What is the world coming to when Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta are using materials made from wood pulp, bamboo, corn fiber, and Japanese leaves that contain anti-allergens. Clothing derived from these strange sources was assembled into “eco-outfits” and featured in the windows of Barneys New York, a high-end specialty store on the cutting-edge of style. High fashion is going eco.
The question is why. Some people do not like wearing chemically treated clothing while others object to how the materials are produced. Conventionally grown cotton uses large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides as well as being a water-intensive crop that is frequently grown in desert areas. In the case of wool, sheep are commonly tossed in a bath of pesticides to rid them of lice and parasites. The resulting sludge can pollute downstream waterways.
Despite environmental concerns, most alternative fabrics were not available in sufficient quantity or were still crudely rendered until recently. Vast improvements in their manufacture have led to many new design possibilities that intrigued the royalty of fashion designers. What is seen on the runways at Paris fashion shows is eventually reincarnated for the racks at local shops and department stores. Thus the turn to organic apparel among the rich and famous could have repercussions throughout the fashion industry.
The yeoman’s work in eco-fashion is currently being done by companies such as Edun, backed by lead singer Bono of the band U2 and Of the Earth. The trend is also filtering down to such leading brands as Timberland, Nike, and Eddie Bauer. As the market expands, there is no telling who might be wearing corn and wood pulp eco-outfits in the near future.