.8 have been selling sustainable skivvies for years, their conventional counterparts — Cosabella, Hanky Panky and Belabumbum among them — have recently joined the green team. It boils down to practicality and politics.

There’s no denying eco-chic has struck a chord with consumers. Consider Hanky Panky’s organic cotton thong. Sell-throughs were so strong after its introduction last spring, the firm upped its eco ante considerably with a full collection of organic styles for 2009. “[The thong] proved there is a market for organic products,” says Hanky Panky president and creative director Gale Epstein.

Cosabella, a favorite with the celebrity set, has also increased its sustainable supply to meet demand. After introducing the basic Bamboo collection for fall 2007, Cosabella expanded its eco offer with Eden, Bamboo’s sibling collection, for fall 2008. The effort continues for 2009 with the Bamboo shapewear line and Devon, Cosabella’s first organic cotton collection that explores the sweet, slightly sexy side of sustainability. As Guido Campello, Cosabella’s vice president of product innovation, sees it, environmentally minded innerwear, “is the next step for everybody.”

Such a statement has become a more convenient truth thanks to the great strides being made in low-impact processes, from dye treatments to the finer, softer fabrics required for everyday undies. Skin Lingerie’s Susan Beischel started her organic collection in 2006. The line now includes sleepwear, loungewear and, most recently, organic cotton panties. “I would love for the whole collection to be organic,” says Beischel. “But I’m known for my soft fabrics and it wasn’t until this past year that I was able to find the really fine cotton yarn that I wanted in organic.”

Quality and comfort aside, eco can often mean expensive, but Cosabella and Skin are both taking measures to keep prices in check. According to Campello, Cosabella’s Bamboo and Devon collections will be in the same countertop price range ($20 to $26) as the label’s viscose thongs. Meanwhile, Beischel has priced Skin’s organic line lower than its regular collections to “attract a younger consumer who might be more willing to change her ways.” As Skin’s trademarked slogan says, “Change Your Underwear.”

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