NEW YORK — Behnaz Sarafpour hopes to take the growing awareness of the environment to a new level — luxury.
Where once eco-clothes had as much appeal as a burlap sack, they have become more popular in the contemporary category. Beginning with her spring show this Friday, Sarafpour is hoping to promote the trend at the designer level as well. To that end, she will present a capsule group made entirely with the environment in mind.
"I love fashion and never thought of it as a banal thing to do," Sarafpour said in the calm environs of her Chelsea atelier here. "But I think it's important to find something that goes beyond just making beautiful clothes."
So Sarafpour, who has never been one to use fashion to make political statements, started researching fabrics and dyes around the world that wouldn't damage the environment and add to its pollution. But she deliberately shied away from the granola cachet the movement still carries in many fashion circles. "I wanted to look at it from the point of view of a designer who does a luxury product," she added.
For the capsule line, Sarafpour started with organic fabrics she sourced from around the world, as well as biodegradable dyes. For instance, she used an organic waffle-weave cotton from Japan for a coat, then had it dyed in New York with Osage sawdust, which was a method used by Native Americans. The coat was embellished with natural malachite stones. Sarafpour also made a raw organic white waffle cotton jacket and dyed it using cochineal insects from South Africa, and a cotton dress dyed with product from a cutch plant extract from India. The tree sap gum used to bind the dyes comes from the south of Iran, Sarafpour's native country.
The designer said she would like to keep developing the concept for future collections, and while prices were still being determined, it was clear to her that these limited edition pieces would be far costlier than the rest of her line. "Having this type of organic luxury is really something exclusive, and much more difficult to obtain than man-made artificial product," Sarafpour explained. "In most cases, people do them to keep the traditions of their regions. In that sense, it becomes the ultimate luxury product."And she has taken her interest in the environment beyond just clothes. This season, Sarafpour didn't send out printed invitations, but instead e-mailed them. Her intention was to reduce paper waste, and the designer has chosen to donate the money saved to The Nature Conservancy.
"It's a step in the right direction and every step matters," she said.
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