Monday, October 6, 2008

Eco-fashion Stops by DC - Part One: Lost in Translation?

On Friday night, I attended the lovely House of Sweden for a party and fashion show for Nudie Jeans, a Swedish company that is getting way hot in the US and, to my great interest, has committed to a corporate mission that takes into account its corporate social responsibility. [As a matter of fact, on the day before, I had attended a very interesting seminar – also at the House of Sweden - that focused on “Clothing and Conscience” (more on that later on my other blog: The Good, the Bad and the Tacky)] Back to the part-ay.

For a few short hours (before the untucked button-down crowd rolled in), stylish Europeans mingled with DC’s hipster crowd on the roof deck of the House of Sweden (which also serves as the Swedish Embassy). They enjoyed the setting sun and looked at reproductions of t-shirt designs that Nudie Jeans commissioned from various artists and designers to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to benefit Amnesty International. The night progressed with a fashion show highlighting Nudie’s jeans and t-shirts for fall, and 4 or 5 pretty amazing designs that were made from reclaimed vintage denim. Unfortunately, most of the attendees (at the least the ones I talked to) had expected to see a show that mostly highlighted the recycled denim designs, which didn’t end up being the case. As for the rest of the fashions shown . . . well, at this point, I would like to say that I am not a fashion writer, nor do I play one on TV. I am just a writer who happens to have an interest in fashion and a passionate awareness of how things we do affect the living world around us. So, for the fashion side, all I will say is that the line seemed rather um, uh . . . urban . . . ? T-shirts and jeans and plaid shirts and peacoats and hoodies . . . you can only be moved somuch by a skinny guy strolling past in a pair of skinny legged jeans (sliding off his butt) and a t-shirt. And the emotional impact decreases further with each passing skinny guy in skinny legged jeans . . . It would have been nice, as Rachel commented, to have been able to get a close-up look at the jeans and to feel the organic cotton t-shirts.

That said, I am excited by Nudie’s commitment to its social and environmental responsibility. During the seminar on Thursday, the founder of Nudie, Maria Levin, spoke rather eloquently about her company’s commitment to the people who help make Nudie jeans (the cotton growers, the indigo makers, the tailors, etc.) and to the surrounding environment. There is nothing I love better than a hip company that is also aware. They are few and far between, kids.

But, there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between what the company was saying, and how they were presenting themselves that night. Image is everything in the US and first impressions count. Although the party was laid-back cool with hot dogs and American beer (um, ick?), there could have been so much more done to communicate the message of what Nudie jeans is doing in their supply chain to the party’s attendees. Small changes, like serving a few organic beers or offering meat alternative hot dogs (don’t laugh, they’re yummy!) would have been a small, but memorable way to show the attendees that Nudie “walks the talk”, as we Americans like to say. And the slideshow – did anyone even mention anything about the slideshow being projected on the wall?? Companies that are trying to operate responsibly are tasked with a dual burden – revising their own approach AND educating the consumer on why they should care that the company is revising their approach. Nudie missed an opportunity to get the guests at the party to understand the real attraction of buying a pair of their jeans – its not the perfectly faded denim or the fact that they used models with tattoos or that (according to the denim buyer from one of the NYC Bloomingdales) Nudie jeans always sell out – it is that by investing in a pair of Nudie jeans, you are helping a company change the way things are done, one pair of saggy-butted, skinny-legged jeans at a time.

We should all support companies like Nudie – who publicly stand up and talk about change. And maybe its like reviewing a restaurant within the first month of opening since Nudie is just so new to the US market. In any case, if you need a new pair of jeans, consider heading over to the Denim Bar or Barney's Co-Op to get yourself a pair (esp. if they are one of the 20 styles made from organic cotton, yo). This blogger approves.

Now that my blabbering is done, here are some photos.

The Show

The Crowd

Look for more photos here soon.


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