Eco-Labels Showing Us How It’s Done (Part I of IV)

In the run-up to Earth Day, we asked Joshua Katcher—founder of, “a resource for ethically handsome men”—to give us twenty hot eco-names to watch. Here, the first of four parts…

Cargo pants, slogan tees, Birkenstocks. Let’s face it, people who care about the ecosystem, animals and workers’ rights aren’t typically celebrated for their sartorial poise. Likewise, most designers—with their reliance on fur coats, leather everything, toxic cotton, sweatshops—aren’t typically known for their environmental empathy. There is, however, a new breed of designer who can: foster relationships with organic cotton farmers in developing countries; turn old television sets into jaw-dropping shoes; invest in research and development of warm, biodegradable, recycled, cruelty-free textiles; challenge the tragic and deadly credo set by heritage brands by using Tencel, Lenpur, hemp, recycled fabrics, faux fur and soda-bottle ultrasuede. These iconoclasts are redefining cool and reviving the lost art of dressing like a dissident…

Vaute Couture
Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart is an eco-designer who dreamed big. Her line went from a fantasy—i.e. eco, vegan, gorgeous—to reality. Her winter coats can handle Chicago in February and look as great as they are warm and ethical, made 100% cruelty-free and fair-labor. Vaute Couture, which took over eight months of fabric research and development, launched just last year, but has already garnered a host of celeb fanatics, from Emily Deschanel to Alicia Silverstone and Ginnifer Goodwin. A men’s line will launch August 2010.

Olsen Haus
Shoe designer Elizabeth Olsen has one simple motto: look amazing while being an amazing human being. With her four-inch heels, the former creative director of Tommy Hilfiger is trampling the tired crunchy-hippie cliche and is having a go at the disastrous leather industry. Walking around on recycled TVs and soda bottles-cum-ultrasuede might not sound glamorous, but one look at these vegan shoes and you’ll be talking the talk and walking the walk. Continually researching the most ethical and sustainable materials and methods, Olsen Haus is in it for more than vanity.

Study by Tara St. James
Cutting-edge eco-fabrics with a dash of art equals Williamsburg’s own Study by Tara St. James. Formely of Covet, Tara’s newest incarnation, Study, starts with a visionary pattern and ends with a minimal-waste garment made from thoughtful fabrics and processes, sometimes even diverting waste from other designers at her factory. Tara’s vision is a future where fashion production has zero waste—and everyone involved benefits. This is the future of fabric consumption.

Matt & Nat
Inder Bedi’s bags are both seductive and functional. The line is 100% leather-free, but this isn’t the chintzy faux kind tourists buy on Canal Street. The bags are supple, strong and head-turning. Since livestock production is the greatest single cause of greenhouse gas emissions, products like leather can never be green, which puts Matt & Nat it in a class above animal-based accessories. Each bag is lined with a faux-suede made from recycled water bottles and, design-wise, the latest collection is like a glam-rock biker gone good. This pioneer began his journey in 1991 with a challenge to go vegetarian, which has resulted in one of the most sought-after accessory lines around—proof there is an escape from Big Leather.

Culturata’s mission of sartorial sustainability combined with traditional Italian tailoring and craftmanship has produced a collection of handsome, button-down shirts for the office, party or red carpet. While conventional cotton has been called “one of the most staggering disasters of the twentieth century” by the United Nations, designers like Culturata opt for organically grown cotton. The man who opts for Culturata is as smart as he is fetching. 

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