Eviana Hartman is only 33 but has already co-authored a DIY fashion book, worked as a top fashion journalist for Nylon and Vogue and produced the eco-friendly clothing line Bodkin, winner of the 2009 Ecco Domani Sustainable Design Award. Not content to rest on her laurels, Hartman has now partnering with German sustainable clothing line hessnatur to produce the capsule collection hessnatur by Eviana Hartman, an array of gorgeous, versatile and surprisingly affordable clothing.
We spoke with Eviana about her new collaboration, what inspires her eco-passion and how consumers can put their money where the sustainability is.
How did you become involved in the eco-friendly clothing movement?
I first became interested in sustainability in college when I took a class taught by William McDonough, the first "green architect" and co-author of the influential book Cradle to Cradle. His class opened my eyes to the invisible reality of the way we consume.
When I became the fashion features editor at Nylon, environmentalism was becoming more widely accepted, thanks to Al Gore. I felt compelled to participate. I started writing about new ideas in sustainability for the Washington Post.
As a freelance writer, I shared an office with my designer friend Samantha. We'd talked about making a few items of clothing together, and did, and named the line Bodkin. I took over the fledgling company and devoted myself to it full-time.
How did you come to collaborate with hessnatur?
Last summer, I was approached by hessnatur. We met in my studio in Brooklyn and found we shared many ideas, not just about the importance of sustainability but about the troubling nature of contemporary fashion culture and a desire to make useful clothing -- not "capital-F fashion."
What makes hessnatur different than other eco lines?
Of course it's the oldest and largest sustainable clothing company, but it's unique in that it has established viable and transparent sourcing and production networks. They have an incredibly thorough system in place to ensure fair working conditions and the cleanest possible textiles. It is one of the first apparel companies to become certified as a B Corporation.
Every fabric is tested by scientists to make sure it's free of chemicals. They are living proof that organic clothing can be affordable, high in quality, and viable on a large scale. They also create exciting community development projects, such as an organic cotton farming initiative in Burkina Faso. Their company culture is also admirable -- you see it in everything from the organic food in the cafeteria to the sustainably built, A/C-free headquarters designed to maximize light and views and to promote employees' happiness.
Why should people care about sustainable clothing?
The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and the garment industry one of the most unjust. Clothing affects everyone, and it disproportionately affects women and poor communities. Thirty million people worldwide work in the industry. And everybody wears clothing, so it's not a frivolous topic. Even if you don't care about fashion, you should care about the origins of your apparel.
What do you think stops people from being more committed to eco-friendly clothing?
I think people aren't finding enough truly great design that's produced sustainably. People care first and foremost about looking good, and that still drives purchasing decisions. Luckily, more and more good options are becoming available.
Do you have any tips to help consumers make sure they're getting truly sustainable clothing?
Nothing is 100% perfect, but it's good to support companies like hessnatur that are working to improve the environmental and labor conditions in the garment and textile industries. I like to approach this from the angle of how we shop and wear things.
Don't assume that just because something has nature imagery on the label, it's sustainable. Read the fine print. Read the content label and find out where it was made. Smell it. Does it smell like chemicals? Then it's probably not "eco."
If you're shopping at a large chain store, don't assume that something is 100% organic just because it says "organic." Some "organic" textiles advertised by fast-fashion chains are only 5% organic.
Better yet, don't shop at large chain stores that peddle cheap, trendy crap. Think quality over quantity. Stop buying so much junk! You'll look more stylish if you do so.
Seek out independent and sustainability-minded labels, and learn about how they do business. Choose to spend your dollars on companies that are creating fair jobs and supporting organic agriculture.
No item of clothing is perfectly sustainable -- everything has a carbon footprint, and everything requires natural resources to be produced. Some fibers are harder to find in organic versions than others. Consider everything that went into an item. What is the fabric? Where was it made? Who made it? What do you know about the company? And then consider the item itself. Will you wear it for a long time? Is it useful? Is it versatile?
Check out some of Eviana's hottest looks for fall.
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