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Green Your Wardrobe: 5 Fall Eco-Fashion Trends
Look good and live green? What used to be an oxymoron is now as easy as finding organic cereal. Sustainable fashion has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Scratchy hemp and “natural”-colored everything are no more – welcome soft fabrics, exciting colors and figure-flattering shapes.
Being fashionable while maintaining your eco-ideals is all a matter of knowing where to shop and what to buy. Online and brick-and-mortar stores that focus on eco-friendly clothing brands are popping up all over the country. As the weather begins to cool and trees lose their leaves, now is a great time to green up your wardrobe! Check out our coverage of the top five sustainable fall fashion trends and where to find them.
1) Denim, Denim, Denim!
From vests and jackets to skirts and pants, denim made from organic cotton is now available in all shapes and sizes. This is a good thing not only for your hips, but also for your health and the environment. The EPA says that conventional agriculture is responsible for 70% of all problems in U.S. rivers and streams. Additionally, conventional farming consumes about one third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to produce enough cotton for a single T-shirt. So, by purchasing denim (and other products) made from organic cotton, you’re doing a lot of good – and you’ll look good, too.
“Organic is win-win for everyone. Customers love it, ecologically responsible mills get rewarded, organic farms profit and I get to feel good about the fabric I use,” says Tierra Del Forte, founder of San Francisco–based Del Forte Denim, which grows and produces all the company’s organic cotton within the United States. Finding eco-friendly denim is as easy as opening up your Web browser – countless brands and online stores have ventured into selling denim made from both organic cotton and bamboo. A few exceptional brands to check out: Loomstate, Levi’s Eco collection, Sharkah Chakra, Good Society, and Linda Loudermilk’s new denim line.
2) Vegan Heels
Going leather-free is so chic, even celebrities like Natalie Portman are getting in on the trend. “As a vegan, it’s been challenging finding designer shoes made of alternative materials,” said Portman, the designer of TeCasan’s new vegan line of shoes when she launched the collection earlier this year. “This collection offers a great selection without compromising quality or style.” Comprised of chic heels and flats made of satin, faux snakeskin and faux patent, Portman worked very closely with the folks at TeCasan during the entire design and production process. Other than the obvious use of leather, many of the glues used in non-vegan footwear are also made from animal byproducts. Instead, vegan shoe brands use synthetic leathers, satins, canvas and microfibers. A slew of brands have developed in the past five years to buck that trend and prove you can be stylish and animal-friendly. Other vegan shoe brands include: Shoes with Souls, Mohop, Mink, Hetty Rose, Georgette, Beyond Skin and Cri de Coeur. Additionally, Gaiam has an exceptional collection of vegan shoes, including a wide selection of immensely comfortable and popular Earth shoes. Perfect for dropping temperatures, the comfy and cute vegan Earth Lodge Boots will get you through the winter in style.
A must-have piece for hipsters everywhere, blazer jackets are making a big comeback in mainstream fashion. As temperatures begin to drop, having a chic extra layer on hand will help to keep those crisp breezes at bay. Numerous fair trade and organic cotton options are available, each with its own style and personality. One such trendy find is the Niland Jacket made from 100% organic terry from New York–based Loyale Clothing. “It is my goal to provide the highest quality sustainable fabric and domestic, non-sweatshop construction at a price the consumer can afford,” says Loyale founder Jenny Hwa. Started in 2005, Loyale has quickly grown from sustainable exercise wear to daily pieces for men, women and young girls, with all materials produced in the United States. For more sustainable-styled blazers, check out selections from NatureVsFuture, Grace & Cello, Fair Indigo, Edun and Stewart + Brown. Gaiam’s own Organic Cotton Rani Jacket is a great alternative to the traditional blazer shape. For a more cozy option, try the Eco Fleece Studio Jacket, made from recycled plastic bottles.
4) Chic, Snuggly Sweaters
There’s nothing better than a soft, warm sweater on a cold day. Thankfully, eco-conscious designers know this and often fill their fall and winter collections with offerings made of heat-saving sustainable fabrics. One such designer, Karen Stewart of Stewart+Brown, offers super-stylish sweaters, such as this Chevron Eyelet Hoodie, made of 100% Mongolian cashmere. “Our cashmere comes from Outer Mongolia which is an independent nation as opposed to Inner Mongolia, which is occupied and oppressed by the Chinese similar to what has happened in Tibet,” says Stewart. “The Mongolian herders that we buy our fiber from receive top dollar from us and are able to make a living to support their families and continue their way of life instead of abandoning it to look for nonexistent jobs in the city.” Organic cotton and wool are two other fabrics that top the list of sustainable sweater fabrics. When at the mall or online, look for these fabrics to ensure you are getting a true eco-sweater. More brands that offer chic, snuggly sweaters made of sustainable materials include: Edun, Peligrosa, Lara Miller, Deborah Lindquist, and Rebe. Gaiam sells an easily layered Organic Cotton Scarf-Front Cardigan that will quickly become a favorite piece in your wardrobe. For holiday parties, try the Organic Cotton Ribbed Sweater to keep you both warm and stylish.
5) Colorful Handbags
With cloudy, snowy days in our near future, missing the colorful flowers of spring is inevitable. Help shake off the seasonal blahs with a bright bag! For the animal-aware among us, a number of vegan handbag brands do an exceptional job of adding color and style without using leather. Similar to vegan shoe designers, vegan handbag designers use synthetic leather along with sustainable fabrics like organic wool, hemp and organic cotton to make stylish totes that keep cows mooing. A few of our favorite brands are Matt & Nat, Crystalyn Kae, Hell’s Belles Finishing School, and Amy Kathryn. Vintage fabrics are another source for strong, colorful accessories. Brands like Love Mert, Range of Emotion, and Kim White use these fabrics to make one-of-a-kind totes that require no extra resources from Mother Earth.
The fair trade movement has become a growing part of the accessories market, including handbags perfect for all seasons. Some favorite stylish choices include Gaiam's Daisy Bag Set from Vietnam and Embroidered Paisley Floral Duffel Bag from Vietnam. By buying fair trade products, you ensure the items are not made in sweatshop conditions and workers earn a livable wage for their efforts.
Final tip: No matter what fall fashion style is your favorite, you can also find affordable and eco-conscious options at secondhand and vintage stores around the country; eBay and Etsy also offer extensive collections of vintage items.
Victoria Everman is a freelance writer, model, environmentalist, crafter and yogi in San Francisco, California.