Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nana Boutique Stocks Sweet (and eco-friendly) Designs

How does a girl acquaint herself to a new city? Explore the shopping district, of course. And that is what I set out to do six years ago on a spring day in DC’s U Street Cordoza area. The shops were sparse unlike today’s sprawl of locally owned boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. At the edge of 15th and U Street I descended a set of stairs and walked into Nana, a gem named after the owner’s grandmother.

My heart melted over the eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary. My first purchase was a consigned 1970s flower print floor length skirt that I had altered to the knee. It indulged my inner flower child and growing ethical fashion maven. Since then, the store has taken a progressive stance by incorporating more ethically produced fashions.

It started with Preloved, then Dagg and Stacey and has grown to include Peel, Kelly Lane, and newly inducted Mata Traders. All passing owner Jackie Flanagan and manager Sarah Spies’s design aesthetic challenge: innovative. And the fact that the designers utilize organic fabrics, safe dying processes and/or employ sustainable and fair working conditions is value added.

But does Nana consider itself an “ecoboutique”?

“We carry lines that give a nod to ethical fashion and are gravitating toward designers who use organic fabrics or fair labor,” says Spies. “Nana is really about smart designs and we want to promote designers who offer that.”

"It's not just "do we love the looks," added Flanagan, "it's do we love the looks AND they minimize the environmental impact or are creatively using the resources already available."

Designer Stats
Dagg and Stacey – Toronto, Canadian designers Karen Dagg and Stacey Paterson launched their line in 2001 with the intention of uniting quality and style. Designed and manufactured exclusively in Toronto working with independent trades people, Dagg and Stacey is a socially conscious company focusing on ecological issues and their community.

Preloved – Designer Julie Grieve and Creative Director Peter Friesen bring new meaning to reclaimed materials. The duo transforms vintage fabric/garments into modern styles (a vintage blazer turned into a high-waist skirt, par exemple). Watch for a home collection, an accessories line, and new clothing lines including a children’s line called me*me.

Peel – The Vancouver-based company produces 100% organic cotton tunics, loose-fitting blouses (with side pockets!) and dresses.

Kelly Lane – A newbie to the fashion world, Kelly Lane launched her line in 2007 to illustrate her talent for creating a soft and structured feminine silhouette. She uses eco-friendly materials and ethical practices with the assistance of local artisans. Kelly Lane is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Mata Traders – The company maintains its Fair Trade Federation membership by working with women and artisan co-ops in India to produce clothes and jewelry.

So, will we see more? Flanagan says, "I like to think that by continuing to feature vintage clothing, we are highlighting fantastic clothing that is not using new materials. I also hope that by seeking out innovative local designs we are minimizing the impact of shipping goods from long distances. We are stocking more & more labels that use eco-friendly materials -- we are fortunate to see more & more labels that are not just eco-conscious but have a timeless, detail-driven look."

Are you new to the area? Then you must visit Nana, now located above ground.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beautifying Mother Earth Goes More than Skin Deep

Last month we paused to reflect on our personal and global impact on Mother Earth. Truth be told, gathering for a concert to listen to eco-minded musicians and politicians doesn’t plant a tree or train a skilled laborer to wire a “smart” home. Recognition months or one-day observances mark a-ha moments and then quickly fade from our radar save practitioners (= individuals, organizations, governments, and private entities) who are committed to cultivating a more sustainable world.

Aveda is one such practitioner.

For years I have treated myself to spa services at the Aveda Institute. Their budget-friendly rates (practitioners are students in training) is merely a bonus in comparison to the rich variety of certified organic ingredients used in everything from make-up to hair treatments to body lotions. You genuinely feel the company’s philosophy “that authentic beauty is one that works in harmony with the greater web of life.”

Aveda’s social responsible-laden agenda includes monthly environmental and human rights campaigns that have raised millions of dollars for organizations and incited public action. Local and global clean water is at the heart their Earth Month campaign, an issue that is severely unreported in mainstream media despite its threat against the environment and the poor.

Just how threatening is clean water’s scarcity? According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion citizens lack sanitation facilities and 884 million use unsafe water sources. Meanwhile, pesticides and pollution strip our streams of its natural properties, harming the fragile ecosystem.

Since 2007, Aveda has brought clean water to our attention through special events and educational resources. In April, there was the Aveda Walk for Water and throughout May, proceeds of the Light the Way™ Candle, made with certified organic French lavender, go to support Global Greengrants Fund's (GGF) water-related projects.

I recently purchased the candle and a body cleanser made with certified lavender as a birthday gift for a friend. This small act reached beyond one individual – it supported a company that aims to do good by supporting others, which includes the greatest “other” – our planet.

For more information on water issues, visit Clean Water Fund, Water Advocates and The Natural Resources Defense Council.