Fashion: Eco-centrics

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The Independent Culture
Is it possible to be both fashionable and environmentally friendly? The textile industry poses serious threats to the environment, from the chemicals used in fabric production, through to the pollutants contained in most clothes detergents. The fashion industry depends upon people buying new clothes each year, creating an estimated pounds 30bn worth of unused clothing sitting in Britain's wardrobes. Yet they go on churning them out, and we continue to buy them. Environmentalism is still associated with the "new age" look of the early Nineties, with natural hemp and wooden love beads, or with the traveller trends of dreadlocks, combat gear and Peruvian sweaters. But we need not dress like Neil from The Young Ones to wear environmentally sympathetic clothing. The clothes featured here are all wearable, fashionable, and made with the health of the environment in mind.

JESSICA OGDEN

red kimono, pounds 750; cream silk scarf top, pounds 165, to order.

Jessica Ogden, a Jamaican designer working in London, creates individual pieces of clothing with an artistic aesthetic. From working with Oxfam's NoLoGo re-using clothes and materials donated to the charity, Jessica went on to start her own line in 1993. She uses antique and distressed fabrics, visibly darning and stitching them. Her clients include Bjork, Neneh Cherry and Tori Amos. She has exhibited her work in various galleries and shops including The Pineal Eye in London. Jessica is a working proof that recycled garments don't have to adhere to worthy functionalism, but can be unique and beautiful (enquiries, 0171-251 8861)

PLANET VISION light blue vest, pounds 21; dark blue long-sleeved top, pounds 34.50; drawstring green trousers pounds 44.50. This company was recently launched in Britain with Dutchman Gert Krannnendonk at the helm, and though mainly selling wholesale can also cater for mail order. All products are organically produced in cotton and hemp. The range, although basic in design, has unusual fabrics and garments such as bras and leggings in cotton-Lycra, brushed cotton fleeces, and naturally occurring coloured cotton which is bred (not genetically engineered) in the States, and comes in earth tones. They hope to manufacture in Europe, and possibly Africa (enquiries and catalogue, 0181-533 7766)

CONSCIOUS EARTHWEAR red fleece dress, pounds 105. Sarah Ratty started the Conscious Earthwear company in 1993, turning her hobby into a business - the idea being to make fashionable clothes from environmentally friendly fabrics. At least 50 per cent of the items made adhere to these principles, and mainly use materials that bear the Ecotex logo, a European standard that indicates that textile manufacturing processes are ecologically sound. They have used hemp linen and jersey in their spring summer '99 collection. This fleece is made from recycled plastic bottles, which make a versatile modern fabric. Available from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1 (enquiries, 0171-252 4802)

PREEN red recycled leather coat, to order. Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi launched Preen in 1995. A part of the collection is made with used fabrics such as tweed, silk and leather. Justin designed for Helen Storey's Second Life range. "People like the fact that our recycled items are one-offs," says Thornton. They are supported by Kate Moss, Honor Fraser, Liv Tyler and Justine Frischmann. Prices from pounds 30 to pounds 420. Preen, 5 Portobello Green, 281 Portobello Road, London W10 (enquiries, 0181-968 1542)

AMANO red, hooded cable-knit sweater, pounds 50. The company started in 1988, from a stall in Camden market, and now supplies shops around the country. Fabrics are carefully sourced for ethical and environmental values. A lot of the knitwear is hand-spun and dyed in Bolivia. Recycled knitwear is made from wool, hemp, denim and plastic bottles. The sweater pictured is hand-knitted from English wool with low-impact dyes. Amano, Chalk Farm Road London NW1 (enquiries, 0171-267 6918)

VEGETARIAN SHOES mules by Deja, pounds 45; ribbed hemp socks by Natural Collection, pounds 15 for three; black organic cotton tights, pounds 15. Vegetarian Shoes was started in Brighton in 1990 by Robin Webb,an ex-art student who had been scouring the country for a breathable, non-plastic alternative to leather. He now stocks an impressive range alongside his own, including the American label, Deja, made from recycled materials such as tyre rubber and wet-suit off- cuts. From 12 Gardner Street, Brighton BN1 1UP (mail order, 01273 691 913)

KOMODO blue Yeti knitted coat, pounds 100; hemp denim jeans, pounds 60. Headed by Mark Bloom, the company has been producing environmentally conscious streetwear for 10 years. Fabrics are sourced for ethical and environmental qualities, eg the jacket above is made in Nepal by exiled Tibetans using traditional techniques and organic dyes. Other fabrics include recycled plastic fleece, hemp-mix jersey and banana leaves. Michelle Mullins, formerly of Maharishi, is now on board to sharpen up the design (enquiries, 0171-490 8101)

PATAGONIA

yellow fleece pounds 69.95; organic blue jeans, pounds 59.95; brown boots by Birkenstock, pounds 110.

Started in the late Sixties in California, by a group of surfers and climbers, Patagonia gives a percentage of profits to environmental groups.

It was the first company to use recycled fleece in 1993, uses only organic cotton, and continues to find and develop high-performance low-impact materials. Available from branches of Snow and Rock (enquiries, 0171-831 6900)

GREENFIBRES natural cotton/silk long-sleeved vest, pounds 35; hemp jeans with recycled metal buttons, pounds 96. This mail order company is the brainchild of Gaby and William Lana. All fabrics are either organic or chemical-free, and make as low an impact as possible on the environment. The clothing is of basic design, not high fashion, but certainly made to last. The catalogue includes underwear and baby clothes as well as information about the processes of making the garments. Greenfibres (enquiries, 01803 868 001)

Hair and make-up by Lisa Moore at Julie Bramwell Represents, using Stila. Model Tenzin at Select

OTHER USEFUL CONTACTS

Birkenstock, one of the first companies to carry out an environmental audit, uses low-impact dyes, sustainable cork and natural latex (mail order, 0800 132 194, and from The Natural Shoe Store, Neal Street, London WC2).

The Natural Collection catalogue has some clothing plus organic chocolate and recycled computers - organic cotton tights, cotton-hemp-mix socks, babyclothes (01225 442 288)

Earth 33 uses organic denim, recycled fleece and hemp (Ground Zero, 77 Beak St London W1, Cuba, 13 Trinity Street, Dublin 01273 699 016).

Hemp Corporation, 24 Church Street, Brighton, for herbal goods and clothing.

Jeavon's of Piccadilly make luxurious sweaters from discarded knitwear (0171-488 4722)

Natural Fact provides a range of green goods, from shampoo to underwear (0171-352 2227)

Ethical Consumer magazine, 0161-226 2929 and The Green Guide 0171-354 2709.

The Pesticides Trust has information about fabric production, 0171-274 8895

Traidcraft, environmentally aware clothing (catalogue, 0171-242 3955).

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