When Target announced in January that Rogan Gregory would be designing a collection under its GO International banner, the response from the green community was a resounding: huh? After all, Gregory has, especially under the auspices of his 100 percent organic Loomstate brand, emerged as one of the fashion industry's model citizens of sustainability. Retailers such as Target, meanwhile, boast reputations a little less sterling — to put it mildly. Cheap duds designed to be worn a few times and tossed aside may delight the trend-obsessed, but for those in the eco-know, so-called "fast fashion" is an affront to all the less-is-more values held dear by proponents of conscious consumerism. Those folks cheer initiatives like Loomstate's T-shirt recycling extravaganza, which kicks off next week in cooperation with Barneys New York and the Sundance Channel show "The Green," but Rogan for Target had them scratching their heads. "It's complicated," says Gregory, in effect summing up the oxymoronic conundrum of shopping green. "In order to make any real impact, you have to reach the mass market. Sustainability can't be a cult taste; it can't be a luxury. And Target has been a great partner, in fact, because they pull this whole organic thing into the mainstream." In other words: Cool your jets, greeniacs. Rogan's GO clothes incorporate healthy percentages of organic cotton, linen, hemp, and bamboo, making the collection something of a landmark in the drive to convert fast fashionistas to the eco cause, whether they realize they're being converted or not. Here, Gregory talks Target and drops a few clues to the environments obsessing him most at the moment.
Q: Given your commitment to the green movement, were you at all wary about collaborating with Target?
Gregory: I knew that I'd only do a collection like this one if I had guarantees that it could be done in an ethical way. I'm against the idea of just, you know, adding more stuff to the world. But Target is smart, and the way this project has worked out, they've initiated one of the largest, if not the largest, runs of certified organic cotton ever. That, to me, is a real achievement—not only does it mean Target now has a system in place for perpetuating its commitment to organic clothes, but because of their clout, it also shows other mainstream retailers that sustainability is a realizable ideal.
Q: Has the experience with Target encouraged you to introduce a lower-priced version of Rogan?
Gregory: I've always wanted to do a lower-priced line. The way I've justified my prices on Rogan is that I only make a few of each thing, I make them from the best materials and with the best people, and if you wear a pair of jeans for four months straight, like I do, then the cost averages out. But not everyone approaches their wardrobe that way, and not everyone can afford a pair of $100 or $200 jeans. My sister's an academic, and over the years that I've been designing, she's asked me, "What are you doing? Who is this for? Is this an art project?" Maybe the most gratifying thing about having the collection out at Target in May is that I know my sister will be able to go into the store, and for $100, walk out with a bunch of stuff. Q: It seems as though you've been hitting on all cylinders since snagging the CFDA Award last year. There's the Target collection, and this Loomstate project with Barneys and "The Green," plus the everyday workload that goes along with designing Rogan, Loomstate, and A Litl Betr. I'm assuming you aren't getting on the surfboard much these days.
Gregory: I'm probably going surfing tomorrow, actually. But, yeah, I'm busy. There are a couple jewelry collaborations I'm not quite ready to talk about yet, some plans in the works for a fashion week something or other, and then the big project right now is that I'm opening my new store in May.
Q: What should shoppers expect?Well, the space is automatically spectacular — the building itself is kind of a landmark. It's got character, and inside, there's 20-foot ceilings. I'm doing the whole thing in black, reflective surfaces, very clean and cool. I like that mix of the old and the new — soulful modernism, I guess I'd call it. I think I love designing spaces more than I love designing clothes, to be honest. So I've got a lot of projects, but the store, that one's kind of my baby.