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LIVING GREEN
Starre Power: Fashion and Beauty

Suzanne Rae Dazzles with Faux-Fur Lace, and More

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The Suzanne Rae show at Lincoln Center on Sunday afternoon opened with an absolutely delectable short film by Alexandra Roxo in which sloe-eyed models played cards by candlelight, sipped whiskey, and slouched fabulously in the designer's Autumn 2011 collection (think silks and lace), falling asleep ever-so-prettily. (After a night of cards and booze I'm usually a bit more unkempt, but we all DO love a fabulous fantasy, don't we?).

DRIFT from Alexandra Roxo on Vimeo.

Waking to a winter-swept Atlantic shore bright with sun, they then had ample reason to don the wool gabardines and boucles, hemp and deadstock fabrics that Rae contrasts with the softer 'interior' fabrics from the previous scene to wander the snow-dappled beach. Then the models came out, and those of us in attendance took a closer look.

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Love the contrast here between the silk and the edging; see full dress below.

Overall, it was a strong collection, with consistent direction and smart use of fabrics and draping/layering, which is my favorite part of winter dressing. Suzanne Rae Palaez lives and works from Brooklyn, and the 'urban town' aspect of the borough has seeped into her designs, any of which would be at home on the streets of NYC.

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Together, these pieces work so beautifully, but in real life, the jacket would be more suited to skinny jeans and the fabulous harem pants to a turtleneck methinks.

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This black and cream outer layer was the strongest piece of Rae's collection, allowed to stand on its own with just a simple updo and leggings on the model; this cape was also featured in the movie and by the end I had some serious poncho lust!

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This vest reads as fur, but its actually layers of lace....divinely feminine...


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Eliza Starbuck's Stylish New Green Fashion Is Truly Wearable

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Classic lines, without dropping into Preppie territory; funky proportions give these pieces a strong whiff of cool.

Bright Young Things designer Eliza Starbuck was the creator of the dress behind the much-lauded Uniform Project (the concept which suggested, beautifully, how a single dress could serve as the backdrop or frontspiece for a year's worth of sartorial choices).

The BYT show during New York Fashion Week at the Greenshows at the Metropolitan Pavilion featured about half of the Uniform Project's LBD's accessorized to the hilt, moving from supersexy to ubercomfy boho to work-appropriate and back again. The second half of the show expanded the idea of great quality basics (8 multifunctional pieces including shorts, blouses, trousers, skirts) that could purposefully be worn every which way (see video of runway show below to get a feel for how the clothes really move).

For those of us who can't (or more properly, don't want to) live with one dress alone this debut collection really worked the 'simple is good' concept to its logical conclusion with pieces in neutral colors and uncomplicated, wear-anywhere fabrics, made from sustainable textiles like organic cotton and linen.

To top off the 'simple + real = beautiful' motif exemplified by her collection, designer Starbuck also chose models of varying ages and sizes to walk in her clothes. "It was great to feel special in conjunction with the diversity of lovely models that BYT designer, Eliza Starbuck, had hand-picked. In addition to a line up varying body types, ethnicities, and professional backgrounds, Eliza also included two women considerably older than your average runway nymph..." said Abigail Doan of Ecco Eco, who walked the runway with major verve! (see below)


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A Sexy Look at New Green Fashion from Hessnatur

Ecofashion designer Eviana Hartman was generous enough to take me through her capsule collection for Hessnatur, now available online.

Whether you want to call it classic, travel-ready, or just plain fiscally responsible, choosing clothes that will last you for years is the smart (and ecofriendly) way to dress. German label Hessnatur specializes in basics made with high quality fabrics, all of which are sustainably grown and/or produced by people who are paid a fair wage.

They relaunched the brand a couple years back when they brought reknowned designer Miguel Adrover on as lead designer, and now they've gotten Eviana Hartman, who designs her own line, Bodkin, to create a collection-within-a-collection for them for Autumn 2010 (and moving into the future). Check out the video above for a close look at the collection, shown by Eviana.

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The very versatile silk/cotton/cashmere long sweater is supersoft and can be wrapped and layered every which way from Autumn through late Spring.


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Lara Miller: Eco Fashion's Quick Change Artist

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Eco Fashion designer Lara Miller is an Eco Chick fave; her supermodern, often convertible, sensuously romantic, yet travel-friendly designs are deceptively simple but always on point.

Lara says she didn't plan her designs for the travelling types (though they suit us so well), but that her ideas come from a playful, fun place that happens to result in highly variable separates (think dresses that can be worn three ways, or trousers that have adjustable hems):

I graduated from a very conceptual design program at the School of the Art Institute where I researched Eadweard Muybridge images and architectual theory by Gregg Lynn. I was fascinated with the idea of animation and gestures in every day life, especially when getting dressed. I wanted to give the wearer a relationship to their pieces and allow them to be more individual. As my line and I have grown up, the functionality has really become key.


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Gorgeous New Eco Lingerie and Corsets Are Made with Found Objects

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Portland, Oregon-based textile designer Rio Wrenn has a unique vision for lingerie, combining modern eco friendly materials and dying techniques, antique constructions and ethical manufacturing to create her line, R.A.W. "I started R.A.W. in 2007, which is inspired by vintage undergarments ranging from the 1800's to the 1950's to modern day," says Rio. Her collection of corsets, bras and undies has a special look, and with the Summer and Autumn 2010 trend of exposed undergarments, she's right on target with perfect base layers for style mavens and lingerie fans alike.


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See the Timeless Style of New Green Fashion

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Stewart + Brown has been making eco-fashion since 2002, and from the very first collection I spied in late 2004 until today, the brand has been defined by an incredible sense of classy sophistication, without ever being considered old ladyesque (though I've always felt that most of the companies' pieces, and especially it's knits, could be worn by women 16-90). The company's style has a definite California vibe (they are LA-based) but the warm knits are perfect for Northeastern winters as well. And did I mention comfy enough to wear while on a cross-country flight, but lovely enough for dinner with the parents?

As you'll see in the video tour below, the company's designers are constantly innovating with new, natural materials, like yak, hemp blends, organic cotton and Mongolian cashmere (and as described in the video, they work directly with collectives in Tibet and Mongolia to create their signature knits).

The company was also a sponsor of the Project Green Search Model competition, providing ensembles for the finalists to model as part of their photo shoots. Their Fall/Winter 2010 collection is filled with gorgeous pieces; I've picked just a few of my favorites below.


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Eliza Thermal Cardi, 100% Mongolian cashmere, $428, featured w/ the Aston Scarf (in Clove Loom print), 96% hemp, 4% Spandex, $64.00


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Sexy. Sustainable. Summer.

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The Convertible Jumper can be worn like this, or as a strapless top (shown below) or several other ways.

I had a lovely evening last week at the >Ethical Fashion Forum meetup in NYC. Hosted by the one-and-only Bahar Shahpar, I had some great discussions (some of which I'll be following up on in a future post). I also had the chance to chat with Auralis Herrero-Lugo, whose Summer collection (the eponymous Auralis) is gorgeous, ubersexy, and fabulously contrasty in black and white materials.


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Meet the Designer with an Eye for Fashion and Passion for the Environment

Sara Kirsner was like many a dissatisfied worker bee after graduating from college. Two years after finishing her degree, she remembers staring out her advertising job's office window in San Fran and feeling totally uninspired. At that moment she decided to take a risk, and applied to FIT and Parsons in New York City. Since she had been sketching clothes since she was eight and had a lifelong interest in fashion, she not only made it into school, but ended up interning at Marc Jacobs and DKNY and working in the design department of Ann Taylor.

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Sara Kirsner, designer of Doie, wearing an organic cotton dress she designed with one of her dresses in silk.

A trip with friends to Hoi An in Vietnam -- known for a plethora of tailors who will whip up one-off designs to your specifications-– gave Sara the opportunity to get some samples made, and she brought them back to NYC, creating her first collection for her label, Doie in 2005.

"I had the rest of the samples made in NYC, but just seeing something go from paper to a tangible, wearable item of clothing, gave me the push that I needed to start the line," recalls Sara.



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Eco Chick Editor Starre Vartan (that's me!) wearing an organic cotton dress by Doie.

Sara says she learned about the hazards of conventional cotton from her friend's mom, who owns vivaterra.com (an awesome website featuring eco-friendly products). "She loved my collection and asked if I could make a few pieces for her in a sustainable fabric such as bamboo or organic cotton," she says.

Having been raised by an environmentally conscious family made her sensitive to how what she did affected health and the environment. "Five of the most commonly used cotton pesticides in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are known cancer-causing chemicals and classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as Category I and II Chemicals— the most dangerous chemicals class," says Sara. After learning how environmentally disastrous conventional cotton is, "I will never go back."

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Sara's Inspiration Board for the upcoming season's designs.

Sara's designs are consistently inspired by nature (especially tropical locales) and Asia and Japan in particular. Sara says, "I am really excited about the Spring/Summer 2010 collection. It is my favorite so far! For this collection, I drew on the laid-back elegance of my California roots to create effortlessly sexy pieces that flatter a variety of body types. I tried to return to my design "roots," and used eye-catching Japanese-inspired prints with super soft bamboo jersey."

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From Doie's Fall, 2009 'Paris' collection

Her clothes are locally made in LA (where Sara now lives), which cuts down on her carbon footprint and lets her have closer control over production. Besides designing her easy-to-wear ecofashions, she supports other designers as well. "I love Teich handbags and Charmone shoes. For jewelry, I love Molly M designs -- so cool and unique! I also love Kris Nations," she says.

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Sara's grandmother Doie, (above) is one of her style icons and the line is named after her. Sara says, "Even at 90 she still has the most amazing outfits and she is always put together- even around the house! She and her friends love wearing the sweat suits that I design. They all live in Des Moines, Iowa and they are so glamorous!"

See more of Doie's designs here Spring, 2009 collection here, now on sale.


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The Perfect Little Black Dress for Any Occasion

It is only this year, my 32nd, that I have truly understood the value of the Little Black Dress. Of course I have heard the legend; what woman hasn't? This mythical raiment could be worn anywhere, tarted out or demurely cover up, achieve figure flattery whether one was surviving on a diet of tropical fruit and raw macadamia nuts or daily chocolate bars and creamy pastas nightly. A frock that would work equally well with flats or heels, could be thrown in a bag and would never wrinkle, and be made of fabric that would dry quickly after a drenching but keep you from perspiring in the blasted sun (and could even hide said dampness when it inevitably made its moist mark). And of course it had to be impossibly chic.

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Wearing my Carol Young LBD (Little Black Dress) at the Mini Exhibit at the Go Green Expo in LA.



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This Little Black Dress from the very specialized boutique, Little Black Dress Shop


Frankly I had more faith that unicorns still existed in some ruddy-mudded and tangled corner of Eastern Europe.

But! I have been around the world and (almost) back again and I'm here to tell you -- it's not a myth. Because I have found my LBD, and it performs all the impossible feats I've outlined above. Best of all, my LBD is chic enough to have garnered compliments from a properly snooty concierge in LA, my girlfriends who run the gamut from hippie to haute, my aunt who lived in Europe for ages, and not one, but two stylists!


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Bold Black and White Fashions That Are Made in America and Organic

Frei Designs continues to capture my attention, and I think you can see why, below. When I was style editing for Plenty, I chose one of their white blouses for my evening wear shoot and the quality, the unique look, the utter perfection of it's design made it a standout.

Frei's Fall/Winter 2009 collection shows a real evolution in design from their first collections, which were noteworthy. See images below and much more on their site. Annie Novotny's take on modern Victoriana (and interestingly, mourning photography) results in a dark but refined sense of dressing that has really captured a moment in time, an essence of melancholy structure that is apropos and also a bit revolutionary for the times.

Frei Is:

Made with carefully-chosen materials:

  • 80% organic
  • no agrochemicals
  • fast-renewing resources
  • low-impact or no-impact dying

Sewn in Chicago by workers who receive a fair and living wage.

Shipped using recycled materials.

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Keep Cozy with Organic Knits

If I spend a bit on any one piece of clothing this winter, it will be a gorgeous knit. I've found that over the years, the pieces I've kept the longest from the cold seasons have been sweater-dressing separates; a great wool dress, a chunky knit vest, fine-gauge tights from Germany, my favorite scarf. Below are top contenders for space in my closet.

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I love a great red sweater, and this one from Stewart & Brown has a beautiful asymmetrical button-front and a cable knit throughout. I especially like the detail at the collar and those fantastic pockets. Made from 100% Mongolian cashmere (and seen on Michelle Williams in Vogue).

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Lutz and Patmos (available at Barney's and through their own site) is synonymous with sustainable sweaterings; I heard the design team there speak a year ago and their passion for waste-free and long-lasting, high quality yarns was impressive. And their cuts and colors are that perfect cross between modern and classic that means they're wearable forever. My neck always gets cold in the Winter, even when no other part of my body is, so a chunky neckwarmer that can go as well over a thick sweater for a hike, or over pajamas when I set the thermostat low is an ideal piece. Made from 100% eco friendly Merino wool from Uruguay.

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I am in love with this vest, but like you, wonder how practical it could be for regular wear. But what is life if one is practical all the time? Some of my oddest clothes have made- and stayed- in heavy rotation. One statement piece like this one makes the rest of the ensemble simple; Made from organic wool by Thieves Boutique.


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Peek in One of LA's Hottest Green Boutiques

While visiting the City of Angels, I had a chance to stop by the Undesigned boutique, where eco designer Carol Young sells her gorgeous clothes (and accessories and shoes by other sustainable companies). Carol wasn't in the store that day, as she has recently had her first child (congrats, Carol!) but Alexandria See, a reuse-oriented designer herself, was there to answer my myriad questions.

I tried on a number of pieces, all of which are made from factory-second materials. This means that the fabrics were used by larger clothing manufacturers and these extras would otherwise have been thrown away. Carol Young uses these materials (mostly from high-end designers) to create her smaller-batch designs.

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Having written about Carol's designs previously, it was a treat to get to try on and experience her whole line; I ended up buying the perfect black travel dress (pre-wrinkled and washable in cold water, with an edgy but comfortable crinkle around the neckline and hem), the Moth Microfiber Cowlneck has already been dressed up (lovely dinner) and down (thrown over my bikini at the beach) and worn about 10 times in three weeks. I also found a grey and black striped wrap/scarf that's the perfect layering piece on the sale rack.

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Alexandria See, showing me around the store.

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The exposed pocket is a classic Carol Young design motif, on a skirt that can be gathered at each side, for a shorter look, or left longer.


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Raleigh Denim's Hot Designer Jeans Showcase Style and Sustainability

Raleigh Denim Co-founders Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko

Raleigh Denim Co-founders Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko

All of a sudden, it seems quality and detail are the new buzzwords in the fashion world. After years of fast fashion ruling the runways and money-making trumping sanity for designers, negative environmental impacts, and questionable labor practices, the tide has begun to turn. Thanks to the work of some dedicated designers and industry advocates, the coming decade in the fashion world will show a return to true creativity that respects both human beings and design in the quest to clothe us.

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Raleigh Denim's women's styles

Raleigh Denim is a proud part of this transition, creating quality, small-batch denim in true American style, which is about attention to detail, craft and respect for history rather than adding to the thousands of throw-away clothes that end up in American landfills every year.

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Raleigh Denim's signature red stitching

I was lucky enough to visit Raleigh Denim's headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina not too long ago, and got a fantastic tour of the design and production facilities. Victor Lytvinenko and his wife and co-founder Sarah do all the designing and most of the sewing of each pair of jeans, using mostly forgotten stitching techniques that make each pair they create both personal and interesting.


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The Andean Collection: Sustainable and Sharp Accessories That Give Back

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Recently, I wrote about how gorgeous and sustainable tagua nuts are; a renewable resource from the rainforest, tagua nuts make unique jewelry and accessories that also enable the local people from the Amazon region to earn a fair wage without cutting down acres of forest to plant crops there (once the topsoil is used for agriculture for a few years, desertification sets in, and rainforest is lost forever). The Andean Collection's colorful pieces pictured on this page are all made from tagua nuts and according to the site, "In addition to being paid fair wages, our artisans share in the profits of the company as partial owners of The Andean Collection."

Founded by Manhattanite Amanda Judge, the Andean Collection is not only Fair Trade, but a wholly green company, all the way down to the nitty gritty:

Product tags and marketing materials are printed on recycled paper, and we continually strive to reduce our carbon footprint. In our offices, we take great efforts to conserve resources, including using energy efficient lighting and of course, recycling.
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Nicole Bridger's Eco Fashion from the Heart: Autumn, 2009 Collection

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Visceral White Shirt Lust: the perfectly overlong sleeves, the gently gathered neckline (oh-so-flattering) and the dropped armholes. It couldn't be any better.

"I called this season 'perspective,' " says Canadian eco fashion designer Nicole Bridger, of her Autumn, 2009 collection. This past year has shifted the lens for many of us, and it is a designer's job to echo what's happening both culturally and personally in her creations, which Nicole has done beautifully.

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Calls to mind evenings by the fire, while reading A.S. Byatt's Possession and drinking Earl Grey. Pairs wonderfully with a white button-down as shown here.

"I realized I'm all about neutrals, greys, creams, and browns [this year]. They just work and it's what I like," says the designer. These colors are also about sobriety and will stand the test of time; pairing them with a shock of color (a scarf or bold bracelet) will anchor them well in this Fall's styles.

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Leggings, an oversize shirt and biker boots. What could be more sublimely simple for Autumn dressing?

"The world is a beautiful place and I'm inspired by things around me, things I see when I travel, and nature," Nicole explains about her latest collection. She's not only inspired by the natural world, she keeps her impact on the planet in mind at all times. Her entire collection is made of sustainable organic fabrics and manufactured ethically.


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Starre Vartan

Starre Vartan

Starre Vartan is founder and editor of Eco-Chick.com, a blog for hip, environmentally savvy young women, and is a freelance writer. read full bio.
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