Sunday, November 30, 2008

Green is the new black and old vs. new

All over the fashion world, people are saying, “green is the new black.”

On the streets of Toronto a new kind of It girlis in town - and you won’t find her in Holt Renfrew. She is the recessionista - the thrifty woman with a killer sense of style.

With the global movement to “go green” in full swing, with everything from Earth Hour, to organic produce, it was only a matter of time before the fashion industry followed suit.

Major brand names like, H&M, as well as designers like Katherine Hamnett, are taking a step into living harmoniously with the hip, tree-huggers of the world, with their snazzy, new, green threads.

According to Katherine Hamnett’s website, organic cotton – one aspect of eco-friendly clothing – is cotton grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers in soil that has been chemical-free for at least the last three years. Besides being pesticide-free, organic cotton can also help farmers get as much as a 50% increase in their income, as it costs less to produce than conventional cotton, which is responsible for using 25% of the world’s pesticides.

“The difference is ethical. By choosing organic cotton t-shirts you’ll feel how soft, stylish and luxurious they are. More importantly, you’ll help change thousands of lives for the better,” said Hamnett on her site.

“I will always try to pick the organic over the regular product, even though the price difference can sometimes be silly. I know no pesticides were used on it, and that helps me sleep better at night,” said Holly Jackson, who is in charge of a sustainability committee at the University of Maryland. “I think if people knew the bad effects of pesticides, they’d be a lot more inclined to pay the extra dollar for an organic item.”

The idea of ‘green living’ attached to organic clothing is supposed to be a key feature that should appeal to most fashion-conscious folks. However, with an average price of about $110.00 to let designers like Hamnett bring a little more ‘green’ to your closet, it’s no wonder the trend of the recessionista which is sweeping the city like your new, organic blush brush has come out to show us all how to look like a million bucks without actually spending that much. Amanda Reyes, a second-year arts and contemporary student at Ryerson Universityprefers the path of the recessionista over what she says is the sometimes, “expensive and sketchy,” ways of organic clothing in mainstream brands. Reyes uses the scandal surrounding Lululemon and their “seaweed t-shirts.”

In November, last year, a front-page expose in The New York Timesreported that its independent testing laboratory didn’t detect any seaweed in a randomly selected ‘VitaSea’ Lululemon T-shirt. “Personally, I would rather go to Value Village, CTS, or Black Market, and pay six bucks for a really cool, vintage-y blouse – as opposed to paying a ridiculous amount of money for a plain t-shirt,” said Reyes. “And besides, who wants seaweed in their clothing?”

At H&M, organic cotton t-shirts costs about twice as much as a regular t-shirts. This is why Brittany Schein from Oklahoma City, Okla. thinks that the ‘green movement’ is nothing more than a carefully-crafted marketing scheme. “Caring about the environment is the trend right now. They know that if people see a regular shirt versus an organic one, they will buy it – even if it is a little more expensive,” said Schein.

Nina B, a student from Boston, Mass. said, “I have one ‘organic cotton’ dress from H&M, but I would have bought it if it was regular cotton. The fact that it had a special tag didn’t influence my decision to buy it.”

Another online magazine that has set its sights on creating a greener closet for us all is, a website that “sympathizes with the fact that most people aren’t willing to compromise their current lifestyle in order to improve our shared environment,” and understands that by living green through “education and action … you don’t need to run off to live with the wolves to contribute to the betterment of Mother Nature.“

Though it may be true that most of us aren’t looking through Craigslistfor a new, howling roommate, it may just be a little unfair to say that we won’t budge to save our planet. The movement of the recessionista takes on a ‘Fashion without victim’ approach – one shared by Katherine Hamnett, only with a lower price tag.

“I do think that it’s [thrifting and buying vintage] exponentially more ‘green’ than ‘organic’ garments. Producing more clothing still uses more resources – even if some are ‘organic,’ still pollutes,” said Nina B. “To me, it just seems like a way for people to spend money and then pat themselves on the back for being ‘green.’”

Even some firm believers in the ‘green movement’ remain cautious when it comes to buying into ‘buying green.’ Jackson said, “A lot of brands ‘greenwash’ people now. By making an item seem environmentally friendly, when really, they only care about the profit.”

In the battle between seemingly eco-friendly corporations and savvy recessionistas, it is unclear which side is “greener” (pun most definitely intended). For one, buying more things – even if they are organic – isn’t necessarily ‘green,’ as valuable resources are still being used up. And, although it would appear that refraining from over-consumption of brand-new, fabulous threads is significantly greener, some used, vintage items like real fur and leather don’t exactly spread feelings of ‘eco-love’ to some of the Earth’s creatures.

So, just some friendly advice from one self-proclaimed ‘couture connoisseur’ to another – go ahead, shop new and organic, or shop vintage. Just remember to stay informed, stay thrifty, stay stylish, and try not to get caught up in all of the corporate hype. The choice is always yours.

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