By  on October 31, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Green is the new black.

Monarchy, Linda Loudermilk, Gary Harvey Creative, Evidence of Evolution, The Battalion, Peligrosa and a dozen eco-minded labels touted that message this month at presentations of their spring collections at BoxEight, Smashbox Studios and other events during Los Angeles Fashion Week.

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Although some designers have made environmental sustainability their modus operandi from Day One, others began turning their attention to organic cotton and bamboo after consumer demand for natural fabrics escalated. Raising the green banner allowed West Coast labels to stand out, especially after almost every other trend was covered in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

"It's a great platform for L.A. Fashion Week," said model Angela Lindvall, who agreed to chronicle green-related activities, such as composting, in a diary made of recycled paper.

Joining a team of so-called ecoWarriors, Lindvall is promoting a new marketing initiative dubbed ecoStyle that will culminate in an awards ceremony Nov. 22 in Kuala Lumpur for the most environmentally friendly and stylish innovations in architecture, fashion and industrial design. Nominees include Jurlique and Stella McCartney. The initiative is a collaboration of fashion week producer IMG, Malaysia's national tourism agency and a nonprofit organization called Earth Pledge that promotes sustainable development.

In fashion, environmental sustainability is "an emerging trend," said Mark Werts, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based specialty retailer American Rag Cie, who brought a team of four buyers to check out the array of bamboo knits at Avita's show held as part of BoxEight's EcoNouveau series.

"We all share the environment," Anita Ortiz, national merchandise manager for Nordstrom Inc.'s Savvy division, said during a party the Seattle-based retailer sponsored for emerging contemporary labels, including Los Angeles' Viridis Luxe, which spins hemp, wool and cashmere into cozy, cocoon-like sweaters. "We want to do our part. I think the customer wants it in our stores, as well."In some cases, environmentalism was a marketing tactic. At Monarchy's fashion show, designer Eric Kim screen-printed "recycle or die," next to an image of a skeletal Uncle Sam, on the back of a gray hoodie dress. At the end, Kim strolled down the grass-covered catwalk with a barefoot — and barely dressed — female model, whose pale belly was painted with a picture of the Earth and the phrase "global warming is so hot."

Rogan Gregory, the creative director of the eco-centric Edun and Loomstate brands, as well as his namesake label, insisted that sustainability isn't a fad. "It's here to stay," he said. "The use of organic cotton is really important. It will be the norm."

Fashion's interest in ecology also opened doors to newcomers. In its first sponsorship of a fashion week, Whole Foods Market not only created a special menu sold at Smashbox Studios (emerald sesame kale salad, anyone?), but also sponsored a show for Ecoganik and catered backstage meals for designers such as Randolph Duke and Heatherette. "It made perfect sense," said a spokeswoman for the Austin, Tex.-based grocer. "For Whole Foods, it goes beyond natural food. It's a lifestyle."

Even Prince took a walk on the eco side, albeit for less than a minute. As soon as Loudermilk started her runway show at an environmentally friendly BP gas station on the busy corner of Olympic and Robertson Boulevards, the rock star emerged, glanced at the first look and left.

Although Loudermilk's mud-dyed silk jacket that exuded the warmth of leather, as well as metallic-coated organic cotton leggings and other outfits, might not have suited Prince's purple penchant, her creations appeared more highly evolved than the bamboo Henleys and frayed jersey tank dresses that other eco designers offered.

Loudermilk, who was disappointed at the simplicity of other eco designs, recruited friend and model Kirsty Hume to don a flowing white gown adorned with gray rosettes for her show's finale. "Get serious about design,'' Loudermilk said. "Look at luxury design and do it with eco fabrics."

Or with recycled materials, as demonstrated by London-based Gary Harvey, a former creative director of Levi's European office. In the U.S. debut of Gary Harvey Creative at BoxEight, he displayed two dozen frocks sewn from vintage rugby shirts, baseball jackets, jeans and the salmon pink-tinted pages of the Financial Times. The recycled materials were almost unrecognizable once they were transformed into dramatic ankle-length flounce dresses evoking the Fifties glamour of Grace Kelly."'Make something beautiful — not just green,' is my pure message," Harvey said.

Annemarie Dillard, who scouts contemporary trends on the West Coast for her family's Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's department store chain, reminded aspiring eco designers: "It has to be cute and organic."

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