Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sofia Style: Mystical Mountain Simplicity

photo credit: E. Grigorieva

This is the soft summertime look that I am going for today. After visiting Gela, the reputed birthplace of Orpheus in the Rhodope Mountains yesterday, mystical charm and nature-inspired simplicity is in the air. Perhaps I will return to Gela next weekend for the bagpipes festival and to see if I might catch a glimpse of the shades of Orpheus.

top image via The Shiny Squirrel; wildflowers photo by Abigail Doan;
and Gela with mist photo via Hotel Villa Gella / Natalie Tkachuk

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cruelty Free Friday: New Directions In Vegan Style

Collina Strada 'Sierra Bag' made exclusively for Kaight NYC

There were some exciting developments in vegan style and animal friendly accessorizing this past week. Kaight NYC has officially announced their latest collaboration with Collina Strada. The new 'Sierra Bag' (pictured above) is made from recycled canvas and this luxe purple vegan leather. Made in NYC. How gorgeous can you get?

Elvis & Kresse 'Box Bag' exquisitely crafted out of recycled fire hose

Jennifer Barckley of Organic Girly reports that "the story with Elvis & Kresse began in 2005 when Kresse Wesling, a Canadian-turned-British waste junkie met the London Fire Brigade. Kresse immediately fell in love with the dirty, decommissioned fire hoses that had actively served thousands of people, and she recognized a big problem. “Fire hose has a double walled nitrile rubber jacket.  Inside there is a nylon, fibrous core.  Because of this core, you can’t shred it; you can’t melt it down; and you can’t make new hose,” Wesling fervently describes. “It just goes to landfill, and it just goes to waste.”  And so she began, along with her partner Elvis, transforming the fire hose into luxe craftsmanship. Other rescued materials the design duo re-fashions include waste coffee sacks, tea sacks, scrap sail cloth, parachute silk and used air traffic control flight strips."

A selection of Elvis & Kresse lifestyle accessories are currently available in the U.S. and Canada on the luxe design site, thru Saturday, July 30th at 11 am EST.

You can follow Jennifer Barckley @OR_GANIC on Twitter 

The lovely Kestrel Jenkins of Ecouterre reported on Free People's new vegan leather collection earlier this week. This faux leather design is so timeless and versatile. A great investment piece for fashion and animal lovers everywhere.

Vegan designs just keeps getting better. Humane and waste-free.
This is the future of fashion. This is what real women want and demand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sofia Style: Loup Charmant Grounded Chic

Summer time in Sofia is about cool minimalist geometry and new angles on life. I spend a lot of time each day walking through different neighborhoods with the twins and our dog, Finn. I try to simply allow things to come into focus and meld together as they cross my path. I have to be honest and confess that I have been wearing this black Loup Charmant organic cotton slip a lot – either layered over cropped leggings or as a shift on hot summer days.

I also wear it in the garden to weed in my little plot outside our building as well as on the terrace at night when I open a bottle of good red wine. I have never had a piece of clothing that allows me to dream so much while remaining grounded and at peace.

Thanks, Kee Edwards, for making such a pure and simple designs for women to celebrate who they really are. I love all of my Loup Charmant pieces. (*Necklace is my own creation made on the fly out of ethnic beads, broken crystal chandelier parts, and waxed linen thread).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ahkun Summer Pop Up In NYC This Weekend

Afia 'Gem Gown' with artisan-made textiles sourced from Ghana

Detail of a textile from Ghana featured in the Afia Collection

Ahkun, a New York City nonprofit, wants to prove that socially responsible style can be both fashionable and affordable. On July 30 and 31, Ahkun will host a pop-up sale event in NYC featuring carefully curated clothing and accessories from independent designers, sustainable brands, and fair trade organizations. Ten percent of sales will be contributed to artisans abroad through the micro-lending website Kiva.
No-waste, hand-woven silk ikat skirt from Study NY
Sustainably produced in New York City

Participants include: Afia by Meghan Sebold, a sustainable women's apparel line that utilizes textiles from Ghana; Study NY by Tara St. James, winner of the 2011 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for Sustainable Design; Indego Africa, a social enterprise that partners with women artisans in Rwanda on products for brands like Nicole Miller and Anthropologie; and Made by Survivors, a nonprofit that provides survivors of sex trafficking with employment and education.
Zero-waste 'Chavela Bag' by Viva La Vida NY
Other pop-up vendors include: Auralis Studio, Holstee, Lolafalk, Lynore Routte, Simply Nu, Tompkins Point Apparel and Viva La Vida NY.
You can RSVP for the event via Ahkun's Facebook page or simply stop by from 11am to 6pm at the Lower East Side Girls Club at 56 East 1st Street in Lower Manhattan.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cruelty Free Friday: Pure Whippet Love

Finn, our whippet, doing what he does best, meditating and looking elegant

Before we had twins boys, my husband and I peacefully spent time with a beautiful and athletic whippet named Finn (pictured above). We spent over eight years with this stunning and enlightened being, and we are fortunate to still have Finn as the wise pillar of our family as he turns twelve years old this August. 
Finn REM dreaming

Having a whippet around you all of the time is a dreamy and expansive experience. Strict rules about no dogs on the bed, in the bed, or on every holiday with you shift to the back burner. Whippets want to be with you all of the time – not in a clingy manner, but rather as a trusted confidante or soul mate during both the celebratory and the tough times. I did not have children for close to ten years, and there was not a moment when Finn was not there with me after every doctor's visit and challenging moment in my journey to motherhood. For this, I will be indebted to him forever. He has been my solid rock and my touchstone for compassion.

Finn taking a nap in Bulgaria

I wanted to share these personal sentiments for my Cruelty Free Friday post, because even though Finn was not a rescued whippet, he was spared a life as a traveling show dog and litter misfit of sorts. People approach us all of the time about whether he was rescued, and this always brings a glimmer of hope that folks are indeed aware of the plight of retired racing whippets and greyhounds. I was looking through some of the photos on Jo-Anne McArthur's amazing site, We Animals, last night, and the images of greyhound racing brought tears to my eyes. Their lives are certainly far from the life that Finn has led. 

As mentioned before, Jo-Anne McArthur is involved with the extremely vital documentary film and multimedia project, The Ghosts in Our Machine. The team has met their fundraising goal, but any contributions made during the remaining eighteen hours will go towards, We Animals. I will be making  a contribution on Finn's behalf, as he has indeed been central in our lives and not for a moment invisible. I wish that this was the case for so many other beings we share the planet with. Finn, we love you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rethinking Haute Couture: One More Time

Azzedine Alaïa Fall 2011 (photo: / the designer)

Is Haute Couture the New Diversity in Fashion? Provocative question, I know. Read more in my recent article for EcoSalon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summertime in Sofia: KAYU Sunglasses

Some friends have expressed concern that I have runaway from home by slipping away to Sofia this summer, so I decided to occasionally post photos of how happy I am here, and how I choose to wear some of the great fashion designs that I packed or acquire during my travels.

I recently started wearing these KAYU Rawa bamboo sunglasses, as they are so lightweight and provide lots of coverage for my sun-kissed face. They are larger than I usually like my lenses to be, but now that I have been wearing them for awhile, the frames feel like a nice layer of protection. I also like the soft natural hue with my skin tone. Another reason to feel good about KAYU? For every pair of sunglasses purchased, KAYU donates US $20 to fund one sight-restoring surgery in the developing world. True global design vision – makes me even happier.

More summer style photos from Sofia to come / xx

Monday, July 18, 2011

Here Today Here Tomorrow Creative Summer Sundays

The super cool art/design/fashion team at Here Today Here Tomorrow in London is currently hosting their Creative Summer Sundays, a series of practical workshops throughout July and August. Hands-on activities and DIY initiatives include revamp your wardrobe, batik and hand-dying, a clothes rustle swap, a 'Dinner to Dye For' ala the Permacouture Institute, and loads of sustainable wardrobe projects. Visit the Here Today Here Tomorrow blog for more details and registration information. 

*Special note regarding the Sunday, July 31st 'DINNER TO DYE FOR' 

"Join us for an afternoon workshop of natural dyeing, cocktails, nibbles and dessert, making use of London’s Summer botanicals. Guests learn how to dye with seasonal plants and create a silk scarf as well as experience a colourful and delicious menu crafted from the same ingredients."
Organizer: Katelyn Toth-Fejel of the Permacouture Institute
Venue: HTHT, 30a Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1 4AU
Date: Sunday 31st July, 6.30pm – 10pm
Fee: £40 (includes Dinner and Silk Scarf) – 50% booking deposit required. Availability: 6 places.

Top Photo Credit: Tristan Davison  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Post-Fashion Week Musings from Berlin: Schmidttakahashi Collections

Schmidttakahashi was one of writer Emilie Florenkowsky's favorite picks from the Green Showroom at Berlin Fashion Week. You can read more about Emilie's thoughts on this Berlin-based design duo in her previous post for Ecco*Eco. All photos courtesy of Mueller & Zenone PR.

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky has lived in Berlin since 2005. Check out her online journal of art, science and all points in between, META magazine

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cruelty Free Friday: Melissa Patchuli II Heels

I will not tell a lie. Bulgarian women really know how to rock some killer heels. I have not yet mastered tottering over the surface of cobbled city streets here in Sofia nor do I have the impeccable pedicure that merits showing off my digits in stilettos. Given my 'predicament', I was instantly drawn to these latest vegan show stoppers by Melissa Shoes.

The Melissa Patchuli is available at Kaight NYC and features a sexy 4" wedge heel with 1" platform and flirty peep-toe plus ankle strap. This new subtle lavender hue with brown stripe seems as if it would be flattering on either fair-skinned or bronzed gams. 

Each pair is crafted from 100% recyclable, technologically-engineered injected thermoplastic that easily molds to feet for maximum comfort. Hypoallergenic, breathable and odorless. A huge step forward in cruelty free fashion for the animal kingdom as well as women who want to be able to go the distance in high style.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Post-Fashion Week Musings from Berlin: Part 2

schmidttakahashi FW11/12 (image courtesy of Mueller & Zenone PR)

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky provides Ecco*Eco readers with a three part review of last week's premiere green fashion event in Berlin, the Green Showroom.

The Dutch/Portuguese label Elementum is geared toward zero waste by employing the minimum cuts to extract the maximum number of garments from tubular cloth. This harkens back to Issey Miyake's A-Poc (acronym for a piece of cloth) concept label from 1999 (above image) and its computer-programmed manufacture of continuous fabric tubes containing finished garments. Needing only to be snipped out according to the wearer's desired length, Miyake's foresight completely removes factory labor from the production equation. 

I was thrilled to see a few designers challenging consumer behavior by conjuring up solutions for reuse and upcycling. Both Sakina M'sa Paris and Berlin's schmidttakahashi are cohorts and followers of re-worked vintage guru Andrea Crews, whose projects and performances with recycling fashion have earned her cult status. The former's "Blue Line" pays homage to the working class with their take on practical-chic. Here, Sakina M'sa designer displays a cocktail dress and blazer derived from typical, royal blue workers' uniforms, which she collects from various institutions and unions in Paris, cleans and stitches into huge quilt-like panels. 

This patchwork yields unique pieces ranging from winter coats to tote bags – each combining highly tailored looks with an element of history and utilitarianism and, of course, durability.

The highlight of my visit to the Green Showroom was meeting design duo schmidttakahashi - a living metaphor for patchwork. Hailing from Tajikistan and Japan, Eugenie Schmidt and Mariko Takahashi met in Berlin, a mix-and-match city in its own right and a place instilled with a spirit of resourcefulness and DIY – perhaps a remnant of the not-too-distant GDR era. Against this backdrop, schmidttakahashi launched their "Reanimation" line in 2010. These totes illustrate their circular system of 'working with what you've got'.

Consumers are invited to take an active part in tracing the life cycle of clothes. A donation box is placed at like-minded boutiques internationally and a code is then allocated to each donated article of clothing, allowing the material to be tracked to its new 'reanimated' designs. These pieces are meant to be re-donated and re-made again and again. In the process a performative act transpires, encouraging us all to consider the life span of the objects surrounding us. The concept is a bit of a novelty and not yet foolproof, but food for thought, nonetheless. Plus, the spring/summer collection is characterized by a lovely application of macramé in the joining of materials. I think they have succeeded in raising the aesthetic bar and defying connotations surrounding 'used garments'. Alongside the search for 'greener' materials, I welcome more concepts for coming to terms with our waste and working with what we have.

Anyone interested in continuing to turn a profit in the fashion industry will also have to explore groundbreaking solutions and revelations. UK nonprofit Forum for the Future presents a fascinating report, outlining scenarios of the fashion world in 2025, when utter resource shortages met with explosions in costs and populations will require designers to create accordingly. I wonder what role future fashion weeks will play in such a landscape …

Stay tuned for part three of Emilie's review.

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky has lived in Berlin since 2005. Check out her online journal of art, science and all points in between, META magazine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Post-Fashion Week Musings from Berlin: Part 1

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky provides Ecco*Eco readers with a three part review of last week's premiere green fashion event in Berlin. (above image: Asandri turban-esque headwear and "travel-inspired" prints, made in Europe)

Last week marked the fifth year of Berlin Fashion Week and the third year of a strong eco presence among the festivities. I visited the Green Showroom, which has become the salon of all things grüne Mode (green fashion) in the German capital. Less in search of eco fashion than of eco fashion business, my visit was about observing how sustainability is finding a home within the industry in Europe. The scene at the swank Hotel Adlon Kempinski – third-time home of the Green Showroom – was more establishment than avant-garde. I took this as a herald for the near future – more brands adopting better practices, catering to a new client base and perpetuating business as usual. New materials and production guidelines are achieving ever more mainstream appeal. 

Here are some vignettes from the Green Showroom:

Studio Ecocentric's collection "Für Immer" (forever) interprets classics from the 30s to the 70s, creating wardrobe staples from materials like plant-dyed wild silk, produced in northern India by fellow-Berlin textile agency Lebenskleidung.

Salmon leather, a re-purposed by-product of the fishing industry, adds an edge to the timeless shoe designs of Hamburg's Alina Schuerfeld

Dutch label Jux frees hemp from any leftover hippie connotations and utilizes soy and seagrass fibers for trendy basics like sweater sets and tunics. This perforated seagrass fabric feels as light and supple as it looks. 

Mass producer of costume trinkets, BlackBead Jewellery is exploring alternatives to plastics in their range of petroleum-free, compostable baubles. "Liquid wood" bangles are molded from the pulp of post-consumer paper waste. 

All positive signs of eco fashion's potential for becoming business as usual. But it is actually those doing business as un-usual that will affect real change at the consciousness-changing level. The influence of early "better fashion" luminaries was evident at the trade fair. Katharine Hamnett's ethical slogan t-shirts from the '80s are referenced in "Collection of Hope", the charity label created by students of ESMOD Berlin International University of Fashion.

Jux also tries their hand at message making by paying tribute to their producers…or to their own fair trade practices, depending on one's outlook. 

Stay tuned for part two of Emilie's review tomorrow.

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky has lived in Berlin since 2005. Check out her online journal of art, science and all points in between, META magazine

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Julia Ramsey Knit Installation at the Textile Arts Center

Installation detail of Julia Ramsey's 'Engaged' knit art (photo: Joetta Maue)

Congratulations to artist/designer Julia Ramsey for the completion of her residency at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn. I love this image featured in Joetta Maue's Thread Reviews write up on the Textile Arts Center's blog. Perhaps Julia is suggesting that we need to become further engaged with our surroundings and environment by allowing our materials and methods to extend into uncharted, uncorseted, and organic territory? The visual and emotional effect is indeed engaging and stunning.

Read more about Julia's knitwear design work in my article on EcoSalon.