By  on April 10, 2007

The American fashion world is finally getting serious about turning green.

As the environment takes center stage in films such as the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and in magazines from Vanity Fair to Domino, apparel firms are increasingly getting behind the green movement — using organic cotton, hemp and bamboo; producing hangtags with recycled paper; using reusable boxes for shipping, and replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient versions. (For more on the fashion industry and the Green Movement, see Section II.)

"It has hit a tipping point, where the market has gone from hippie to hip, with every major industry embracing environmental and social responsibility," said Marci Zaroff, president of Under the Canopy, based in Boca Raton, Fla., an organic clothing company that has seen its annual wholesale volume climb to $10 million since it started in 1996. "With companies like Whole Foods infiltrating the mainstream and Wal-Mart expanding its organic offerings, and people as influential as Al Gore telling the global warming story, the story is getting out."

While there are green-focused labels such as Loomstate and Edun, more and more mainstream fashion firms are launching environmentally friendly initiatives. Kenneth Cole's socially conscious ads cover many causes, including environmental issues. Some of them read: "Many think the U.S. is close to reducing global warming, others think we're just getting warmer. Are you putting us on? — Kenneth Cole" and, "Is it me or is it warm in here? — Kenneth Cole."

California, of course, is home to a host of clothiers that have environmentally sustainable business practices such as recycling and using organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and other natural textiles. The pioneer was Patagonia of Ventura, Calif., which introduced fabrics made of recycled plastic bottles in 1993. Now, nearly every sector has at least one player that waves the green banner: Liz Claiborne's Prana (outdoor); Levi Strauss (denim); Stewart + Brown, Undesigned/Carol Young, Hayley Starr and The Battalion (contemporary), and Sector 9, Volcom, Quiksilver's Roxy and Vans (action sports).

Designer Linda Loudermilk promotes a style movement she dubs "Luxury Eco," and, in the blank T-shirt business, American Apparel, Article 1 and Arbor offer tops made of organic cotton and bamboo that other companies can buy to screen-print. Further north, in Portland, Ore., start-ups such as Nau and Merrell Apparel laid a green foundation with environmentally friendly textiles. Plus, west of the Rockies, new eco-minded labels are constantly sprouting with names like Green Apple and Moonseed + Mugwort.

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