Posts in: sustainable

Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: Simply Natural

Simply Natural Clothing

Making products that hold true to their motto, “good for customer, country and earth,” Simply Natural has worked hard to create sustainable goods that give them an edge in this extremely competitive eco-friendly industry.

We were lucky enough to learn about their mission, practices, and keys to success at FIT’s From Fiber to Fabulous a few months ago. Sharon Epperson, President of Simply Natural also was sweet enough to grace us a few minutes of her time answering some key questions that could help many designers like you.

Simply Natural’s mission is simple yet it’s one of their most crucial components to their great achievements. Epperson told us,

we use natural and eco-friendly resources and incorporate innovative technology that is all produced here the United States.

As huge supporters of solely using local resources, Simply Natural strives to only employ local American communities. They believe that we all have a responsibility to aid the economy, so by partnering with like-minded people and supporting local communities, Simply Natural is doing their part.

Epperson believes that because Simply Natural was founded on the idea to make clothing sustainable rather then implementing eco changes later, they have had the drive from the start to include sustainability practices into their business.

With the way the world is going, Simply Natural’s team can’t stress enough the significance of all businesses going ‘green.’ Epperson tells us, “

Sustainability can engender streamlining and the simplification of how and where things are made which, in turn, can affect the economic side of the business in a positive way and there may be no better time than now!

Simply Naturals really does as much as they can to be eco including using premier alpaca fleece, allowing customers to up-cycle previously worn/purchased garments to receive discounts and sticking to their no waste concept.

One piece of advice that Epperson gave was to only focus on one way to launch your business sustainably, rather than plunging in all at once. Being sustainable is not an easy change and can be overwhelming to many designers if it is not broken down.

The entire team at Simply Natural says their key factors to success are simple yet are all a relying factor in how they got to where they are today. They say it’s all about,

a great product, the people we partner with are amazing at what they do and they are always stubbornly proactive.

The ultimate hope is that the future of sustainable fashion ends up being talked about as much we talk about organic foods.

How are you embracing sustainable practices in your work?  Tell us about it!

You can follow Simply Natural via Twitter and Facebook


Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

Is Coconut Fabric the Future of Sports Wear?

Cocona Fabrics Sustainable Textile
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It’s easy enough to make fabric, there are a number of ways to weave, dye and otherwise embellish cloth. But as we all know, beauty is only skin-deep, and our options seem to limit significantly when designing textiles that need to do more than just look pretty. Fabrics for active wear are particularly problematic, as they need to be able to take whatever the wearer can dish out. Add the issue of sustainability, and the designer is left to wonder: what solution could possibly satisfy all of the wearer’s needs?

The most recent answer lies with Cocona Fabric. Just like the name hints at, it is a textile that has been created from coconut shells that have been recycled (made from an eco-friendly source, check!) Activated carbon is taken from these shells and incorporated into yarns and fibers. The resulting coconut fabric has a number of properties that are beneficial to the sports wear designer. For example, Cocona textiles are fast drying (92% faster than cotton), meaning the wearer spends less time in wet clothes, and the garment spends less time in the dryer. This feature also helps to wick away sweat; and odor is reduced by absorption through the fabric’s pores.

As with all sports textiles, Cocona is highly durable, lasting longer than other organic options such as bamboo and cotton. It’s performance properties are contained inside the fibers rather than on the surface, retaining these assets over time. It even provides sun protection. On an aesthetic level, Cocona is wrinkle-resistant, so the garment will look presentable even after being tossed in a gym bag. The fabric is very comfortable, and the yarns can be made in a variety of weights to perfectly suit the garment.

Polartec, Marmot and Orvis have already begun incorporating this interesting new textile into their garments. Additionally, the company who developed it, Cocona Fabrics, has designed and are currently testing out their own line of active wear.

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

How Far Would You Go For Sustainability? Human Remains Textiles

Sustainability is a factor that has become more important than ever in the fashion and textile industries. Use of recycled materials in particular, has sparked some amazing innovations in design. Recently, Central Saint Martins MFA student Kerry Greville has undertaken a speculative project titled “Salvage” which spotlights perhaps one of the most unique (and slightly creepy!) sustainable materials yet.

Human remains textiles

Human hair has been experimented with recently, which is pretty crazy to begin with, however, “Salvage” takes it a step further. Greville has proposed the use of the entire body- textiles made from the ashes of cremated human remains. Despite the visceral images this conjures up, Greville’s exploration of it’s potential is surprisingly poignant. She reflects on the notion that all resources are “taken without consent.” All materials, even if they are natural, are depleted from sources that do not belong to us.

In this way, the only resources we can claim for ourselves are our own bodies. Yet even taking these views into consideration it is a strange concept to stomach. One of the biggest obstacles is of course, the psychological aspect. Could we detach the person from the body’s potential as a resource, or relate to an object created from human remains?

The project as of right now is only theoretical; put into public view to spark conversation and debate it’s potential. Greville is fully aware of how controversial the ideas proposed through  “Salvage” can be and embraces this. In order to continue to push the boundaries of sustainability, all options must be considered, no matter how difficult.

Greville is currently polling public opinion of “Salvage,” including comfort levels concerning different uses of the textile (clothing detail v.s. a shoe lining, etc.) Whether or not such a fabric ever becomes a reality, a challenging but important conversation has been started: how far would you go for sustainability?

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight Independent Designers

Eugenia Morpurgo: Sustainable Shoes

Eugenia Morpurgo shoesAs many of us know, though it has come a long way, the textile industry needs major work when it comes to sustainability. Fortunately, this is an issue that is becoming more recognized and people from a variety of different backgrounds are coming together to tackle it.

One such person is Eugenia Morpurgo. Coming from a background in industrial design and ‘social design,’ her work focuses on how to improve the sustainability of raw materials. Most recently she has undertaken a few projects involving fibers and textiles, producing some very beautiful and thought-provoking work.

Morpurgo’s research into textiles began in Rwanda. Most “African” fabrics, are designed outside of Africa, imported and sold. Unsettled by this, Morpurgo’s team sought to bring an eco-friendly textile tradition to the area that could be used to support its culture.

The team began by experimenting with naturally dyed fabrics, using local materials and techniques that were accessible to local artisans. Gorgeous earth-tone hues were created using plants growing in the area such as kimbazi, henna and onion skins.

Although Rwanda does not have a history with dyeing textiles, it has a tradition of dye work in basketry. Those techniques were adapted for fabric and created new, uniquely Rwandan textiles. The project was developed further with some practical application- sustainable shoes. The naturally dyed fabrics were sewn into simple, chic flats and fitted with soles made from recycled tires.

Morpurgo later expanded on footwear with her project RIY (Repair It Yourself). Inspired by the current surge in do-it-yourself projects, as well as the conventions of traditional shoemaking, she set out to create a product that the consumer could have control over.

According to Morpurgo, modern, factory-made shoes are an item that “evolved drastically from a completely repairable object.” Her response? Repairable shoes! Made in a classic design, the shoes are a blank slate that is filled through their use- the more they fall apart, the more opportunity there is for the owner to fix them. And the “fixes” are also fun ways to decorate them. Each repair kit is unique to the pair of shoes. They can be stitched, felted into, even the soles can be replaced. The final outcome is a product that is long-lasting, ages beautifully, and has a meaningful relationship with the owner.

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

Studio Swine Offers a Unique Take on Sustainable Fashion

Studio SwineAs designers, innovation is a way of life. We are constantly striving to find new methods, alternative materials, and a unique way of creating our work. This is especially true of Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves, the duo behind Studio Swine.

Though their backgrounds lie in fine art, architecture and product design, Studio Swine has done some striking work in textiles and accessories, having  shown in several Fashion Weeks. Their interests lie in an object’s “emotional function”, as well as what makes it aesthetically beautiful. Most importantly, they fully support social and environmental sustainability, and incorporate sustainable practices into their work.

For their first project for New York Fashion Week, Studio Swine showed us that sustainable fashion design is easy; it can be done anywhere. Titled “Seed Socks”, the goal was to bring attention to more eco-friendly approaches to fashion. This concept was applied to textiles by building a portable dye studio.

The gorgeous wooden case contains natural plant dyes, as well as socks made from sustainably sourced bamboo fibers. Included are a pack of seeds to grow your own dye plants as well as recipes to make the dye. All the supplies and ingredients are neatly tucked away into their own tiny compartments, and there is even a small flower box at the bottom to house the plants. Studio Swine envisions a New York where each windowsill is decorated with dye plants, and everyone’s socks come in beautiful and unique colors.

Most recently, Studio Swine created a collection of eyewear to go along with designer Jane Bowler’s womenswear line for London Fashion Week. The theme of the line was ‘Icarus’. Playing on the premise of the Greek myth, the glasses took on the look of aviation goggles with many whimsical touches. The frames were thick and matched with the bright colors and crazy textures of the outfits.

Surprisingly, the best part were the lenses themselves- tinted lenses were attached to the tops of the frames and flipped up, creating a fun, mask-like silhouette.

As wild as these glasses are, this isn’t Studio Swine’s first time designing eyewear, and this isn’t even their craziest collection. A while back, we mentioned a designer using human hair to create jewelry. Studio Swine is also on board with this material- their collection “Hair Glasses” is a line of sustainable eyewear made of discarded human hair. Though it might sound weird, the frames are super chic and 100 percent biodegradable.

To check out Studio Swine’s other innovative projects, visit www.studioswine.com.

Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: The Sway

The Sway - StartUp FASHIONWith a mission to create all products using various sustainable methods of production, fashion label The Sway’s goal is not just to produce edgy jackets and handbags, but to promote honorable business practices to other developing countries around the world.

As Australian designer Belinda Pasqua started her handbag and biker jacket brand in 2010, she had a goal to make quality pieces using up-cycled materials.

As Pasqua journeyed across the world,  she eventually found her way to New York City, where she currently crafts and dreams up all of the things she can do to push The Sway to even greater success. Yet, as every designer starts somewhere, Belinda started her studies in Sydney, Australia and finished in Florence, Italy. She gained the majority of her manufacturing technique experiences in Italy where she worked with a variety of extremely exclusive couture houses.

Belinda tells us her vision for The Sway was born when she, “Witnessed incredible amounts of waste where tons and tons of fabric and leather off cuts are discarded in factories around the world due to inefficiencies in pattern-making.” As a result, Pasqua uses excess high-quality leathers, sourced from a motorcycle factory and cuts each piece into useable shapes minimizing waste in all of The Sway’s products.

Staying true to the brand’s original mission of using up cycled materials to craft each collection isn’t exactly easy. Having the intention of making accessories that are beautiful, contemporary, functional and sustainable can sometimes prove to be difficult when there aren’t millions of textiles and materials to choose from. However, this is where Pasqua shines in the fashion industry, as is made evident by the quality and aesthetic of her work.

You can connect with The Sway on Facebook.

Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: KAYU

Although Jamie Lim, founder and designer of KAYU, is a born Texan, it was her time spent in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong that truly shaped the kind of designer she is today. Lim knew that starting her own label would be anything but easy, however she had the perseverance and strength to prevail and show the world her talent and passion for creating beautiful accessories.
Kayu-Designer - Jamie Lim - Start Up Fashion business resource
As an observer of the world around her, Lim takes so much of her inspiration from the environment in which she lives in. As she grew up in Hong Kong, it wasn’t the nature that made her mind spin; it was rather the bamboo and how it was incorporated into the skyscrapers that gave her the curiosity and inspiration to start designing.

Lim eventually entered the fashion industry  with KAYU (meaning wood) in 2008 in San Francisco, where she crafted eyewear that was based on her interest in bamboo. Because she stayed unique in her design aesthetic she received outstanding reviews and was quickly demanded in stores around the globe as well as featured in magazines such as Vogue, Elle and InStyle.

With a strong belief in expanding her collections, Jamie also started designing a line of handbags in 2010, which she tells us was inspired by the beautiful things in nature such as shells, wood and straw. KAYU is also sold worldwide, giving Lim’s customers the chance to easily access or purchase her sunglasses and handbags all around the globe.

Not only does Jamie Lim make sure KAYU stands out in crowd, but she also takes pride in producing elegant bags that lessen the impact to the earth and always give back to the community. With a larger push in accessories ‘going green,’ Lim is proud to say that her collections have always been eco-friendly.

This darling designer makes sure to spread her love throughout the community, as she donates 2% of each sunglasses purchase to the organization Unite for Sight which funds sight-restoring surgeries in developing countries. And with every handbag sold, she donates 2% to the organization Awareness Cambodia, which helps buy backpacks and school supplies for children.

But most importantly, Jamie Lim strives to spread her joy and gratefulness through KAYU and believes that if you stay true to what you love, there is no doubt that confidence will be radiated throughout your collection.

Connect with KAYU on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to check out the brand’s Blog


Fashion Industry Resources

IOU Project & Source4Style: Global Independent Design Competition

Global Independent Design Competition - startup fashion business resourceDesigners, here is an incredible opportunity to get your vision out there!  Two of the most innovative contributors to sustainable fashion are joining forces to host the Global Independent Design Competition!

In the past, we introduced you to Source4Style, a fantastic online sourcing marketplace. They have partnered with the IOU Project, an amazing (relatively) new ethical fashion line that focuses on a completely transparent supply chain process.

The idea behind IOU is simple: give credit where credit is due by providing customers with the story of each garment. This includes who designed it, who wove the fabric, where it was made, etc. Every contributor to the design and production process is employed and paid fairly, ensuring a high-quality product. Sound good? How would you like to design for them?

Source4Style and IOU want to see YOUR portfolio! Designers of all levels, anywhere in the world can enter. The competition runs from February 1st through 24th, 2012. You even get a little something just for entering.

The entry fee is $100, and includes an annual Premium Level Membership at Source4Style (normally $350!) Sign up at Source4Style and use the discount code IOU when checking out. Once registered, designers can submit their portfolio via twitter (tweet @source4style) or email (diywithiou@source4style.com).

Five finalists will be chosen on February 28th, 2012. These finalists will receive 8 meters of IOU’s distinctive madras cotton fabric to create their own product for their line. It can be a garment or accessory, for women, men or unisex for Spring/Summer 2013.

The winning design (announced March 29th, 2012) will be included in the IOU project’s “Made in NYC” Capsule Collection! In addition to being produced, the design will be showcased at a trunk show hosted by ABC Carpet & Home and sold on Fab.com.

And in true IOU style, profits from the sale of the design will be shared with the winner.

This is an amazing chance to break into the world of sustainable fashion! What are you waiting for?

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

Qmilch, A New Kind of Textile

startup fashion resource eco textiles milk qmilchA new textile has recently come out that could very well redefine sustainability in fashion. Qmilch.

Qmilch is an eco-friendly textile made from milk. The designer who created the fabric comes from a unique and seemingly unlikely background; Anke Domaske was formerly a student studying microbiology.

The fabric is called Qmilch (the “q” stands for quality, while ‘milch’ is the German word for milk), and proves that the beverage is good for the outside of the body as well as the inside.

Domaske’s inspiration comes from her father, who, while undergoing cancer treatment struggled with skin problems and sensitivity to fabrics. Wanting to help those who have difficulties wearing ‘normal’ clothing, she began to develop Qmilch.

According to Domaske, the fabric “feels just like silk,” is odorless, and can be washed. It even dries twice as fast as cotton! In addition to its luxurious touch, the protein that goes into the textile possesses antibacterial and anti-aging amino acids. It also helps to regulate both body temperature and blood circulation. Not bad for a scrap of fabric!

While textiles made from milk are not an entirely new concept (people have been testing out the idea since the 1930’s), Qmilch is by far the most successful attempt. This is because it is the most sustainable; other methods employ noxious chemicals in order to get the desired result. Qmilch, however, is made from organic milk that has gone sour and cannot be sold- recycling something that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The milk is heated, combined with ingredients such as beeswax, and spun into thread. This process is much more ecologically sound. It not only eliminates the need for chemicals, it cuts down on water waste!  While cotton uses more than 10,000 liters of water to produce 2 pounds of fabric, Qmilch uses half a gallon! It is also biodegradable.

Although it hasn’t reached mainstream quite yet, (the fabric is $28 per kilogram, far pricier than even organic cotton), many companies have expressed interest in purchasing and using Qmilch. Domaske has also produced her own fashion line created from the textile, “Mademoiselle Chi Chi.”

For more information, check out www.milkotex.com.