|This eyelet cotton was recycled (or upcycled) meaning it once was a tablecloth, eventually hand crafted into a wedding dress/photo by Stephanie Williams Photography|
Okay, I'll admit it, there's nothing wrong with the tattered look. Innovator Issey Miyake pioneered it in the 70s and his torn up chic still carries a haunting beauty thirty years hence. But have you noticed whenever a designer adds some green to a bridal collection, the gowns sometimes . . . well . . . all look a bit tattered and Miyakesque? So where do you start if you're seriously pondering green-friendly alternatives on your wedding day and still want to look like a bride? It's a loaded question so we'll begin with what makes for an eco-friendly fiber.
1. Production of fabric follows fair trade practices (read: no prison contracted or sweat-shop labor involved)
2. Free or low on chemicals and pesticides
3. Eco-conscious land management practices
4. Sustainable farming
5. Animal friendly practices
|The sheath portion of this gown was made out of sustainable fabric from Thailand. Backstory: The yarns were delivered to women in the village and they were able to loom it in the privacy of their own homes--not a factory. Photo by Lirette Photography|
Going Green usually (though not always) can mean wearing a dress in natural fibers: organic cotton, wool, linen, silk, and of course, hemp. New fibers coming out even have bamboo, milk and soy in them. It helps to have a knowledge of the natural dying process and thinking through what impact toxic dyes might have on the environment. Here are a few questions worth asking: Is that silk I love really its natural color? If it is tinted, was it done with non-toxic dye? Is that snow white silk taffeta chlorined? And was that cotton grown free of pesticides? In the UK alone according to 2006 statistics, clothing and textiles contributed in producing up to two million tons of waste, 3.1 million tons of CO2 and 70 million tons of waste water. Have we become so used to fast food, fast technology and now fast fashion that we've created a manufacturing Goliath like this? Many designers have wised up lately reserving a portion of their collection for eco-conscious designs (moi included). Some are even using sustainable fabrics only, making sure they were produced under humane conditions at fair market wages. Although I've been getting some great press lately about offering green-friendly alternatives in my collection, I'm not as exclusively green as I’d like to be. One day we will all be green; till then here's what you could look for when buying green or having a green gown designed:
|Both gowns pictured above are considered upcycled--true vintage restored for modern brides/Top photo by Taralynn Lawton Photography--lower photo by JohnT Photo|
*Look for sustainable fabric. Custom and eco-friendly designers can source just about any sustainable fabric a client wants. I've been using the best supplier for twenty-some years. Dharma's been around and bright green since way back when hippies were popular.
* Good designers aren't afraid to experiment with new and unusual fabrics. Keep an open mind.
*Look for a designer unafraid of making necessary changes. Starting now and next season I plan on replacing most of the crinoline underskirts with 100% cotton organdy. Most designers are making similar changes.
*I’m fascinated by the new interest so many of my clients have in upcycling. Upcycling is a trendy term for reusing garments or fabrics that already exist. Last season a client brought me an exquisite antique tablecloth and asked me to fashion her wedding gown out of it. I was awestruck. First by the cloth. It was an allover and rare Cluny Lace. Ten years ago this would have been considered by most as ‘chintzing it’ on your wedding day whereas these days it is not only applauded but even considered a sentimental gesture—in my client’s case—the tablecloth was lovingly left to her by her great-grandmother.
*When it comes to bridal wear, there's still nothing like silk. Certain weaves and finishes go in and out of style over the years but overall silk rules. Some designers are switching suppliers and looking toward Europe where silks are also manufactured. Italian silks are the apex right now and quite expensive. Though primarily woven by robots, no human or animal is working under hazardous conditions. Factory windows aren't left gaping in sub-tropical climates and insects are not getting squished between the slubs of fabric. Fabrics these days come in the same flavors as your favorite beans, plants and dairy products. Just learned my agent personally travels to China and makes sure the workers operate in a well maintained, healthy and safe environment, are treated with respect, paid fairly and have health insurance, sick and maternity leave benefits, etc. That made me feel pretty good. Another thing I want to reiterate here when going green is to keep an open mind, it is an entirely different concept than the consumerism we were born into and one we need to explore and take seriously in order to reverse some of the damage we've done to our planet. . .