“You know, fashion is really about beauty, luxury, and being sexy,” says Swedish fashion designer Johanna Hofring, who recently opened up a branch of her Stockholm-based boutique, Ekovaruhuset, in New York.
“But with our clothes, you can have fun, look fabulous, and save the world at the same time.” Although Hofring’s ambitions may bring ‘superhero chic’ to mind, her customers are more likely to buy a closetful of conscientious couture than Schwarzenegger style. For fashionistas with an interest in buying environmentally-friendly clothing, Ekovaruhuset has become the ultimate in environmentally-friendly apparel.
Few couture junkies realize that yesterday’s fashions are actually tomorrow’s toxins: An estimated one million tons of textiles end up in landfills each year. Right now, fashion manufacturers use bleaching, dying and printing processes that place clothing fabrication on par with petro-chemical production. Clothing can take decades to decompose, all the while leaching deadly chemicals and harmful gases. After discovering the disastrous impact that textile production has on the environment, Hofring decided to take clothing in a new direction. “I had heard a story or two about mistreated workers in sewing factories, but had never been able to grasp the amount of violations against human rights and the earth that are committed in the name of vanity and profit,” Hofring said. “As a designer, I had been making clothes for a long time, but had never even thought about using organic fabrics. When I first started using organic materials, I realized what a huge demand for green fashion there is, so in 2004 I established Ekovaruhuset in Stockholm and then opened a shop in New York two years later.”
Although some of the clothing sold at Ekovaruhuset may contain synthetic zippers, buttons or threads, all of the clothing is made from certified organic fabrics. “The fibers that the fabrics are made from were grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They were made into cloth without leaching gases into the atmosphere, then dyed by processes that are environmentally responsible,” Hofring said. “The wools we use come from animals that have been treated well and have never had to experience chemical baths or other torturous processes. We are in close contact with the designers and manufacturers we represent and we know they work according to Fair Made guidelines.” Fair Made is the term that Hofring prefers, because it indicates that neither land, animals, nor workers have been exploited to produce clothing. “Fair Made is an important concept for consumers to grasp,” said Hofring, “because few people would enjoy their clothing the same way if they followed its path from seed to sale.”
In an industry characterized by style over content and image over substance, the movement to infuse fashion with social responsibility could be one of the most radical changes in fashion’s history. “The industry could reduce waste and find ways to make sustainable fashion easier,” notes Hofring. “But it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, we’ll continue to set a style for beautiful clothes that doesn’t come at an environmentally-ugly price.”
Written by Bradley Quinn
Portrait photography: Henrik Olund/Store poto: Jason Wyche
123 Ludlow Street
New York, New York
212 673 1753
For more info, see www.ekovaruhuset.se