Let us set aside the clichés about green fashion, ye cynical Kermits, and presume that everyone is now on board with saving the world by doing our holiday shopping at Barneys, where even the window displays promote eco-friendly clothing.
Let us also presume that organic cotton jeans are good for the earth, and soy-based underwear will someday save the polar bears. Let us carry all our purchases of environmentally sensitive clothing made from bamboo, corn, coconuts, hemp and/or pineapples in our reusable designer grocery bags.
If only buying into green fashion was so easy.
No matter how sincere fashion designers may be in their efforts to embrace the green movement this season, consumers may find themselves perplexed by how to gauge the environmental impact of the many products that claim to be eco-friendly.
After factoring in the fabrics used in clothes and how they were produced, the real benefits of soy versus organic cotton versus recycled polyester may be slight, or confusing, or quite possibly misleading.
“When you only look at the raw materials to ask if something is really green, you are like the blind person holding the tail of the elephant,” said Chris Van Dyke, chief executive of Nau, a three-year-old outdoor clothing line founded on the principle of sustainable practices throughout its production cycle, including the ecological costs of shipping and caring for garments. “There’s a whole lot of other factors you need to assess.”
Some clothes, like Loomstate’s $295 organic cotton jeans — sold unwashed and not color-fast, to save energy — require unusual care. A pair of 2(x)ist soy underwear, $24 at Macy’s, include a warning that imperfections are to be expected. “These characteristics should not be considered flaws in the fabric,” the packaging says, “but rather as an intrinsic quality contributing to the uniqueness of the garment.”
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