Eco-Business Plan – Loomstate for Barneys Green

JC Report, January 25 2007
Style versus substance? It’s a defunct choice when it comes to eco-fashion. Put aside ideas about coarse hemp and cork-soled shoes, and think about what it means to be green — and stylish — in the 21st century.

Julie Gilhart, fashion director at Barneys, has a passionate personal commitment to the eco movement, and offers some clues as to how luxury lovers can save the earth through shopping. Global mega-brands should take note — Gilhart is leading the New York-based store into an environmentally friendlier future with the Barneys Green project, launching in spring 2007. Teaming up with organic-cotton company Loomstate, the project will launch with an exclusive apparel range.

“We have always sold Loomstate very well. Not only is it organic, but it has a hip fashion aesthetic. Soft t-shirts with great graphics, hoodies that have interesting details, and killer jeans,” explains Gilhart. “We wanted to create an exclusive collection that was organic but stylish, so we asked Loomstate to design a special range for us. All of the Loomstate for Barneys Green pieces have a cool nature vibe to them.”

The range is sexy, natural, and “surf-farm”-inspired. Think blurred-out graphics with a washed, watercolored appearance, and easy-wearing pieces, including oversized tops, sexy t-shirt dresses, hoodies, denim minis, and shorts — all in soft hues of blue, sand, smoke gray, and mauve.

Whereas other brands may still be offering a tentative dip into the eco-movement — see Tom Dixon‘s limited-edition organic-cotton polo for Lacoste — Barneys is going one dip deeper. Loomstate, led by its informed and articulate co-founder, Scott Hahn, will consult with the store on ethical sourcing and bring its production and merchandising expertise to the table. To top it off, both Loomstate and Barneys are contributing a portion of the sales to 1% for the Planet, an organization that supports environmental groups.

This is because Gilhart is firm in her belief that the current eco-trend in not a flash in the pan — it’s here to stay. “When you enter into an organic, sustainable business, you must try and stick with it. You have to support all those people in the supply chain, from the farmers to the factory. You just can’t give them huge orders one season and not the next. It is not a ‘conscious’ business practice. When you sign up, you must do so with the idea of continuing.”

And where Barneys leads, others are sure to follow. Consumers are demanding something extra when they part with their dollars, whether it’s exclusivity, personalization, or ethics. Fashion is about to enter the eco-age, and issues concerning sustainability, fair trade, and organic production are seeping into our fashion conscience, offering a vital emotional and experiential connection that many luxury brands now seek.

But with mass-market retailers such as UK supermarket chain Tesco bringing Katharine Hamnett on board to design a men’s, women’s, and kid’s organic-cotton apparel range, and Levi’s launching its Eco Jean and committing to explore greener practices across all its ranges, the high-end sector needs to catch up — fast. Ethics will become a key factor when we choose to buy, driven by our worries over carbon footprints and night sweats about inconvenient truths.

“I think this new emerging ‘green fashion’ customer wants to buy as much as possible from companies that are adhering to eco-friendly criteria. I have found, though, in many cases they won’t sacrifice style,” says Gilhart, who captures the essence of the trend perfectly when she says that any green credentials should be incidental — an added bonus. “Eco-friendly products need to have just as much style and catch as things that aren’t. We are also trying to address those customers that are not familiar with buying ‘consciously’ by offering something that is stylish, hip, and fashionable; and also, most importantly, organic and sustainable. We are hoping they will see what pleasure it gives to have something you love to wear and that doesn’t take away from the environment.”

So, what does it really mean to be green? “I think we all have to do our part, no matter how big or small. I don’t want to sound preachy, but it is true,” says Gilhart. “By Barneys developing an organic sustainable collection with Loomstate, we are giving our customer, who happens to be sophisticated and have a high income, a chance to buy more consciously. Today, that is what it is all about. Conscious buying. We all must try to shop this way whenever we can.”

Click for the original report:

Loomstate s/s ’07
2-3 Loomstate for Barney’s Green Project
4-5 Loomstate s/s ’07

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