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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Making a statement: Sustainable style

You don't have to don homegrown hemp clothing to extend environmentalism into your wardrobe. Read on to find out how the fashion world is beginning to make "going green" look good.

In case you haven't picked this up from Al Gore or one of the half dozen articles that made the front page of The D this term alone about "sustainability," it's going to take a lifestyle change on our part to clean up the man-made mess of the environment.

The term "lifestyle change" is tossed around a lot these days, and it encompasses so many options for alterations and degrees of sacrifice that it can get confusing. It's easy to feel guilty if we make an eco-unfriendly choice, but it's hard to know how far to go in the name of nature, especially for those of us who fall somewhere between tree-cutting oil-spillers and born-again environmental zealots. One has to decide where to draw the line on lifestyle.

I'm a pretty enviro-conscious consumer. I buy those brown paper towels, I'll pay a little extra for an organic avocado and as long as it gets me through an all-nighter, I'm happy to get buzzed on fair-trade beans.

There are some items, however, that I never saw myself exchanging in the name of our planet: for example, my clothes. When I invest in clothing, it has to be flattering and comfortable. Those are the priorities. If it's lacking in comfort, then it had better make me look like Diane Lane. And if it doesn't flatter the figure, then it had better be so comfy it makes me purr with contentment. Until recently, it had never even occurred to me to consider the impact my shopping habits were having on anything besides my bank account.

I would have remained ignorant if I had not picked up on a line of clothing called John Patrick's Organic, a small collection of clothes that included cute eyelet dresses, sexy knitwear and lovely linen pants. I was impressed. A little more research revealed a special event that occurred during the February 2005 New York Fashion week called FutureFashion. This was a showcase of outfits made by 28 top designers co-sponsored by the nonprofit group EarthPledge and New York retailer Barneys. Hot designers like Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen and Derek Lam sent fantastic street and evening wear down the runway made entirely out of eco-friendly fabrics like refined hemp, organic cotton and wool, recycled materials and even bamboo. Despite all my prejudices about hippie-wear, I didn't see even one potato sack.

Introducing eco-fashion, the newest movement in the fashion world in reaction to serious environmental concerns surrounding the textile industry.

The outfits that were displayed at FutureFashion didn't involve the use of harmful chemicals and bleaches to color their fabrics and were made by people earning fair wages in healthy working conditions. It turns out 25 percent of agricultural pesticides are used on cotton, causing major water pollution, chronic illness in farm workers and devastating impacts on wildlife. A third of a pound of pesticides are used to make a simple cotton t-shirt. So much for "the fabric of our lives."

Furthermore the acidic chemicals used to process synthetic fibers find their way into our rivers and streams, lowering pH and destroying ecosystems.

Sustainable fashion is not an oxymoron and is well within reach. For more information on this movement and designers who are in tune with mother earth's killer sense of style, check out the following websites:,, and