By  on September 7, 2007

Aveda sees backstage at New York Fashion Week as fertile ground for environmentalism.

The Estée Lauder Cos.-owned beauty brand — the first to take on natural hair care in the Seventies — has aligned itself with six designers to adopt more earth-friendly practices during their shows this week. For the effort, Aveda has lightened its fashion week schedule from 10 shows last season to six this season. Last year at this time, the environmentally conscious line had sponsored 28 shows. The aim of the shortened show list is to create meaningful partnerships that are more in line with Aveda's positioning, said a spokeswoman for the brand.

All the designers on board with Aveda this season — namely Thakoon, Temperley London, Rodarte, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Ports 1961 and Marc Bouwer — have agreed not to serve bottled water, not to use fur in their collections and to provide organic, locally sourced food backstage.

In place of bottled water, Aveda is providing reusable liter-size nontoxic aluminum water bottles. According to data provided by Aveda, Americans consume more than 2.5 million bottles of water every hour and only 10 percent of those bottles are recycled; the rest end up in landfills.

These are steps that resonate with Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy. The sisters — who were raised just outside Santa Cruz in scenic Aptos, Calif. — have already banned bottled water from their Los Angeles design studio.

"We didn't grow up drinking bottled water, and when we opened our studio we noticed how much waste the empty bottles created so we made a switch," said Kate Mulleavy, adding that Aveda has helped them to translate that change to a more public venue. "Being in L.A. you realize that even small steps matter," she added, noting that Rodarte uses a small team for production rather than a large factory to churn out clothes. For its spring 2008 collection, Rodarte also has used a specialized dying process as opposed to a chemical-heavy one. "We were able to create something really artful without hurting the environment," said Kate Mulleavy, referring to the spring show, which will take place Saturday. She added that when it comes to adopting a greener lifestyle, "The door should always be open and the thought process should be on what we can do better. That's the same way we approach design."Fellow designer Phillip Lim, who will show his spring collection on Sunday, said the Aveda initiative centers on small details that when added together have a large impact. Lim's own efforts include creating a reusable organic cloth shopping bag for his store that sells for $25. He donates 100 percent of the proceeds to a global warming cause. Lim said, "I think we all have to remember that we can't reverse the damage that we as a collective whole have done. What is important now is lessening our footprint and improving what we will leave for the future. We have to do our part."

In a statement, Aveda's president Dominique Conseil said, "Historically, the fashion community has been on the forefront of social change. As a creative, trendsetting force, we believe fashion can have a ripple effect on the global environmental conscience by greening their backstage presence. We are hopeful that this is the beginning of an industrywide commitment to the environment."

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