I'm too sexy for this footprint: Eco-designers take on fashion's carbon footprint

What does fashion have to do with climate change? When you have new "It: bags and shoes coming out every season, made with toxic dyes, often with leather, flown and driven to stores across the globe, it's safe to say fashion's carbon footprint is a size XXXL.

A growing number of eco-designers are trying to change all that, by using production processes that are gentler on the environment and all natural materials, such as hemp and cotton. (Watch the video below -- this is not your mother's hemp.) And their pioneering efforts are making an impact on the industry as a whole. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

On Tuesday night during New York's Spring 2010 Fashion Week, The Green Shows feted Tiffany & Co. for switching its iconic pale blue shopping bags to environmentally-certified recycled paper versus the rainforest-endangering variety from Indonesia, the largest producer of luxury shopping bags and the third largest contributor to climate change because of its rapid deforestation.

Tiffany & Co. C.E.O. Michael J. Kowalski said it was easy to make the switch, and that more designers need to follow suit -- it's simply an issue of awareness. "Industry has a leadership role to play that requires a social license to operate," says Kowalski. "We try to do what we can in our own sphere of influence." That includes addressing the issue with other members of Jewelers of America, as Kowalski plans to do.

Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network, says Indonesia pollutes more than the entire transport sector in the U.S.-- all trains, plains, and automobiles combined -- due to its deforestation, fueled on by one of its biggest clients -- the fashion industry.

"Fashion should be the trendsetter," says Cortesi, who says major designers will find protesters outside their stores if they don't switch to using shopping bags made out of recycled paper and boycott Indonesia's deforestation.

Even mogul designer Tommy Hilfiger, who Walletpop spoke with for the opening of his first flagship store in New York, has joined the bandwagon and switched his bags to certified eco-friendly.

"It's so complicated. There's half a billion people in the world who depend on the garment industry," says famed plus-size model, Kate Dillon, an advocate for socially-responsible industry practices.

The Green Shows commenced on Wednesday, with New York designer Bahar Shahpar, owner of The Four Hundred, an eco-designer showroom and consultancy. True to eco-fashion going against the grain, Shahpar had Ashley Dupré, Eliot Spitzer's infamous call girl, walk in her show, garnering lots of buzz, and yoga-activist, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in the audience. English designer Isobel Davies of Izzy Lane, a celebrated animal rights leader, showed her adorable collection of autumnal wool skirts and sweaters while remaining conspicuously absent -- Davies forsook flying and stayed in London.
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