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Saving The Planet, One Armani Hemp Suit At A Time

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
As eco-style becomes more Gucci than granola, an internationally renowned fashion institution has announced plans to start a school dedicated to bringing sustainability to the stiletto set.

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), set to open next April, will reconcile high style with environmental ethics through its unique educational curriculum.

Inspired by the success top designers are finding with earth-friendly apparel, the CSF, an initiative of the London College of Fashion in Britain, will offer a master's degree in sustainable fashion as well as lectures, undergrad courses and opportunities for third-party partnerships focused on the multibillion-dollar design niche.

"Customers are asking questions as to what's the history of this article clothing, who made it, how many air miles did it travel, what's its provenance?" says Nina Baldwin, spokeswoman for the CSF.

"As an educational establishment, I think we're best-placed to identify what's going on within the sector, what people's attitudes are, the levels of industry involvement -- we're specifically looking at design, manufacturing, wholesale and retail -- the level of engagement and any barriers to engagement." The biggest foreseeable barrier, of course, is the possibility that today's hip platitudes about green being "the new black" will soon become outmoded.

"We need to get the message across to consumers that this isn't a passing fad, this is something we need to be considering long term," says Ms. Baldwin. "But even if it is a trend, let's just ride on that wave and see where we can get with it."

The high-fashion college and its message of sustainability feeds into a growing market phenomenon you might call conspicuous conservation: saving the planet, one Armani hemp suit at a time.

Earlier this year, for instance, Canadian fashionistas began lining up outside Holt Renfrew the night before the store introduced Anja Hindmarch's much-hyped "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" canvas totes. The entire stock sold out within minutes.

Barbara Atkin, the corporation's fashion director, admits most buyers probably didn't care about the ecological factor so much as the fact it was a limited-edition bag seen dangling on the arms of Reese Witherspoon and Keira Knightley.

"I think you change social consciousness through those who can afford sustainable fashion by making it a status thing," says Ms. Atkin, who's in the process of evaluating the ecological and ethical trade practices of Holt's vendors.

"The consumer talks about (the environment) and is aware of it, but whether they're doing anything about it is another thing."

The 2007 Landor Associates' Green Brands survey of 1,504 people suggests more than a quarter of U.S. adults are "green hypocrites." That is, chequebook environmentalists who support the eco-friendly practices of companies but do little or nothing to help the planet in their own lives.

The intention to support green initiatives, however, is widespread. According to a 1,013-person Environics survey released earlier this year, two-thirds of Canadian consumers would switch their spending to companies that have demonstrated a commitment to the environment.

Michael Kalmanovitch, owner of Earth's General Store in Edmonton, is happy about the recent surge of support, but he's suspicious about people's motivations.

"It's like the display of a blue bag that says to people, 'We recycle in our house,' even if recycling is just another way to feel good about overconsuming," says Mr. Kalmanovitch, an activist for 16 years.

"If you do need another pair of jeans, then yes, look for those environmental options. But some people are buying these (eco-clothes) just because they're a prestige thing."

Whether opening your wallet for sound ethics or eco-narcissism, there's no shortage of sustainable apparel in boutiques and department stores across Canada.

Levi's recently introduced organic jeans. Armani retails hemp suits and biodegradable knitwear. Gucci has straw-and-bamboo shoes made from renewable materials. Stella McCartney offers everything from organic skincare to animal-friendly handbags.

There are even enviro-options for infants, as seen in the non-toxic and organic offerings sold through the Calgary-based website GollyGeezBaby.com.

"I always try to source organic, whether it's for myself or for my business. I'll pay that extra money," says site founder Melanie Hampson, an Ontario native married to an environmental scientist.

Since she launched GollyGeezBaby in June, the eco-friendly section of the site has represented the bulk of her sales.

"I don't know that it's about (a customer seeking) social status," says Ms. Hampson. "I think it's just an educated mother knowing that she's making a difference."

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Misty Harris
Contact: canada.com
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Website: Saving the planet, one Armani hemp suit at a time
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