Wearin' of the green is growing

The Baltimore Sun

What shall we wear today? Our seaweed T-shirt and bamboo jeans? Or our organic-cotton skirt, fair-trade silk blouse and sweater of merino wool from free-range sheep raised in the Southern Alps of New Zealand?

For eco-fashionistas, the green choices are becoming more numerous - and stylish - by the week.

"Green" fashion is more than a passing fad. It's a lifestyle choice, says Cynthia Spencer, a trend-spotter from New York.

"Concerns about personal health and a healthy planet have prompted a green revolution. Fashion is a part of that," she says.

Essentially, green clothing and accessories are made from organic raw materials produced without pesticides or from recycled materials, says Spencer. No harmful chemicals and bleaches are used to process or dye the goods. And laborers earn fair wages and enjoy healthy working conditions.

"Eco-fashion doesn't mean a burlap sack anymore," says Aimee Hitchner, co-owner of Ginger, a Winter Park, Fla., boutique that includes such eco-friendly labels as Loomstate Denim, Amy Tangerine and Linda Loudermilk, who has been dubbed the "queen of green."

But eco does not mean inexpensive. Certainly, discount stores offer organic-cotton T-shirts for less than $20. But Loudermilk's bamboo jeans sell for $230, for example, and some of her organic silk blouses cost more than $500.

Eco-fashion is big in the clothing market, says Paige Blackwelder, co-owner of Tuni in Winter Park, Fla.

Increasingly, designers are offering clothing made from organic cotton or sustainable materials such as bamboo, soy and hemp, she says. "And some of the fabrics are just beautiful. You'd never guess they were made from bamboo or whatever."

Although customers are not "clamoring" for eco-fashions, they are intrigued by green products and are willing to try them, says Blackwelder.

The boutique's offering of bamboo knits by Autumn Cashmere is selling well, she says. In the fall, she plans to introduce a line of Matt & Nat handbags made from Japanese paper and recycled water bottles.

Underwear is also becoming eco-friendly. Figleaves.com, the online intimates retailer, has launched Greenleaves, a department dedicated to green underwear, sleepwear and loungewear. And footwear makers are jumping on the green bandwagon, creating shoes with bamboo heels, organic-linen uppers and recycled-rubber soles.

Cosmetics products have been touting organic ingredients for several years. Now there's a new wrinkle. Increasingly, the products are being packaged in biodegradable containers.

The new Organic Wear line from Physicians Formula, for example, has compacts made from recycled paper. And PlantLove lipsticks from Cargo now come in biodegradable tubes made from a polymer derived from corn, which is a renewable, compostable resource.

And the lipstick's recycled-paper packaging is embedded with seeds. Plant it, and wildflowers grow.

Now that's really green.

Jean Patteson writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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