Stella McCartney’s at Barneys, Naturally

Stella McCartney is bringing a "green" collection exclusively to Barneys New York. The specialty retailer asked the designer, who has famously renounced meat and leather, to create the line.

NEW YORK — Stella McCartney is bringing a “green” collection exclusively to Barneys New York.

The specialty retailer asked the designer, who has famously renounced meat and leather, to create the line. Barneys in February began an initiative to introduce eco-friendly and ethically produced products into its stores with the launch of the Loomstate for Barneys collection in 12 Co-op units.

“It’s the first time a major designer has done a collection that’s all organic,” said Julie Gilhart, Barneys’ fashion director, referring to McCartney’s line. “It does not read organic in any way, shape or form.”

The 18 pieces in the collection, which are not only organic, but ethical and sustainable, include “a great oversize jacket, amazing novelty knits, a Stella-esque oversize coat, shorts, tops, pants and little dresses,” Gilhart said. “There are limited quantities and we’re going to sell all of it.”

Trims and recycled fabrics from past stock are used in the collection to reduce its environmental impact. McCartney also used a low-impact process to dye garments. The resort-oriented line, priced from $595 to $1,495, will arrive in stores in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco in mid-November.

“It was a separate undertaking that Stella did for us,” Gilhart said. “She had to source differently, do new designs and add an extra expense. In talking to other designers there’s an interest but maybe they’re not as familiar with it as Stella naturally is. It goes in sync with our introduction of her Care organic skin care. Stella is the most perfect person to start this with.”

She’s not the only designer bringing organic designs to Barneys, however.

Phillip Lim is creating an ongoing collection of 100 percent certified organic cotton apparel scheduled to bow in the spring. Gilhart said a deep-V sleeveless dress with an Empire waist and back sash for $595 will be featured in the Barneys holiday catalogue. The retailer is planning a “green” Christmas with store windows, advertising and holiday catalogues displaying an environmental theme. Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer and Frosty the Fair Trade Snowman will be Barneys’ mascots.

Other organic and eco-friendly products in the works include Lutz & Patmos’ organic knit collection for the Co-op and Greencaste by Earnest Sewn, which takes into account not only the organic raw materials used to make jeans, but key steps in the manufacturing process. For example, jeans are being air-dried rather than dried using electricity or gas.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

To demonstrate the breadth and variety of eco-friendly products, Gilhart cited a large leather tote by Henry Cuir, which is tanned without chemicals and etched with the message “I am the Earth. I love myself and I respect myself.” There’s also Rag & Bone’s organic cotton shirtdress, Rogan’s hand-knit free-range alpaca sweater and Skin’s 100 percent organic robe. “In our own private label we developed scarves, handbags and gloves,” Gilhart said, adding, “We’re really open to looking at any type of product that has quality.”

Products also must have design integrity. “The product has to be stylish, fashionable and look right and feel right,” Gilhart said. “A customer is not going to come in and buy it just because it’s organic. We are living in a branded culture.”

McCartney’s collection fulfills all the criteria, said Gilhart, who met the designer at a little cafe in London. “We were shocked at how good the collection is,” she said. “The details are there too. The faggoting of the lace, the stitching of the jeans and the sexiness. It will sit well on a designer floor and be competitive. She also did a denim collection with one organic jean. Stella is in a really good groove right now. She knows who she is and who her customer is. When a designer has a lot of confidence it shows in their collections.”

Gilhart is confident that consumers will eventually embrace well made and well designed green merchandise. “I feel so passionate about getting the message out,” she said. “The key thing about the organic-conscious consumer is commitment. It can’t be in one season and out the next. It’s something you want to work at growing and developing from a conscience and business point of view. Everyone is looking to create more volume. [Green product] is the most satisfying part of fashion if it can be done.”

Barneys’ green campaign is a storewide initiative. For children, the retailer will feature dollhouses made from preservative-free rubber wood from Plan Toys and an eco-friendly wood rocker by Iglooplay. A variety of products in the Chelsea Passage home area will be designated green, including Armand Diradourian’s cashmere pillows with messages such as “Don’t Panic It’s Organic.” James Perse, Boss, John Varvatos and Bamford have created items for men.

“Two items I really like are an organic cotton soccer ball and a bamboo skateboard,” Gilhart said. “We’re really open to looking at any type of product that has quality.”