By  on April 24, 2008

NEW YORK — Global explorers provided the inspiration for Maggie Norris' first environmentally friendly collection, and she will have the chance to chat with a few when she shows off her latest handiwork at Friday's Eco-Elegance event at the Hilton here.

After all, it's not often that adventurers like Dave Gallo, who recently helped lead explorations of the remains of the Titanic and the German battleship the Bismarck using Russian MIR submarines, are ringside at a runway show. "For me, the idea of knowing all these people exist and putting them on a platform was a little like seeing a fireman for the first time," Norris said.

Gallo and 10 other explorers will be recognized at the black-tie event, which will benefit Riverkeeper and the Amazon Conservation Foundation. But they will come as they are — "They will wear their own clothes — no Paul Smith suits and a good haircut," Norris insisted.

Afterwards, 15 models will walk the catwalk in the "eco-couture" line, which is made from "anything already found in the universe and that is sustainable," she said. An $8,000 waistcoat trench was reworked from a Burberry coat, and fabric from the Fifties is being used for a safari jacket. And Norris has sewn together two of Lauren Bush's FEED bags, which benefit the U.N. World Food Program's School Feeding operation, to make a corset. Stella McCartney is providing the models' shoes for the show.

There are also antique fabric-covered canteens and an antique leather carrier for a SIGG water bottle that can easily be slung over the wearer's shoulder. Norris said she got the idea for the latter after seeing so many of her couture clients carrying plastic water bottles. Norris said she wanted to draw attention to water carriers to make people think more about water, and more importantly the shortage of clean drinking water in certain parts of the world.

Aside from reusing existing materials, Norris is a big believer in sourcing locally. "I do think there could be more sanctity about what we have in New York. It works and in some cases is better [than work that is done overseas,]" she said. "I'm concerned about rezoning in the Garment District. I wish Mayor Bloomberg's daughter worked in fashion; then he would be more apt to listen."The designer has also created a shirt dress with detachable cuffs, including one with the Riverkeeper logo. Some of the proceeds of future sales of this item will go to the charity of the same name. Riverkeeper's chief executive, Alex Matthiessen, will open Friday's event, which will honor Anderson Cooper, Discovery Communications chief executive David Zaslav, Live Earth's Kevin Wall and others who have furthered environmental awareness.

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