As demand increases, retailers are devoting more space to eco-conscious lines.
It's getting easier to be green.
Al Gore and friends have made global warming the cause du jour in certain circles, celebrities are driving Toyota Priuses in Hollywood and organic food products are finding their way to mainstream supermarket shelves and even Wal-Mart. Caring about the environment isn't just for treehuggers anymore. So, with their cups of fair trade coffee and cage-free egg omelettes, consumers are now reaching for clothing made from organic cotton or natural fibers such as hemp. Retailers are happy to oblige.
In March, Barneys New York unveiled Loomstate for Barneys Green, an ambitious green collection designed by Rogan Gregory, who also teamed up with Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, to create Edun.
"Loomstate for Barneys Green is a sexier version of what we're doing in our main line," said Scott Hahn of Loomstate. "There are more dresses and edgier silhouettes, and tops have asymmetrical shapes and architectural lines."
Hahn added that, for fall, the line also will offer outerwear, organic cotton and free-range alpaca sweaters, as well as an eco jean in unwashed 100 percent vegetable-dyed cotton. "It's an authentic, raw kind of jean that's symbolic of this whole pure movement," he said.
The Loomstate for Barneys Green collection carries a hangtag signifying that both Barneys and Loomstate will donate a percentage of their sales to the 1 Percent for the Planet environmental organization.
Consumer reaction to the line has been strong. "We sold 400 pieces [of Loomstate] last week," Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys, said late last month. "We bought a lot. There's not a style that's not selling."
The store is working hard to promote the brand, and eco-friendly apparel in general. Introducing customers to the idea of green clothing requires "a lot of education and a lot of hard work," Gilhart said. "We're doing seminars in all stores and sending out written information to sales associates." Barneys put a full-page ad for Loomstate in the New York Times and will feature it in the upcoming Co-op catalogue.In addition to Loomstate for Barneys Green, the specialty chain is launching two new cosmetics brands — one organic and one all natural — developing a line of handbags and featuring shoes from Stella McCartney.
Sweden is one of the more environmentally conscious countries in the world, and Stockholm-based H&M has developed initiatives aimed at conserving the planet's resources. Last month, the retailer launched a stylish organic cotton collection, which retails from $34.90 to $59.90. "Sustainability is on everyone's mind today," said Lisa Sandberg, director of communications in the U.S. "The product is moving well in all our stores."
One of H&M's goals is to use 600 tons of organic cotton this year versus 20 tons last year. For the past five years, H&M has worked with the World Wildlife Fund and Organic Exchange, as well as governmental agencies, to promote the use of organic cotton.
On another front, H&M plans to donate 10 percent of sales of guest designer Kylie Minogue's collection to Water Aid, a nonprofit
organization whose mission is to provide safe water and sanitation to indigent people. Minogue's styles will bow on May 10.
Sandberg also noted that clothing that doesn't pass the company's quality-control standards is donated to charity, with "millions" being given away in the U.S. alone.
Already sold at Whole Foods, spas and yoga boutiques, organic clothing line Under the Canopy is looking to expand its reach. In October, Origins will begin carrying select Under the Canopy clothing and bathrobes at all stores and counters. Made from cotton, soy, bamboo, silk and wool, the collection emphasizes style along with natural fabrics. A red camisole with embroidery and a ribbon tie, made of 100 percent soy, is as soft and fluid as any jersey. There's an embroidered banded blouson made of bamboo and an organic cotton gray shirt with a contrasting light gray yoke. Under the Canopy is targeting high-end specialty stores with a new edgier collection called 108, which includes tunic dresses in muted shades made of soft soy and organic cotton voile.
Diesel's ad campaign, "Global Warming Ready," uses images of sexy male and female models cavorting in well-known tourist destinations. But there's something wrong with these pictures. A tropical garden has grown around the Eiffel Tower, New York and Rio de Janeiro are practically submerged under water, Mount Rushmore looks like a Hawaiian beach and the Great Wall of China is surrounded by a giant desert. There's no mention, however, of the fibers used to make Diesel's jeans.Levi Strauss & Co., on the other hand, has been promoting every natural aspect of its Eco jeans, which feature 100 percent organic cotton, natural dyes and a tag made of recycled paper and printed with environmentally friendly soy ink. The jeans, which are part of the company's Capital E label, have green stitching accents.
American Apparel, which is known for its antisweatshop position, sells Sustainable Edition, a line of organic cotton T-shirts and baby clothes.
At Nordstrom, organic cotton can be found in the store's private label collection. "Nordstrom joined the Organic Cotton Exchange in 2004," said a spokeswoman. "Since that time, our goal has been to use some percentage of organic cotton in at least 5 percent of all Nordstrom private label products. We have achieved that goal and are now setting new goals to increase our use of organic cotton in our products."
Nordstrom features Amber Sun separates made of organic cotton in the Narrative department and Halogen T-shirts with 5 percent organic cotton in its TBD section, along with organic cotton sleepwear and robes. Organic cotton and bamboo items will launch in activewear in the summer, and the store offers 100 percent organic luxury bedding and towels in its housewares department.
Nordstrom is heeding the call to eco-
consciousness in other ways, as well. The company in April began printing its catalogues on recycled paper and gift boxes are made of 100 percent paperboard stock with a minimum of 40 percent postconsumer content.
Wal-Mart last year doubled its organic food offerings and launched the George Baby line of 100 percent organic cotton infant clothes. The retailer is offering organic T-shirts in the junior department as well as Hanes sleepwear.
Finally, there's Ekovaruhuset, an organic fair trade boutique on New York's Lower East Side indicative of the grass-roots nature of the green movement. Ekovaruhuset, which opened four months ago and is the younger sibling of a Swedish store by the same name, showcases green designers who screen-print fabric and sew, weave and crochet one-off items for the store. For spring, Ekovaruhuset will feature an organic collection from As Three.
"We're trying to make the whole organic thing very interesting and sexy," said Melissa Kirgan, an Ekovaruhuset designer.When the store first opened, consumer interest was slow to build. "Now there's all these eco tours with buses coming down here and other eco-friendly stores are opening nearby," Kirgan said.
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