October 30, 2007

Like a Junky...

It is I, your ever-delinquent eco-fashion writer Amber Clisura, here to give another thrilling installment in the greening of your wardrobe. Please, first and foremost, fellow Sew Green contributors, accept my apologies for being such a bad poster. My life has taken a series of crazy turn in the last 3 months that it is a wonder to behold me standing up. But now on to something important - clothing.

A while back I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne and Kerrie, the two masterminds behind the UK Based Junky Styling. Junky has been turning out amazing clothes that have been recycled, reused, rethought as well as combining industrial jobber/remnant fabrics that would have just been thrown out into their line. (A jobber/remnant fabric is yardage that is used commercially for fashion but whose remnant, after production use, is too small to resell to a fabric store for public consumption.) From skiwear to evening wear these two women have designed it all. Innovative and challenging, their clothing evokes a sense of history without being lumped into "vintage". Couture and streetwear that truly redefine an idea of what a 21st century eco-conscious woman is and how she should dress.

(L) Annie and (R) Kerrie. Two wonderful women with one of the
most incredible labels I've seen in a while.

While in Paris for Pret a Porter I talked to them further about the eco-fashion business and their upcoming 10 year anniversary show at Dray Walk in the heart of London’s alternative design neighborhood.

Here is part one of a two part interview.

Many people think that in order to be considered an eco-fashion designer there is so much you have to learn before you can even begin to grasp the work. What inspired you to start Junky? Were you already interested in the environment when you started the company?

We began because we wanted to dress differently. Initially, it was all about unique design, and we were able to achieve this through cutting up clothes that were second hand. We started because there is nothing worse than being in the same place and same dress as someone else! We didn't study for it and it the environmental relevance was there, but the design was at the forefront.

You’ve received a lot of attention from the fashion press in Europe but how do you feel your impact has been received so far?

Nominally - We are just a small spec on the fair-trade horizon, but one nevertheless that Vogue's called 'high fashion street couture', so we're happy with that !

A lot of people are asking how to give back, how to really make this sort of movement hit home. How do you feel you can push yourself even further? What are you hoping to achieve with your message of reuse::recycle::refashion?

Acquiring franchises around the world where we can train up the local community's to create and recycle in the Junky way, this would leave a
great legacy

Something that is even more challenging in being green in this fashion world is being a woman. What has been your biggest challenge as businesswomen? As a start up? Doing eco-fashion?

When we started 10 years ago the biggest challenge was to get people to take us seriously and believe that our idea was a viable business option, as opposed to just a hobby! For us, perseverance and a belief that what we were doing got us through a lot of disbelievers. Meeting other women in business has enabled us to succeed in our right.

Of course I have to ask what would you have done differently if you had a chance?

I think I’d have liked to have some kind of training/experience before we began...Whether it be tailoring, business, accounting skills etc – I just think it would of made life easier !

What do you feel is the biggest issue that you hope you can tackle with your clothing?

The sheer disposability of fashion - let it be known that you CAN wear clothes for more than 1 month. The idea that when you are tired of something you can change it up and wear it again and again.

Do you feel that there is space for people to not do anything to stop the environmental harm that is going on in the world?

We have all now acquired a heightened level of education/information about the environment. No matter who we are, or what life we lead. So there are no excuses at all left for us to not do what we can to make a difference. We believe that if everyone does something, no matter how little, a change will be made

Is there anything you can share with us about your design process?

There is nothing to tell ! We just create sustainable designs via our Junky's ethos - Timeless, deconstructed re-cut and completely transformed
clothing - forever

There is so much talk in the world today about trends and how “Green is the new black.” Which leads one to believe that Green and Eco will go the way of my Z Cavaruccis. Where do you think eco-fashion is going? How do you feel apart of that process/transit? Where do you want it to go if it isn't going in the direction you feel it should

It’s my belief that finally, eco-fashion is becoming more design lead. Which is .of course, the way forward. People can't be expected to purchase clothes solely on the basis that it's a green product; they have to feel and look good as after all, they are buying a style- a fashion. So this movement towards a more sophisticated cut etc is a very positive thing. This then backs up my theory that green fashion isn't just a fad - like organic food, you can't forget what you've learnt, so keep learning and moving the cause forward.

For me I know now that I’ve learned a lot of some of the small things I can do to make a difference how do you bring issues of greening into the rest of your lives?

We all here at Junky do as much as we can. From choosing and investing in green energy to recycling, we all try to live as sustainable of a lifestyle as we can.

October 25, 2007

ecospot films

A still from Small Steps

A high school friend of mine and her partner's ad/film made it into the 20 finalists for a 60 second "Save the Earth" ecospot. It just so happens that my friends' spot incorporates craftiness into making a difference too, so I had to mention it here!

There are some inspiring little ad/films here. Check it out and vote.

Ones I thought were especially good:
Small Steps (my friends' one)
Plastic Ocean
Keep it Equal
The Little Things
The Sky is Falling

October 20, 2007

turn it off!

1 hour tonight los angeles and san francisco! from 8 - 9. "Fight climate change with the flick of a switch!"

October 15, 2007

take action today!

Hey, it's blog action day!

Instead of writing about just one thing you could do today to take action for the environment, I'm going to suggest a few. Please add your action ideas in the comments!

Three places you can take action for the environment today:

1. Pesticide Action Network. Tell EPA to Reverse Methyl Iodide Approval: U.S. EPA rushed registration of carcinogenic methyl iodide Oct. 5 for use as a fumigant pesticide. Sign a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson today, letting him know that this is unacceptable!

2. Greenpeace Canada. Demand to know what's in your food. The Quebec Premier Jean Charest made an election promise to make labelling of genetically modified foods mandatory. Ask him to keep his promise.

3. Breast Cancer Action: Think Before You Pink. Tell Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon and Mary Kay: We Demand Safer Cosmetics! These four cosmetic companies have positioned themselves as leaders in the fight against breast cancer while marketing products that contain harmful chemicals. Avon and Estee Lauder have taken an important first step by pledging to remove dibutyl phthalates from their products. Revlon and Mary Kay have not yet responded to the public’s request to make their products safer. Send an email to executives at these companies urging them to do the right thing about chemicals in their cosmetics by removing harmful ingredients.

Where else can we take action for the environment today?

October 13, 2007

Blog Action Day

Did you know that October 15th is Blog Action Day ?

from the site
On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

good thing to sign up for, eh?

October 11, 2007

felting in a drought

Lately I've been doing rather a lot of felting.

[For the non-knitters out there, felting, or fulling, is the process of beating knitted yarn into submission in the washing machine or using another technique to shrink the knitted item and turn it into a dense, durable mat of fiber].

I love felting, particularly for making toys. But one of the things that always bothers me about felting is using the washing machine. I feel so terrible running two whole wash cycles - all that energy and water! - just to turn a non-essential bit of knitting into a non-essential bit of felted knitting.

If you live in the mid-Atlantic or southeastern U.S., you are well aware that we're in a drought. Most of North Carolina (where I live) is now rated as "extreme" drought conditions. We've got mandatory watering restrictions, and I'm relying mainly on the bucket in my shower to get the flowerbeds through from week to week. So running two whole washing machines full of water (at something like 50 gallons per cycle - oh my god!) just to felt a toy salamander seems kind of... well, insane.

lewisi_prefelt 3
here is my knitted salamander's foot, before felting

So I am on the hunt for low-water felting methods. When I mentioned this at my local yarns store, one of the lovely ladies there suggested this method. While the energy input is still quite high, it definitely saved quite a lot of water.

1. Fill a 5-gallon bucket about halfway with very hot water and a tiny bit of mild soap. Submerge your item to be felted, and a towel, in the bucket, and get them both good and wet. Roll the item up in the towel and tie it shut with a piece of string.

2. Toss the roll-up into the dryer with a shoe or something else for agitation. Set your dryer to the lowest heat setting, and run it for about ten minutes.

3. Check your item to see how well it has felted. Repeat step 2 above until it has felted completely.

post-felting. someday he'll even get eyes and external gills.

I'm still looking for ways to cut the electricity, but this method definitely saved plenty of water, which I hope the real salamanders in my neighborhood creek will be happy about.

Some other things I'm thinking of trying, to eliminate the electricity:
- Needle-felting (done with unspun yarn)
- Sticking the item inside a container and dragging it behind my bike on a short ride
- Using one of those ice-cream makers where you stick the ingredients inside a ball and kick it around the yard.

Any other ideas out there?

October 7, 2007

Sew Green Reads

A September dessert with farmers market blackberries.

A while back, I mentioned wanting to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. A bunch of you left praise for the book in your comments (thank you!), and I read the book shortly thereafter. I wanted to finally post a book report ;-) and mention another book, about which I’m hoping you’ll leave some comments as well.

Reading books (or blogs) about environmentalism or green-related topics often overwhelms me. I usually end up feeling helpless and scared and angry. Although, I’ll admit, I did feel like this occasionally reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, I also laughed, salivated a lot and felt empowered and joyous at many points. The book is an excellent balance of seriously intense/f-ed up information about food production and the pesticide industry in the U.S., and uplifting, funny, honest stories and solutions about all sorts of things food- and life-related. I think this is what makes Barbara “dangerous” to some people. She is influencing people with this book—people are making changes as a result of the book, as your comments on my last post about this book prove.

My favorite parts of the book were those describing Barbara’s youngest daughter’s egg business (what a badass and fun girl!), and those describing Barbara and her husband’s trip to Italy. What most surprised me about the book, was how much it is about American farming, from many different angles. Of course, it was idiotic of me not to realize a book about eating locally-grown food for a year would be largely about farming; My not realizing this, just proves how removed I am from thoughts about/knowledge of farming.

Some changes I have been making as a result of the book:
I’ve been buying my produce at the farmers market. And now, I’m going to go in with my housemate on a plan she’s been on for a few years. She gets her locally-grown, organic food from a relatively nearby farm. It’s delivered weekly to SF residents. Now I will learn what foods are actually grown in the area throughout the year, I’ll be eating super tasty healthy food, I'll be supporting local organic farmers, I'll be saving money and I will not be contributing to the massive amount of oil being used to ship produce all over the world.

Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles…If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. (Hopp)

I am also considering giving up vegetarianism! I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years, since I was 9 years old! This is big for me. I don’t actually agree with all of Barbara’s arguments on the pro-meat-eating, but I’m definitely considering it. The main argument I see for eating meat, is that if a bunch of people start eating locally-raised, grass-fed, free-range, organic meat, that would impact our meat industry far more than not eating meat at all does. Because even if the number of vegetarians/vegans increases, there will still be people buying the meat industry’s (poisoned in many ways) meat. I think the trick is to, ahem, beef up the purchasing of the locally-raised, grass-fed, free-range, organic meat—take customers away from the industry. Even though I say this, I still haven’t been able to make the switch. {Sidenote: There's a new meat-related magazine, meatpaper. Check it out.}

It's just amazing to me how so many of us can be so unaware about such a basic part of life/survival—food. And what a huge positive impact—on health (of animals and people), farming, pesticide-use (eliminating it), land use (sustaining soil), oil dependency (decreasing it), the environment and the flavor of food—we can make, if we are more thoughtful about food. I could go on and on about this book because it covers so many different topics of importance. But I know I’m preaching to the choir here. (Or, if not, read the book!)

The next greenish book on my list is Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, an architect/designer and a scientist. As I understand it, the book is about designing “everything from carpeting to corporate campuses” in such a way that there is no waste. It’s not necessarily making things recyclable (as recycling can sometimes be toxic and energy-consuming), but also making things reusable or degradable. Have any of you read it? Thoughts?