Eco-fashion differs from conventional fashion in that is takes it makes environmental, ethical and social considerations in designing and creating products.
Eco-fashion varies in extent and, shall we say, depth (of involvement or whatever you like to call it). A label can use sustainable fabrics and call itself eco-friendly. Or it can be as far-reaching as giving ethical employment to offshore factory workers and also call itself green.
With the advent of the green revolution, practically every industry has gone eco-friendly and socially, ethically and environmentally considerate. Even the fashion industry thinks "green" is in.
The thing is not every label is actually considerate of its impact on the environment and society.
Because the green movement has no governing body who checks on the "green" efforts of the fashion industry, any brand who wants to ride the eco-friendly caravan can don an Eco cap and claim green-ness.
Look at it this way, a company who, for instance, uses recycled paper hang tags can put itself in the same league as a brand who put up solar panels to power its factory.
Some companies can stake a claim to eco-friendliness, yet their clothes may not be made with sustainable materials, nor made via an eco-friendly process.
Certainly, the average – and unsuspecting shopper would not know the difference.
Alice Demirijian, Director of Fashion Marketing at Parsons at The New School says, "To be truly sustainable is to buy less." Designers know that they should inform their market about making a business out of sustainable fashion.
They also face the challenges of setting themselves apart from faux eco-designers, raising awareness about the merits of going green and competing with non-green labels who are often more reasonably priced.
This is where marketing comes in for these labels. We must understand that there is a difference between actually informing customers and lying about making environmental considerations.
Many environmentalists and critics of this faux eco-friendliness report that marketers marketers make labels appear greener than they really are.
With more and more mass retailers like the Gap joining the green fashion revolution , they are looking to established independent brands for inspiration and direction.
Fashion labels like greenKarat jewelry, Mink shoes and Olivia Luca couture may not be mainstream names, but their success is proves to better known brands that green is indeed in.
Founded by Matt White, a jeweler known for his ecologically and socially responsible stance, in 2003.
White is a CPA who is aware that gold-mining industry figures did not add up. He says that "two thousand five hundred tons of gold is mined each year, even though there is already enough idle gold above ground to satisfy the jewelry industry for the next 50 years."
Inspired by this knowledge, White’s company makes it a point to use only recycled gold and other metals when making their made-to-order pieces. The myKarat recycling program even offers store credit in exchange for gold jewelry for melting.
greenKarat also reuses stones. They also create their own. Using heat and pressure to mimic natural conditions under which diamonds and other gems are created, greenKarat’s stones are as just as real and as natural as mined stones because they have the same chemical makeup.
For white, lab-produced gems should eliminate the need for mining which is harmful to both the environment and miners.
Though other jewelers are not in a hurry to join White in his move to go green, White says he’s worried that other jewelers don’t share their product’s origins, though they’re working under the same limitations.
At greenKarat, their customers receive detailed reports that indicate their purchase’s history, including even the not so green parts.
Though stores are interested in taking up his process, White is worried about potential problems. This is why White has gone online instead. "There’s a lot of greenwashing out there," he says. "By selling only through our website, at least I can control the message and try to educate consumers about their purchases."
Mink is a high-end ‘vegan’ footwear brand founded by Rebecca Brough – a vegan stylist who created Mink out of frustration that sexy, yet animal-friendly shoes were not inexistent 7 years ago. Apparently, animal-friendly is also environment-friendly.
Brough was bent on creating leather-free heels that can be displayed side by side with shoes from Prada, so she spent a year and a half scouring Italy for a shoemaker who was willing to give vegan shoes a chance.
The result, 4-inch scarlet stilettos and lines of sequins falling over the foot, can make you forget that these works of art are actually eco-friendly vegan shoes.
The embellishments come from vintage surplus stores. And the heels are made of recycled wood or cork, and organic cotton fabrics instead of leather.
Each shoes is also handmade to minimize energy consumption and maximize comfort.
Department stores that turned their noses on Mink are now clamoring for Brough to put her products on their shelves.
And though she still does styling gigs to fund her vegan shoe business, Brough claims that "this is the right thing to do, even if it means I won’t get rich from it."