Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eco Chic Design

Linda Loudermilk
lyocell and cotton blend

For a period in the 1990s, it seemed that the only eco-friendly material was hemp, and the only clothing marketed to the public was loose-fitting or in drab colors. However, recent advances in both materials and public perception have turned the eco-fashion market around. Now environmentally conscious designers like Linda Loudermilk and Anna Cohen share the pages of glossy magazines with conventional designers, proving that glamour and sustainability can work harmoniously.

Linda Loudermilk coined the term “luxury eco” to describe her work, and the phrase has been popularized through numerous articles and interviews. Her combination of two words, which formerly seemed to be opposites, has essentially created a new fashion market featuring traditionally “earth-friendly” materials like hemp and linen, as well as emerging fibers such as bamboo and soy. These new fibers often have the qualities of luxury materials: smooth hand, lustrous drape, and elegant appearance. The key to success rests on the designer’s ability to take these textiles and develop innovative clothing. Loudermilk’s ready-to-wear collections are not marketed solely to green consumers – they are made for fashion-conscious people. Her silhouettes highlight the strengths of each material, creating garments that are improved by the selection of eco-friendly textiles.

Anna Cohen

Anna Cohen’s Italian street couture style is equally glamorous. The brand markets elegant, wearable pieces to stylish women. Her spring/summer 2008 collection harkens back to silhouettes of the 1940s, evoking a strong, independent female with a modern edge. Cohen’s separates lend themselves to a wide range of looks, making them long-lasting wardrobe pieces that will remain relevant through many seasons.

Bahar Shahpar
designer surplus silk charmeuse, organic cotton lining

Fashion-forward brands like New York-based Bahar Shahpar are taking sustainability into account in every step of production, from fiber to storefront. Shahpar selects fabrics colored with low-impact dyes, uses vintage trims when possible, and buys designer surplus (which would otherwise be waste material). Her clothing is all produced in New York to reduce shipping and ensure labor standards are met. The resulting garments evoke a strange mix of playful innocence and sophistication – think sweet summer dresses, shiny tailored pants, and killer outfits for the office.

Sustainability isn’t about giving things up or settling for something you don’t want, and designers like these are making it easy to switch out conventional fashion for eco-conscious clothing that you will covet for years to come.

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