Going green with style

Margaret Thompson

Fashion students design organic line

Organic labels aren’t just for food anymore. Students are looking for a more eco-friendly clothing solution as well.

Laura Toomey and Rachel Genderson, both junior fashion merchandising majors, designed their own organic line of clothing for a product development class last semester in Florence.

The class taught the students “all the steps to put a line of clothing together,” Genderson said.

Genderson, Toomey and three other students decided to make everything in their line either organic or sustainable.

Toomey explained that sustainable clothing is made from plants that have either not been harmed by chemicals or are recycled materials. Organic clothing, also called eco-friendly clothing, falls into this category. It is made from hemp, bamboo, cotton and other plants grown without pesticides.

The fabric must be tested to meet very specific government standards, Toomey said.

She said when the students designed their line, called Allora, they planned to use fabric from an organic certified Web site.

The group produced a prototype by altering an organic cotton t-shirt from American Apparel.

“The chemicals used for growing cotton affect the soil and pollute the air,” Genderson said.

“Organic is beneficial to the environment; beneficial to farmers, their families and their communities and gives added value for retailers,” according to the Organic Exchange Web site.

Toomey and Genderson also said organic fabric is softer and because it is made without the use of pesticides, it is also better for your skin.

Genderson said she tries to wear organic clothing and is “conscious of the fibers” in the clothing she buys but said, “it is hard on a college budget.”

Organic clothing can be more expensive than typical clothing. For example, organic t-shirts cost around $20 at Nordstom and American Apparel compared to a non-organic t-shirt for $5 at Old Navy.

“The more people use (organic clothing), the less expensive it gets,” said Genderson.

Both Toomey and Genderson agree organic clothing is not as readily available in the Midwest, as it is on the coasts where they are from.

Some stores, such as Esperanza Threads in Cleveland and Organics Beyond in Poland are committed to only selling organic clothing.

Department stores, including Nordstom and Kohls, are also beginning to offer organic lines in their stores.

Genderson said when it comes down to it, the impact of buying organic outweighs the increased price.

Contact features correspondent Margaret Thompson

at [email protected].