But alternatives to organic cotton are quite desirable, and not just for variety’s sake. Just as the search for sustainable fabrics has serious hurdles, things don’t get much easier once a product reaches the production stage. Mills produce fabric in large quantities and aren’t always interested in accommodating special orders, which is why so many smaller lines are forced to limit their options or, as designers including Linda Loudermilk have done, source out alternative fabrics.
That’s sometimes easier said than done. Loudermilk, who asks her manufacturers to create her high-end couture weaves in fibers such as sasawashi or milk fiber, says she receives a response from only 10 percent of the factories she contacts to produce organic lace for her airy, nature-inspired luxury eco-pieces. This season, Loudermilk experimented with everything from mud-dyed linen to seaweed to vegan silk.
“Stores have been slow in embracing the eco-category, but the demand is certainly there,” she says. “We are working hard at switching buyers’ views about the stigmas that are associated with eco-fashion. The amount of investment that has gone into sustainable fabrics and fibers tells me that the larger companies will stick with this forward motion.”
Women have always been obsessed with denim: how it makes their asses look, how it makes their thighs look, why it’s impossible to find a pair of pants that fit both places in a natural yet amazing way. And jeans have always been a classic fashion staple. But designer denim, in particular, gained a renewed prominence in the late 1990s. Celebrities started tooling around Hollywood in $150+ premium labels such as Paper Denim & Cloth, Citizens for Humanity, Seven for All Mankind, Joe’s — the list goes on. Immediately, premium denim gained a fetishized rank amongst lay-sartorialists.
And Scott Morrison made sure that he was churning out enough pants to satisfy that need. Morrison is one of the biggest one-man success stories of the premium-denim boon. He co-founded Paper Denim & Cloth in 1999, and went on to launch his own enormously popular denim brand, Earnest Sewn, in 2004. Morrison has made a name for himself through his design POV: integrating a traditional Americana edge with the Japanese beauty aesthetic of “Wabi-sabi,” the concept that perfection is found in the imperfect.
But when Morrison was approached by the luxe-retailer Barneys to design an exclusive green-denim collection that would coincide with the department store’s “Have a Green Holiday” marketing campaign this November, he resolved that the only way to design an organic pair of jeans was, essentially, to recreate and reinvent the entire process.
“When we first started talking about organic-denim collections and organic-denim labels marketing their brands as environmental, the first thing I thought was how contrarian their logic was,” says Morrison. “Why label something ‘organic’ when you proceed to wash the organic fabric with chemicals, polluting and wasting water, then bake and dry the jeans in machines that use massive amounts of electricity?”
For his Greencaste by Earnest Sewn line, Morrison created new wash formulas that utilized natural surfactants instead of traditional detergents, removed the use of chlorine bleach in the “wet” process of the jeans, and found all-natural starches to create the distinctive 3-D finishes that are tantamount to his signature denim collection. The process was expensive, time-consuming, and extremely taxing, says Morrison, but it’s also one that he felt was necessary, particularly in light of the “many brands just going through the motions.” The result is a capsule collection of three men’s and three women’s styles, priced from $200 to $240, that reflect both Morrison’s obsession with quality, as well as his commitment to putting a genuine, socially responsible product on the market.