Men’s fashion once meant following the ever-changing tide of trends for women. Not so anymore. Case in point: eco menswear. Environmentally sound practices—from sustainable sourcing and local manufacturing to organic, pesticide-free and fair trade materials—are being adopted more than ever in men’s fashion. Here, a few designers who are setting the standard for the greener garçon—keeping style and planet at heart.
Bringing a sustainable element to his self-described “Tennessee-inspired, Euro streetwear” has always been at the forefront of designer Jeff Garner’s eight-year-old line, Prophetik. The label uses homegrown materials, organic dyes and recycled fabrics; restricts itself to GOTS-certified dying (Global Organic Textile Standard); and pays sewers a fair wage.
“Prophetik came about after a vision to do something different in the industry and to showcase how to do things more positively,” says Garner, who teaches sustainability to fashion students. “Nothing inspires me more than a cause.”
Garner, who is keen on showcasing eco-attire beyond its hippie expectations, is also influenced by his Civil War-era hometown: Franklin, Tennessee. “It’s all about the cut,” he says of his haute couture line of whimsical frock coats, vests and riding pants. He also uses hemp—which, Garner notes, was used for WWII uniforms—that is naturally softened with baking soda and stitched into chic chauffer pants. Hemp, he adds, is three times stronger than cotton, holds ten times as much dye and is breathable, so can work for most seasons. At a recent socialite ball, Garner donned a handmade tux with hemp silk tails, and promptly received numerous purchase requests from others at the event.
His latest collection, Southern Shores, is both romantic and reflective of an era when “sustainability was born out of necessity.” Like pioneers who took apart gowns to rebuild new ones, Garner loves reworking existing material into a new collection—re-dyeing it even for lining. “Why order new fabric?” he asks incredulously. Garner, who has sported the same riding boots for 17 years, is passionate about merging sustainable practices and fashion. “The goal is to make the item so it lasts,” he says.
On his use of plant dyes, Garner points to his time working in downtown L.A. and seeing a sample maker get sick from chemicals in the garments (fabrics are often bleached, then dyed). The experience turned the fashion designer off chemicals permanently.
When not designing, Garner is involved as a consultant with sustainability oriented Muse elementary school in Topanga (started by wife of director James Cameron, Suzy Cameron), and reconnects with nature by leading service trips for Appleseed Expeditions, an international educational tour company.
Natural High Lifestyle
Simple, basic designs inspired by California culture and made from sustainable, natural resources form the premise behind the 11-year old label, Natural High Lifestyle (NHL). The Santa Monica-based clothing company offers everyday green garb in organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and tencel (natural cellulose found in wood pulp), even accessories in vegetal leather (natural, sustainable rubber trees in Brazil). Everything is locally manufactured in downtown Los Angeles.
“The real impetus for starting the brand was to bring awareness and visibility to the idea of using fast-growing, sustainable natural resources,” says founder Frank Angiuli. “At the same time we’re trying to inspire human evolution and consciousness to live in a simpler, more conscious way.”
NHL answers the dilemma of having to buy activity-specific clothing (e.g. surf shorts, golf pants) because it’s designed to take men through their whole day—from a hike in the mountains or yoga on the beach, to the farmers market and dinner at a café—“without feeling like you’re wearing sweatpants all day,” explains Angiuli. Top-selling items are yogi flood pants, conscious tees, paradise hoodies and Bombay track jackets.
“Our clothes work well for a variety of activities in California,” he says. “People who wear our stuff appreciate the simplicity more than anything else.”
NHL’s eco-vibe also translates to its Santa Monica shop, which is outfitted with a solar-powered fan, bamboo floors and reclaimed-wood display racks.
Building on a career in professional skateboarding, French-transplant Pierre Senizergues cut his fashion teeth creating the eco-friendly action sports company Sole Technology (parent company to etnies, éS, Emerica, Altamont and ThirtyTwo) in 1996. He later worked as executive producer for Leonardo DiCaprio on the environmental documentary, The 11th Hour (2007), and launched C-PAS in 2009.
C-PAS describes itself as “designed for the man who demands style with an eco conscience.” Designs are crafted from a range of materials, including organic cotton, seersucker and jersey; nylon parachute and cassette tape ribbon.
“The inspiration for the collection remains the same as our core vision—we love using old materials that have been used for a specific purpose, and then giving them new life with a classic style,” says Senizergues, who built the brand from the ground up on eco principles and sustainable materials. “This season, we expanded on the parachute material theme and brought in different colors and product offerings.”
The spring 2010 collection marked the label’s second year, with 44 pieces in rich army greens, whites and heather grey tones in the form of casual and custom-tailored fitted music tape blazers, parachute shorts, organic cotton striped crews, seersucker bomber beanies, and voile shirts with duct tape detailing. “We kept a lot of the original parachute stitching and incorporated it into the shirt and jacket designs,” he says. “We played around with different kinds of lining, like old striped dress shirts that give it a subtle seersucker look—since the fabric is transparent, you can completely change the look of a piece by the lining that is used.”
Once again, formal wear stole the spotlight, with a tuxedo jacket made partially from upcycled cassette tape ribbon, which Senizergues wore to the Cannes film festival when The 11th Hour was nominated.
Senizergues strives for low impact on the environment with his corporate choices, reducing the company’s carbon footprint (currently by 14 percent), sourcing cleaner energy and using materials in an unexpected way. He was honored earlier this year with the Corporate Environmental Leadership Award from Santa Monica-based nonprofit Global Green.
“The main purpose of C-PAS is to inspire people to think about the environment in a different way,” says Senizergues. “Today’s design-conscious consumer can enjoy a sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing style, and is willing to do so. The fashion industry, too, will have to evolve.”
“Conservation Cotton” Fits South Africa to a Tee
The ubiquitous Bono, who is active in everything from sustainability to Africa, is also co-founder with his wife, Ali Hewson, of Edun, an eco clothing line with the mission of encouraging trade in Africa. Their pre-fall T-shirt series, Grow to Sew, is a nod to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and “the vibrancy of South Africa.”
All proceeds from the 100-percent African eco-produced line will benefit the Conservation Cotton Initiative (CCI), which provides tools, training and funding to South African communities that were displaced by the millions after the 20-year civil war in Uganda. CCI promotes ethically produced, sustainable farming, specifically organic “conservation cotton,” and a fair trade market.
The collection is available at Edun.com.
Cover photo: Prophetik, courtesy Jake Netter
Prophetik photo courtesy Laurel ObeeTags: Bono, C-PAS, Conservation Cotton, CPAS clothing, Edun, Global Green, Jeff Garner, Muse Elementary, Natural High Lifestyle, Pierre Senizergues, Prophetik, Sole Technology