washingtonpost.com
Green Fashion

Suzanne D'Amato
Sunday Source Deputy Editor and Fmr. Vogue Magazine Writer
Tuesday, August 8, 2006 2:00 PM

Want to shop "green" but still look fashionable?

It is possible, if you know where to look. In the Sunday Source's Green Issue , deputy editor and former Vogue fashion writer Suzanne D'Amato has tips to help you stay eco-friendly and still look stylish.

Suzanne D'Amato: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining me.

As those of you who've read the latest Sunday Source already know, green is indeed the new black. The fashion world may be fickle, but this is one trend that shows no sign of letting up: I found out about quite a bit that I didn't even have room to mention in my green fashion story, from a local designer who's making jewelry out of vintage Lucite to a French company making sweaters crafted from - get this - soy. So send me your questions! (And if you have non-green fashion questions, I'll take those, too.)

Now, I have a question for you: I'm working on a story about fall fashion trends for a future edition of Sunday Source, and I want to know what you want to know about the coming season's styles. Wondering what's new in menswear? Whether the bubble skirt will still have legs come September? Ask away!

Let's get started  ...

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Silver Spring, Md.: American Apparel just opened a store in Silver Spring. I've heard about it, but I haven't gone in because it looks like it's just a store full of T-shirts. Is it worth going into? Are there other places in Silver Spring/Takoma Park to go for "green" clothing?

Suzanne D'Amato: American Apparel is definitely worth a look -- their T-shirts are well-priced, well-cut and available in a number of great colors. They also make many other kinds of clothes: shorts, hoodies, leggings, dresses, swimsuits, underwear...even dog outfits. (No, I'm not making that up.)

As for green stores in that area, I'll open this one up to the group. Chatters, any shops you'd recommend?

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Madison, Va.:

It seems even more important for babies and kids to have green clothing. I know me and my friends would never buy flame retardant because we don't want chemicals and we do want natural fibers. What are the top lines making organic baby and kids clothes?

Suzanne D'Amato: You have a lot of options. There's a newish boutique in Alexandria called Apple Seed that sells organic cotton onesies and receiving blankets. One Web site I like is called Egiggle.com: They sell cute (if expensive) kids' clothes, toys, furniture and more -- and they indicate when items are made of environmentally conscious materials or otherwise manufactured in a socially responsible way.

Wal-Mart offers an organic cotton line for babies -- I believe it's called George. So you have a lot of options, at all price points.

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Patagonia:

I wanted to put in a plug for Patagonia, a company that was sadly missing from your article. Patagonia has been a leader in eco-friendly clothing for many years. Their famous fleeces are made from recycled plastics, and they have continuous spring, winter, and fall lines in organic cotton and hemp. A percentage of their sales proceeds goes to the 1 percent for the Planet Fund. Patagonia also spends significantly on R&D to discover ways to improve the life of their products - reducing waste and encouraging customer loyalty.

Suzanne D'Amato: You're right that Patagonia is known as a leader in the eco-friendly category. That said, I just don't think of them as being very chic (nor do I think that's the company's overall aim). The fits are, by and large, boxy and unflattering -- fine for your next hike, but...

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Washington, D.C.: Can you recommend tailors or local clothing re-purposers that can fix shirt collars torn/worn along the crease (perhaps by reversing the collar).

Suzanne D'Amato: Sounds like you need a tailor (someone who repairs and alters clothes) rather than a repurposer (a fashion designer who happens to work with pre-made clothes instead of bolts of fabric). Regarding the former, I've heard very good things about Parkway Custom Dry Cleaning in Chevy Chase. They aren't cheap, but they're known as meticulous tailors -- many New York socialites send their clothes there.

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Laurel, Md.:

I read the article in the Sunday Source on repurposed designs. Are these garments made from old clothes that have been cut up and constructed into new garments, or are they shredding the old fabric to make new fabrics?

Suzanne D'Amato: Generally "repurposed" means that the designer is scouring the racks at Goodwill, the Salvation Army and the like, looking for outdated styles made of interesting fabrics, then ripping the clothes apart and re-fashioning new pieces out of them. And, quite often, selling these new-old clothes at a premium price!

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Philadelphia, Pa.:

Hi, I loved the part of the article about recycling vintage clothes. I've been doing this since my pre-teen days. I have a fondness for thrift stores. I used to live in Montgoemry County. I loved to go to Venus on the Halfshell in downtown Frederick. The owner looks like Debbie Harry and there's always rockin' music playing, and the clothes are fab.

Suzanne D'Amato: I share your love of thrift stores -- and thanks for the tip!

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Washington, D.C.:

Thank you for taking my question Is there a generally accepted definition of "green" when it comes to clothing and if so, what is it? For example, is leather ok as long as the cow was raised organically and the leather was tanned using vegetable dyes? What about cotton, does one have to distinguish between organic and conventionally farmed cotton. Finally, does the "green" definition, if it exists, also take account of the labor conditions of the textile workers, etc. I guess to really boil down the question...does "green" fashion have a concrete definition that allows customers to be certain what they are buying actually leads to better outcomes. Or is "green" fashion just another marketing ploy to make people feel good about what they are purchasing?

Suzanne D'Amato: Wow -- you've asked enough to take up the rest of this chat! Let's see how far I can get:

I don't know that there is one generally accepted definition of green; the Web site Hautegreen.com lists several common "sustainability criteria" you might find interesting -- it runs the gamut, including everything from using materials that are recycled or recyclable to using alternative energy such as solar power in the manufacturing process. "Green" is sort of an umbrella term in that sense -- it's meant to encompass all manner of socially and/or environmentally responsible practices. Does that mean that some companies will use it as a marketing ploy, exploiting and ultimately diluting its meaning? Absolutely -- I think we're seeing that already.

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Ocean City, Md.:

I'd like to comment on Patagonia. I would agree that they are a leader with organic cotton but like Suzanne said they are not very chic. I think it a shame that they are missing the boat on this because they're a lot of young hip people who love Patagonia and what they stand for but their clothing lacks today's fashion. I don't want to pick on Patagonia alone. I did see an ad for Volcome's new line that is using veggie dyes and organic cotton. Maybe there's hope for those of us who want to go green but still have a little style.

Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Laurel, Md.:

That is what I got from your article. If the designers are making clothing from old clothes, how does that affect cleaning the garments? Will they mix fiber types, say a silk top and sleeves, with a cotton body? Also, I thought fabric got weaker with age. Will repurposed garments have the same fabric strength and durability as garments made from new fabrics?

Suzanne D'Amato: Interesting question. There is a lot of fabric-mixing going on with repurposed clothes and accessories, and for that reason you're probably best off hand-washing or spot-cleaning a lot of these items. Or dry-cleaning them, which of course raises its own questions about being good to the earth. In terms of wear, though, I'd guess they'd last about as long as many other chic, delicate clothes. These are fashion items -- by which I mean, you might have trouble running a marathon in Angela Johnson's lace-trimmed bustle skirt, but that's sort of beside the point, you know?

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Arlington, Va.:

Whatever happened to hemp? I thought that was going to be the new green fabric. The movement seemed to have peaked with Woody Harrelson and fizzled out from there.

Suzanne D'Amato: Hemp is still out there, and many designers continue to use it for sweaters, T-shirts and the like. It's just had a bit of an image problem: People think of it as hippie-dippy wear: itchy, frumpy and uncomfortable (which, too often, it is). Now that bamboo has become popular, it's facing some serious competition.

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Washington, D.C.:

One recommendation for fashion, enviro, and socially conscious footwear:www.shoeswithsouls.com They can be pricey, but will run periodic sales that are well worth the $.

Suzanne D'Amato: Another suggestion from one of our chatters...

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Washington, D.C.:

Hi, Suzanne, Not a green question, but I'm facing the prospect of buying my first-ever maternity clothes. I'll be wearing them mostly in fall/winter. Do you have any suggestions for buying a small, versatile but not horribly boring (or dumpy) wardrobe that I won't hate by the end of nine months? Thanks.

Suzanne D'Amato: This isn't a subject that I know much about personally, but a company called Belly Basics makes something called the Pregnancy Survival Kit, which has always struck me as a smart idea. It's a four-piece set comprised of a top, dress, skirt and pants, all in machine-washable cotton spandex. I'd think you could dress them up or down with accessories -- and at least you can use those long after the baby has arrived!

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Atlanta, Ga.:

Has eco-friendly become elitist? I find that with foods, for example, organic food is more expensive than the "other" stuff, which rather limits who can buy it. Is the same going on with clothing?

Suzanne D'Amato: Well, does growing cotton sans pesticides, installing solar panels on your factory's roof, and paying your workers a living wage cost more than going about things the "usual", non-green way? Usually, and these prices are often passed on to consumers. That said, American Apparel's prices have always struck me as pretty fair. And repurposed clothing often costs about the same as standard Urban Outfitters-type places.

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Weirton, West Va.:

The "Green" clothing prospect is interesting. Probably most will invest in a few pieces, but will continue to dress in their own way. Come to think of it, I have been dressing "Green" for about 20 years, I still have some slacks I bought in the 80's. (Can't say I am not tired of them, and had just about decided to get rid of them.)

Suzanne D'Amato: It's definitely a trend right now, but the momentum is mostly with niche designers. So it'll be interesting to see what happens as bigger companies try to tap into (and profit from) all of the attention that green has been getting.

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Washington, D.C.:

I was interested about panda snack, what does the bamboo fiber feel like?

Suzanne D'Amato: Like silk. It's pretty incredible -- the finished product bears absolutely no resemblance to anything you might see Tai Shan munching on.

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Silver Spring, Md.:

I love to buy at thrift and vintage stores, but often things need to be altered. I have a pile of stuff waiting. Can you recommend a good tailor (other than the super-pricey Parkway), and what should I look for in a good tailor and how much would a reasonable alteration cost? Say, hemming a pair of pants or taking in a dress at the waist?

Suzanne D'Amato: In addition to Parkway, I've heard good things about Kim's Custom Tailoring in Pentagon City. Prices vary pretty dramatically depending on what you're having done, but in general, look for a place that has you try on the item before altering it, rather than somewhere that just tells you they'll lop two inches off the hem.

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Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks so much, everyone. As always, feel free to send me more questions -- about green fashion, fall fashion, or anything in between -- to styleq@washpost.com.

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