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Archive for the 'Fashion' Category

Fur Still Not Demonstrably Eco-Friendly Despite Advertising to the Contrary

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
By Christa

I first read about at Treehugger, and I have to admit, the web site is compelling. Animals breed, making the main component of a fur coat a renewable resource. A fur coat in good condition can be repurposed into other accessories, which is a form of recycling, and maybe even composted. Kept well, fur garments are durable, which could translate into fewer new garments for fur enthusiasts. And the folks, aka the Fur Council of Canada, argue that fur is humanely trapped and farmed, super non-polluting to process, and provides a much-needed livelihood for indigenous peoples in the north.

On the other hand, the Humane Society tells a different story:

Mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and other species with the misfortune of having attractive fur are raised in wire mesh battery cages on fur confinement operations, described euphemistically as “fur farms,” to account for 85% of the world’s production of animal fur.3 The animal wastes contain high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus.

A 2003 Michigan State University study in the Fur Rancher Blue Book of Fur Farming states that “the U.S. mink industry adds almost 1,000 tons of phosphorus to the environment each year.”

The 2003 European Commission Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau “Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Tanning of Hides and Skins”
recognizes the tanning15 industry as “a potentially pollution-intensive industry.”

The Industrial Pollution Projection System rates the fur dressing and dyeing industry one of the five worst industries for toxic metal pollution to the land.

Personally, I don’t wear fur, but I’ve always found it a bit difficult to accept the OMG FUR IS SUPER GROSS argument from someone wearing a leather jacket made of leather that came from who knows where. Tell me, is leather more acceptable because it’s made from a big dumb cow while the fur in a fur coat is made from a majestic wild animal?

As for whether fur is green, I think the arguments on both sides are clothed in shades of gray. claims that fur in general is fair trade, non-polluting, and sustainable – in other words, quite green – but provides no actual evidence to back up its claims. But while processing and dyeing fur requires some gnarly chemicals and can lead to industrial pollution of waterways when factories are less-than-careful about disposal and containment, so can the processing of leather – which happens on a much larger scale. The same goes for energy consumption and whether it’s good for the primary producer versus the manufacturer who sells a fur or leather product for hundreds of bucks.

Do I think that some fur (and leather) can be produced in a green way? Absolutely. Do I think the fur and leather on an average pair of boots made in China and sold at the department store has much chance of being green? No. With regards to, my greenwashing detector is going off in a big way.

Candy Wrapper Chic

Monday, March 7th, 2011
By Christa

Nahui Ollin designer Olga Abadi discovered the ancient Mayan technique of binding everyday materials into handbags at a cultural festival in Mexico. She turned her discovery into a green business by creating fun designs for bags and accessories (headbands, keychains, for example) that are produced by individual artisans under Fair Trade and sweatshop-free practices in Mexico. Where do the candy wrappers for the Black & White and other lines come from? They’re essentially discards that would otherwise end up in landfills – not every candy wrapper comes out good enough to pass quality control.

For those who aren’t so sure how a candy wrapper handbag would hold up to daily use, folded and twisted candy wrappers are actually surprisingly durable. We’ve had candy wrapper bowls crafted in Nepal for years now, and they’ve stood up to use and abuse by us and a toddler.

Eco-Friendly Eyewear Means Bamboo for Those Baby Blues

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
By Christa

As sustainable materials go, bamboo is sweet. It grows fast (it’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth), releases lots of oxygen as it does, doesn’t require a lot of fertilizers or pesticides, uses less water than most woods, and can be re-harvested in just three years.

The downsides of bamboo, besides the always-present dangers associated with monoculture growing, lie in how it’s processed. A bamboo fiber shirt, for example, takes a lot of not-so-nice chemicals to get from plant to fashion.

But what if you’re using bamboo like wood instead of processing the heck out of it? Then like I said, it’s definitely green. While bamboo might not be the best choice for straight up green fashion, it’s a great choice when it comes to fashion accessories. Like bamboo glasses, for example:

Bamboo glasses are hot and getting hotter, with more and more options on the market. Two manufacturers of bamboo glasses are Bamboo Optics and Unidot – both have prescription options that are pretty awesome. Bamboo glasses are definitely on my list to check out next time I need new frames.

What do you think – are ‘wood glasses’ for you?

Green Tips for the Homeowner

Friday, February 25th, 2011
By Christa

You may or may not be surprised that little ol’ me had a passing interest in environmental issues before I started writing Green Manolo just a few short months ago. Green topics have actually come up pretty frequently at the other two blogs I author: Manolo for the Home and Manolo for the Brides.

I have been tempted to rehash topics I’ve covered at those blogs of mine, but then I thought that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. The content and, when appropriate, gorgeous images are already there, waiting for your eco-friendly eyes! So here’s a list of links in case you’re looking specifically for environmentally conscious housing:

Green Tips for the Homeowner:


Eco Prep: Ball and Buck

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
By Christa

Organic, made in the US, and a hit with the preppy crowd? Well, huh. That’s Ball and Buck, a three-year-old clothing and accessory company specializing in, what else? T-shirts.

That would be small-run organic cotton t-shirts manufactured in the U.S by people making a living wage and adorned with hand stitched pockets made out of recycled and vintage fabrics.

Unlike a lot of companies that target a young crowd, Ball and Buck isn’t shy about pushing its ethical and environmental agendas. Its whole shtick is that you can wear the kind of clothes you want to wear without hurting the earth or the people who call it home.

Checked pockets might not be my thing, but I can definitely get behind their message! Have you gotten into clothing recycling? Maybe a little thrifting, a little DIY?

Just Like You: Smart, Good Looking, Eco-Friendly

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
By Christa

I love bags and I especially love these bags from Plaid Doctrine. Those sweet plaids and checks and stripes? All of them are high-performance recycled fabrics sourced domestically whenever possible. And that leather? It’s vegetable tanned leather, instead of the stuff I was talking about last week that’s tanned using the kind of stuff that ruins rivers.

Plaid Doctrine bags are made for work and travel – we’re not talking about some sissy purse that’s going to get a hole in it after a few weeks of use. Their totes, sleeves, briefcases, and organizers are sewn to last, all while being pretty darn low impact. (I should also mention that all that low impactness doesn’t exactly come cheap, but when does it ever?)

What Eco-Fashion Looks Like: Thieves

Friday, February 4th, 2011
By Christa

Long gone are the days when eco-fashion meant a hemp peasant dress accessorized with a crusty bandanna worn over dreads. The hemp trend is still going strong, but nowadays a hemp dress is more likely to look like this sexay number than like something you sewed yourself*. While it’s still easier to find exactly what you want when it comes to clothing your nakedness in a fabric whose origins are iffy, it is getting easier to get your style on in fabrics that are green and stitched together by people making a living wage.

Since my own color palette tends to focus on black, gray, and more black, I like Thieves by Sonja den Elzen. Made in Toronto, clothing and accessories from Thieves are crafted from sustainable fabrics such as hemp blends, organic wools and cottons, lyocell, organic linens, beeswaxed organic cottons, recycled leather, vegetable tanned leather, and (a fabric near and dear to my heart) peace silk. I did say yesterday that green shopping can be a trade-off – but it doesn’t always have to be!

*My apologies to those who are good with sewing machines and can follow a complex pattern better than I can

Impact Cage Match: Leather vs. Faux Leather

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
By Christa

It’s confession time: I live in a vegetarian household, which means not only do I not eat meat, I also don’t wear clothes made out of fur or leather or anything else that was worn by an animal first. Most of the time. We have relaxed rules ’round here – secondhand leather is not a problem. I guess I could do secondhand fur, if I wanted to, but it’s not my thing. Sometimes, though, like-new secondhand this or that is just not available, and I have to go looking for an animal friendly substitute. And when I do, I’m often left wondering whether I am doing the green thing or the animal-friendly thing or both by buying a faux leather satchel or knee-high boots.

As it turns out, as much as I’d like to see leather and faux-leather duke it out in the enviro-ring, it’s not as easy as ‘two textiles enter, one textile leaves’ because faux leather is not just one textile.

Sometimes, faux leather is PVC, which does not biodegrade, leaches toxic nastiness in landfills, and emits dioxins when burned. Phthalates are what make PVC feel more like a leather bag and less like a plumber’s pipe. Lisa Finaldi, a Greenpeace Toxics Campaign Coordinator, has called PVC the most damaging plastic on the planet.

On the other hand, sometimes faux leather is made of polyurethane, which is apparently somewhat more environmentally-friendly to produce – no solvents are required to make it feel soft – and will apparently biodegrade because it’s designed to deteriorate after usage. It’s also hardier, with many PUs leather-tested for durability.

If asked, most people (I think) would say that real leather is always going to be greener than faux leather, but that’s not necessarily the case. To turn a hide into a nice soft material for jackets and bags requires a chemically-laden process that uses heavy metals and cyanide-based sollutions, as well as other unpleasant stuff. Industrial tanning, from what I’ve read, can be exceptionally harmful to the environment and the people who oversee the tanning process.

Then there’s factory farming – the US Environmental Protection Agency has stated that livestock pollution is the most damaging threat to American waterways.

But still, PU is a petroleum product, and there are recycled leather products and leathers that are tanned with enzymes instead of the usual chemicals. Unfortunately, an environmentally-friendly shopping spree will usually require the shopper to make certain trade-offs. If the choice is between leather and faux leather, it depends on the faux leather and it depends on the leather. How often are labels (or store employees) going to fully disclose what it is and where it came from? My guess is that unless you’re shopping somewhere rather high-end, not often.

Do you consider the source of your leather or the composition of your faux leather when buying a pair of shoes or an office chair?

The Greenest Handbag Is the One That Doesn’t Bring Anything New Into the World

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
By Christa

Browsing Eco-Chick recently, I was delighted to stumble onto WASTE since I am a bag fiend. Waste handbags are not only absolutely fantastic, they’re also made exclusively out of discarded materials from the auto industry. I’m talking discarded leather arm rests and head rests, seatbelts, rubber straps, and more. What you end up with is a bag made from high quality materials that are designed to be durable, which is just the thing when you’re looking for an everyday bag.

Every WASTE bag is completely unique because they’re crafted out of what’s available so nothing new is needed to produce them. WASTE’s artisans un-stitch all those discarded parts and then craft something durable and beautiful by hand to achieve a color-coordinated, polished look. Why’s this important? Car upholstery uses a lot of leather (and other stuff), and about 45% of what is used is tossed out. Using the leftovers means less garbage in landfills and less energy spent on making new materials for other industries – in this case, the handbag industry.

As you can probably guess, these green handbags don’t come cheap – my favorite prices in at €193 for the option currently available – but if you have the money and need a bag, why not WASTE?

Green Shopping: Thrifting Is Where It’s At

Monday, November 29th, 2010
By Christa

Green fashion and green furniture and green *everything else* assault us from all sides nowadays, reminding us that the stuff we already have is probably not as green as we’d like it to be. Are my shirts made from organic cotton? Is my couch still off-gassing? Should I replace my reusable shopping bags with something more eco-friendly? Do I need to start making my own green window cleaner?

Maybe yes, maybe no. It sure is easy and it sure does feel good to say out with the old and in with the new when thinking about the health of the planet. And thanks to the fact that the green movement has money behind it, finding that earth-friendly couch is not a problem these days. But that brings up an important question: How green is buying new, anyway? Especially when it’s something that you maybe don’t need so much as want or what you really want is the pleasure of shopping for and having something new.


Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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