Monday, April 21, 2008

When Green Means More than a Look

In full disclosure, I am a green follower for all the wrong reasons. My initiation into the environmental social club was in my sophomore year in high school when my “hippy” phase was blessed by a pair of Birkenstocks paid with my first check from Cinnamon Sams. My ankle-length peasant skirts circa 1986 and handmade hemp bracelets secured my spot amongst classmates who passed out flyers about recycling around campus. [At this time, I was also actively involved in Amnesty International so the image of an activist defined my choice of attire.] Sure, I believed in the importance of saving the planet but it was more about looking the part than really comprehending the impact of my actions.

Eco-fashion is finally getting the attention it deserves with help from big-name designers such as Calvin Klein and Marni commissioned by Barney’s New York to design limited eco-garments. Phillip Lim started his eco line, Go Green Go, as a result of watching a National Geographic special on the impact of global warming on polar bears. Their visibility leads consumers to research and discover other designers who have pioneered the green market or in the process of building eco clothing.

They are all leaders in every right – taking the initiative to produce earth-friendly products that consumers – whether environmental conscious or not – would buy.

The admirability falls short though when a collection remains a limited edition. For eco-fashion to be truly sustainable, a fashion house must implement sound environmental policies. It must be part of the core mission that dictates how the company – big or small – operates.

One such company is Patagonia. Its 30+ year trademark represents the success a social responsible business model can achieve. Its commitment to the environment frames every aspect of the company from product development to the workplace. The company is also a member of the Fair Labor Association, which ensure compliance of a code of conduct in facilities used by Patagonia.

Patagonia’s preservation of the environment begins with education. Employees are granted sabbaticals to exotic destinations to learn and work with local artisans, activists, scientists, and educators. Their knowledge is then transferred to product development and field reports describing accounts of their experience.

And of course, the clothing is pesticide-free cotton and recycled polyester and 1% of sales is donated to national and international grassroots environmental groups.

Similarly in its approach to the environment is Loomstate. The four-year-old label has captured the nation’s youth with stylish jeans and thought-provoking tees and the heart of the environmental movement. The design team oversees the manufacturing process from beginning to end to ensure integrity of the materials and labor conditions.

What gives a social responsible model credibility is transparency. While it is wonderful to see the explosion of “organic” materials surface in big box department stores to independent labels, it must be an institutional change. Green promotes life and the life of a business should be fruitful without depleting the source.

Tomorrow we give thanks to the Earth for giving us the resources to live. How we choose to celebrate depends on our conscience. Do we watch a program on global warming and then throw away our soda cans in the garbage can? Or do we make a commitment to conserve and invest in sustainable products – which includes clothes? For the latter, simplify your closet by investing in pieces of the highest quality fabric for longevity of wear, vintage/reclaimed materials and of course, natural organic materials. It’s the least we can do.

So, dress up for the party in your sustainable-best and remember to say thank you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Power of YOSOY

When Luciana Tiktin arrived in D.C. last summer she came with a dream to start her own fashion co-operative, she just didn’t realize it would happen so fast.

Yesterday, Saturday, April 5, D.C. welcomed its first designer showroom featuring local fashion and jewelry designers as well as oeuvres by musicians and artists. DEKKA, which stands for DC Area Fashion Art Music, is Titkin’s love child, second of course to her toddler son. The location’s second floor space on 13th and U Street features nine designers who pay a monthly rental fee. Nearly 90 designers applied within the first month of Tiktin’s advertisement.

“DEKKA is about working with creative minds and to help ignite that creative process,” Tiktin says.

Tiktin’s own creative process began after working for retail giant Stone Island in her native Buenos Aires, Argentina. Luciana left her home for Miami where she studied Fashion Design at the International Fine Arts College. From, she traveled the globe and ultimately returned to Miami to work as a professional wardrobe stylist for Eduardo Berastegui and agency photographers. Her experiences culiminated in the creation of her own label, YOSOY, in 2001.

YOSOY embodies the nature of movement – propelling you in the future with a bit of edge. One must be bold to wear YOSOY, the label means I AM after all. Making a presence or rather acknowledging your power exudes from the sultry dresses and tops not to be worn at home on a Saturday night.

And D.C. women are all about the power of I AM.

“I have women buying my dresses to wear out to the clubs who you never thought would wear them from by looking at their day clothes,” Tiktin says. “D.C. does have a reputation for being conservative, but that is not true for an evening look.”

While the D.C. market is still playing catch up to YOSOY, other major cities such as Miami, New York and Buenos Aires have embraced the label.

Tiktin is optimistic about her future in D.C., citing the environmental perspective of buy local as the key to keeping her business, as well as other local designers.

“Some bridges need to be built to bring local buyers and local designers together,” Tiktin says. “But most importantly, local designers need to network within the fashion community.”

It was evident that Tiktin’s wish came true.