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

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


As we approach Earth Day, we must ask ourselves if we’re actively contributing to the world we want to live in, or if we are just sitting back, taking orders and hoping that the decision-makers who reap the benefits of our current economic model are intelligent enough, compassionate enough, brave enough to stop a sinking ship. Most economists believe that resources are infinite, and that infinite growth is possible, but we know better. So why aren’t we stopping them?

These ardent designers have nothing financial to gain by taking the hard road. Yet, when confronted with the decision to either spend a lot of money on ethical materials and processes, or go with cheap labor and materials so devastating to workers, animals and delicate habitats, most designers opt for the economically advantageous option. If fashion, as a form of visual and functional art, is to be sustainable, a lot has to change. It requires accountability, transparency, third-party analyzing and certification of labor conditions, environmental impact and animal welfare. Most of all, there has got to be financial incentive for designers. Because, on the other end, organizations like Saga Furs court young designers by wining and dining them, giving them free materials to work with, not to mention money to include the deadly products in their collections.

The practices that the following designers, often known as the fourth sector (a hybrid between the for-profit and non-profit sectors), threaten to expose have mainstream businesses and media clamoring to paint them as killjoys, party-poopers and zealots. The battle cry of self-gratification, supported by the ease of apathy and demand for cheap production is a formula that has worked its black magic for decades. Those benefiting from it will not die a quiet death, but rest assured, they are facing a growing army…

Kuyichi
Kuyichi offers quintessential and timeless garments that anyone with a love for meticulously constructed denim would want to invest in. Kuyichi was also the first brand to introduce organic denim to the fashion world. When the Dutch NGO Solaridad started developing organic cotton in Peru, no denim lines were interested in utilizing the incredible material, so Solaridad started their own denim line. But they didn’t stop there; recycled plastic bottles, hemp, Lenpur, linen, spare and recycled cotton, Tencel, bamboo, natural dyes and other sustainable fabrics and methods are continually being added to the mix. On top of that, their labor standards are approved by Made-by, SA8000, Fairwear, BSCI and Wrap. Kuyichi is a force to be reckoned with. More lines should take its lead.

Cri De Coeur
A “cry from the heart” is something we can all benefit from. Gina Ferraraccio’s line, started in 2007, channels that passion for change and combines it with wearable, modern sophistication, rich colors and scrupulous detailing. With experience at Anna Sui, Bergdorf Goodman and over five years in lingerie design, Gina is no stranger to capturing what women want and pairing it with a vegan, environmental and uncompromising ethic.

Samantha & Patrick Pleet
Organic cotton twill and canvas go a long way. Samantha and Patrick Pleet’s nostalgic dresses, whimsical jumpers and tailored suits combine a rock-and-roll edge with a bucolic softness. That’s why bands like Au Revoir Simone, Chairlift, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Apache Beat get in line to be styled by Samantha. At only 27, Ms. Pleet received a 2009 Ecco Domani Sustainability Award for her work, and continues to bring a discerning eye to both the aesthetics and substance behind sustainable fashion.

NOHARM
Europe has an historical relationship with well-cobbled men’s shoes, so it’s no surprise that the craftsmanship of the UK’s NOHARM is classic and uncompromising. Handcrafted in Italy under fair-labor conditions, certified by the Vegan Society as 100% cruelty-free and eco-conscious, the shoes look as amazing as their planet-saving efforts. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Raising animals for food and fiber (leather, wool, etc.) is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Going leather-free has never been more urgent, but gentlemen need not compromise their style, thanks to companies like NOHARM.

The Hill-Side
Men’s accessories are too often run-of-the-mill. In addition to redefining tie etiquette, The Hill-Side, a Brooklyn-based accessory line, makes classic square-end ties, pocket squares and handkerchiefs from selvedge fabrics diverted from landfills. And in some cases, the selvedge is organic. One man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure. 

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