By  on May 18, 1994

NEW YORK -- The green movement is continuing to build momentum in the textile and apparel industries, fueled this past year by big strides in recycled polyester.

Organically grown cotton, cleaner dyeing and finishing processes and waste reduction practices are becoming a greater part of everyday thinking in the business. Some makers of environment-friendly apparel also claim fashion success, gaining acceptance at stores for which style takes greater priority over ecological concerns.

Here is a roundup of what some apparel companies and textile mills have been doing to combine fashion with an environmentally responsible approach.

One of the first mainstream clothing companies to make apparel exclusively of 100 percent certified organic cotton is O Wear, a division of VF Corp.

O Wear, which was rolled nationally last year, eliminates all formaldehyde fixatives in the fabric-finishing stage and uses only hot water and environmentally safe soaps, rather than chemical washes, to clean and preshrink garments.

"We are both an environmentally friendly product and a fashion product," said John Riley, O Wear's vice president. "We sell both the green retailers and better specialty stores, but for the specialty stores, the consumer sees it as more of a fashion item. The fact that it's environmentally friendly is maybe third or fourth on the list of buying criteria."

O Wear encompasses men's and women's tops and bottoms in a range of colors, Riley said, adding that the firm works with cotton ginning, spinning, knitting and dyeing facilities to create the products.

O Wear is still a very small part of VF's overall sales. But Riley, while declining to divulge figures, said, "We are looking to grow this area slowly but surely, and are investigating opportunities for this type of activity throughout VF Corp."

A year ago, executives at O Wear forecast its sales would hit $20 million in 1993.

Esprit is also taking a green approach with its Ecollection designed by Lynda Grose. Among the features found in various apparel and accessories items are organically grown cotton and linen, natural and low-impact dyes, Tencel (Courtauld's Fibers cellulosic made from harvested wood pulp), and reconstituted glass and tagua nut buttons.

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