When it comes to purchasing in the über-fast fashion marketplace, you have the power to make a difference. Increasingly, it’s up to us as consumers to put our money into companies that will create the shift in the market for our environment and long-term health.
So what, exactly, makes a garment “eco-friendly”? Eco-friendly essentially means “treading lightly” on the earth. And “treading lightly” means using fewer chemicals in the production of clothes. It’s that simple. Eco-friendly companies usually care about other things, too: fair-trade labor (labor without sweatshops), sustainable goods (products made locally in order to use less fuel), animal cruelty (no leather or fur) and recycling (reusing materials or making new materials out of things like plastic bottles).
The good news is that you don’t have to look like a tree hugger these days to sport eco-friendly duds. In fact, you can look pretty glam. From hemp thongs to organic-cotton socks, there is no reason why you can’t dress eco-friendly head-to-toe. But which fabrics should you look for? Good question. Here’s the 101.
A good rule of thumb is that anything made in nature is eco-friendly, so some silks are good and some are not. You might have to do some digging to find out if a brand’s silk is spun slowly in nature or manufactured. Usually “big business” silks are not OK, unless they are advertised as such, as Linda Loudermilk does. Her items are “eco tek,” a designation for silk that indicates eco-industry seal of approval. These fabrics wash clean: No harmful chemicals will go down the drain with the water.
Hemp fabric is eco-friendly because it doesn’t require pesticides to grow, plus it’s incredibly durable and therefore wears extremely well. Designer Deborah Lindquist makes a great hemp pant.
Cashmere Cashmere is made from fur shaved from baby animals. This can kill the poor little guy from chill or too close a shave. Viridis Luxe’s cashmere-and-hemp blend fabrics use cashmere that is combed — not shaved — from the underbelly (the softest part) of the goat.
Recycled and vintage fabrics
Recycled fabric is great because it goes back into the market instead of ending up at a landfill. Deborah Lindquist does eco-sexy with a cool bustier made from the scraps from men’s suits. Also, eco-friendly bags made from recycled leather like Ashley Watson’s are great for creating less waste. Some people feel it promotes the killing of animals, but the truth is there are a lot of politics in this industry, and you will have to do some research to form the opinion that you feel is right for you.
Anything created organically (without the use of chemicals like pesticides or herbicides) is always a winner. Organic cotton falls nicely into this category. And you don’t have to sacrifice style: Try the jeans from Del Forte Denim, nighties from Eberjey, robes from Under the Canopy or skirts from Nature vs. Future.
Polartec and “pop”
Nature vs Future makes a fashionista’s dream top out of Polartec and “pop.” This fleecelike fabric is really a recycled-fiber fabric made out of — yes — soda pop bottles! It's amazing and feels just like the stuff from specialty outdoor-goods retailers.
Bamboo is a super-soft fabric that shouldn’t need pesticides to grow, either. But because of widespread demand, bamboo-fabric manufacturing could lead to deforestation. So take some time to check out each company’s policy before you buy. (Or check out TODAY’s tips here: The wonders of bamboo.)
What you saw on TODAY:
Evening look Linda Loudermilk black evening dress. price upon request;
Charmone shoes in Cinnamon: $350;
Viridis Luxe navy bamboo long sleeve T-shirt: $96-100% bamboo
Viridis luxe hemp-and-cashmere sweater in camel: $638;
Del forte organic cotton Dalia jeans: $190;
Terra Plana shoes;
Ashley Watson recycled leather “Brant” bag: $250 recycled leather;
Deborah Lindquist bustier: $663
Deborah Lindquist hemp pant: $338;
Ashley Watson recycled leather clutch: $125;
Charmone Darjeeling green/brown ankle boot: $269;
Fashionista lookNature vs Future black polar fleece top: $220
Nature vs Future organic cotton denim skirt: $160;
Ashley Watson recycled leather Thrush bag: $250; Charmone Gunpowder shoes: $269; Amanda Shi black and white seed necklace: $180;
Sleepwear (all made with organic cotton)Eberjey O Girl Collection jersey pink cami: $53
Eberjey O Girl Collection pink crop pant: $62;
Under the Canopy robe: $54
Under the Canopy slippers: $28;
Viridis Luxe sweater: $700;
T-neck sweater: Vintage
H & M organic pant: $12.50; Ashley Watson recycled leather belt: $100
Hemp underwear: $12;
Maggie’s organic socks: $8; Boots: Vintage
For more tips on how to find the best new products to grow your green gene, visit .