By  on April 10, 2007

For eco-friendly clothing makers, the choice to go green is based in morality.

For some vendors, moving into organic and eco-sustainable clothing and accessories means employing local communities. For others, it's about reusing old materials — including rubber tires and plastic milk jugs.

But whatever their methods, manufacturers across the country who are now focusing on organic lines say they were motivated by a sense of personal responsibility.

"If everybody changes their purchases to a sustainable product, producers will start doing more sustainable products, period. The market will demand it of them," said Marylou Marsh-Sanders, a co-founder of sustainable clothing line Spiritex, in Asheville, N.C. The year-old line is the latest step in a 17-year journey for Sanders, whose previous company, Ecosport, in 1990 became one of the first to mass-produce garments made from organically grown cotton.

"We are trying to come into the marketplace using fair trade and fairly priced fabrics," said Sanders. "Our goal for social responsibility covers not just the organic element, but the fact that everything is sewn locally. It's extremely important to try and center your business so you can support locally grown products instead of using a cheap labor pool from China and paying higher prices for fuel, which is inevitable."

Denise Mari, owner and founder of Organic Avenue, a New York store that has dedicated half its space to sustainable and organic fashion, will introduce for fall her own line of clothing made from ahimsa silk, a type of fabric that doesn't harm the silkworms that produce it, as well as organic cotton and hemp. She will also abandon conventional dyeing processes and instead use vegetable dyes that do not pollute the environment.

"People love the way organic clothing feels," said Mari, "so if something is hot, and it's good for the planet, too, that's extra amazing."

The focus on organic products is happening in accessories as well as clothing. Simple Shoes, a company in Santa Barbara, Calif., that has been around since 1991, ventured into the organic arena in 2004.

"We wanted to be more responsible to the environment," said Monica DeVreese, the company's brand manager. "The reality is that the footwear industry creates a huge amount of garbage. We wanted to do our part to rectify that."

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