Designers Push Eco-friendly Fabrics

Even though Earth Day might be over, the eco-friendly fashion movement shows no signs of slowing down.

Even though Earth Day might be over, the eco-friendly fashion movement shows no signs of slowing down. Due to the increasing popularity of Ingeo fibers, touted as the world’s first man-made fiber from 100 percent annually renewable resources, designers going “green” now have more variety than ever when it comes to creating apparel that won’t harm the environment.

Ingeo NatureWorks Earth Month, in partnership with Organic Avenue, an organic lifestyle boutique here, presented sustainable fashion from a bevy of American and European designers, and offered a L.O.V.E (Live. Organic. Vegan. Experience) brunch at the Launch Pad showroom in New York last week.

Companies such as Naturevs­future, Moral Fervor, Elisa Jimenez, Linda Loudermilk, Brooklyn Industries, A-Style, Jaloe and Nadia Fassi featured nature-friendly collections produced with Ingeo fibers.

“What makes Ingeo so different from other natural fibers is that it performs very similarly to synthetic materials such as oil, but it’s all natural,” said Tiziana Tronci, who promotes Ingeo in the U.S. for the Milan-based consulting firm GB Studios.

The technology, launched in 2003, uses corn as a derivative, although Ingeo can be produced from any vegetable containing sugar. The process begins with extracting the starch component from the corn, and then extracting the sugar (dextrose) from the starch. The liquid dextrose, through a fermentation process very similar to making yogurt, produces a high-performance solid polymer, polylactide, which is then used to create Ingeo fibers.

Ingeo fibers cost 10 to 15 percent more than standard cotton, but, according to Tronci, market research shows consumers are willing to spend more in order to have something that is good for both them and the environment.

“The more I learned [about organic fabrics] the more I used and incorporated them into each season, and now almost 85 percent of the collection is sustainable,” said Nina Valenti, the Brooklyn-based designer of Naturevsfuture. The collection, which Valenti describes as “very forward, edgy, clean, crisp and modern,” retails from about $95 for organic knits to $550 for organic wool coats.

Emily Santamore, the 28-year-old co-creator of Moral Fervor, credits the philosophy to the environment class she took during her freshman year of college as the reason she went “green.” After graduation, Santamore and her partner, Melissa Sack, moved to New York and created their eco-friendly brand. For spring, the two have designed a series of T-shirts that are made from 100 percent Ingeo fibers. The line, inspired by endangered butterflies, retails for about $80.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.