Category Archives: fashion

Organic perfume goes upscale

The benchmark study on toxic chemicals in perfume appears to be the Greenpeace one from 2005 which tested 36 different fragrances and found both phthalates and artificial musks in almost every single sample. Most commercial scents contain either animal substances such as musk, civet, castor or ambergris which have been obtained at some price to the animal’s welfare; or synthetic substitutes of those substances which are made from the same toxic chemicals found in household products and air fresheners. Applying these chemicals to your skin means they are absorbed into your body – and they have been linked to respiratory and allergic reactions, as well as reproductive problems.

Organic alternatives are still quite thin on the ground. Here are some of the latest offerings. Kibio, a French brand, introduced Eau de Parfum 100% last November, a blend of citrus aromas and amber.

Brazilian brand Natura launched Amor América in October 2008, a line that uses elements from the Andes and Patagonia, including oils such as Palo Santo (from trees in Ecuador) and Paramela (from Argentinian bushes). The company claims that it uses 100 % organic alcohol; whether this means the fragrance would meet, say, Ecocert organic standards, I’m not sure. At any rate, here is the ad from Brazil, complete with Caetano Veloso soundtrack.

Finally, in the luxury niche (retailing at around 140 euros a bottle), and sold only at Printemps department store, is a new line of organic fragrances called “Honoré des Prés” by Olivia Giacobetti, with names like Nu Green, Bonté’s Bloom and Sexy Angelic.


Ethical Fashion Comes of Age

The fifth annual edition of the Ethical Fashion Show opened its doors yesterday at the Carrousel du Louvre, an incredibly grown-up location which is symbolic of the industry’s position at the threshold of the mainstream. From an eclectic gathering of 20 designers in 2004, the event has grown to be a showcase for some 130 odd designers from all over the world who are committed to integrating ethical values into design and manufacturing.

Last year the show took place at the Tapis Rouge near the Canal Saint Martin, and it still had the hip, cutting edge vibe of creative individuals working at the fringe. This year’s feel was completely different – many of the same people – but housed in a slightly clinical showroom with too much empty space punctuated by booths touting organic cosmetics and natural dyes. Many new lines of clothing made from organic cotton – especially for children – were apparent, as were the staple accessories and bags made from recycled plastic, rubber tyres (Cyclus) and leather cuttings from car factories. Newcomer “Como No” – launched by French designer Candice Augereau this summer – has a delightful line of whimsical accessories and boots in fresh colours crafted from a roughspun cotton (technically it is not organic as these are fields ‘in conversion’) grown in Argentina.

Great accessories – including a nifty fingerless wraparound glove – from Deux Filles en Fil, all made from recycled materials. 

Clementine Nguyen from Sobosibio, who launched her first collection this summer, makes very wearable soft and fluid organic cotton clothes with the innovation of a unique number code which clients can use to trace each step of the production process on the website. One of my favourites is still Les Fees de Bengale, which makes beautifully cut pieces in muted contemporary tones with a luxurious feel.

Of the many socially responsible projects, one outstanding example was Les Filles du Facteur, a project which helps women in Burkina Faso and immigrant women in a Parisian suburb earn a living by crocheting recycled plastic into an appealing line of accessories such as tablecloths, bags and placemats. Good holiday gift items in a world where self-destructing financial markets have given fresh impetus to value-based consumption.


One of the founder members of the ethical fashion community in France, Sébastien Kopp of Veja, made the point that big corporations need to get on board with changing their production systems in order to accelerate change. He also forecast that we are heading for a big change in the way people consume, stressing the “back to quality” paradigm over the old model which relies heavily on advertising and marketing. “The world of selling products with Gisele Bundchen is so over for me,” he said.

The show continues through Sunday October 12.



Organic beachwear

This organic bikini from Machja comes in chocolate and green tea and is simple, elegant and stretchy.

Tudo Bom‘s version comes in green and red. Take your pick. Both available online and now on sale!

Tips for sustainable living from cash-strapped Parisians

Many Parisians are adapting to the spiraling cost of food, gas and housing with resourcefulness and creativity. Le Nouvel Obs Paris has a great round-up of all the latest trends in sustainable living which have evolved in response to the purchasing power deficit.

1.   House sharing – no longer restricted to rent-sharing among students and single young professionals, the trend has spread to familie  and often encompasses the communal house purchase. The trend is documented in a film to be released in July, called “Mes Amis, mes amours”, based on a novel by Marc Levy.

2.   Office-sharing – Consultants, free-lance artistic types, coaches etc are increasingly turning to space-sharing schemes like La CantineBureaux Equipes and Multiburo.

3.   Networked shopping – In Paris and two suburbs, a fast-expanding group of some 300 families source their meat through an ex-Parisian based in the Mayenne who buys in bulk direct from breeders and redistributes through informal drop-off points in Paris. This kind of network often starts out among friends and then quickly spreads through word of mouth.

4.   Car-sharing – Caisse Commune, Mobizen and Okigo

5.   Car-pooling – 123envoiture

6.   Appliance repair shops – Business prospects look good for the diehards who retained their skills. Sovdam, 192-194 rue La Fayette, 75010. Mintode 19 rue de Pajol 75018. Aspi-Clinic 43, rue du Colisée 75008.

7. Used-clothing swaps – “Viens dans mon dressing” is a quarterly rendez-vous among fashionistas who get together to swap the treasures they have tired of. or

“Soirées troc” are run by fashion bloggers out of private homes. See Charly, Mots De Mode and Caroline Daily.

8.  Cash-free economy – The SEL of Paris was first set up in 1996 as a neighbourhood association to enable the exchange of goods and services and promote solidarity. Each geographical unit is known as a “piaf” and the exchanges are organized through an accounting system which allows you to accumulate credits and debts up to a certain threshold. 


via Le SEL de Paris and  Le Nouvel Obs Paris




Bags and accessories for ethical shoppers

The accessory and handbag stands at the Ethical Fashion Show were the places where I most wanted to violate the “consume less” ethos. The pieces were all so deliciously tactile and so “right now”. One of my favourites was A-Typik, a Franco-Colombian company that makes jewellery from a unique material known as vegetable ivory, or Tagua nut from the South American rainforest. For each necklace sold, the company donates one euro to a Bogota orphanage. Beautiful colors, modern designs and a pleasure to touch.

Cruselita employs small groups of artisans in Madagascar and Niger to make jewellery that is essentially tribal and ethnic in inspiration from a variety of materials such as raw silk and wood.

Coll.part from Switzerland takes used rice and food sacks from Cambodia and recycles them into bright and colorful bags which are strong and lightweight. The company provides resinsertion for women in difficult situations as well as antipersonnel mine victims.

Mexico-based Nahui Ollin makes eye-catching handbags from candy wrappers and other recycled materials.

What’s new at the Ethical Fashion Show in Paris


The fourth annual edition of the Ethical Fashion Show opened yesterday at an appropriately hip location near the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, showcasing the work of more than 100 designers who are committed to a common set of principles, namely:
– respect for mankind in the production process – fair wages, no sweatshops, no child labor
– respect for the environment by minimal use of chemicals and pesticides
– preservation of traditional skills
– use of recycled clothing
– use of sustainable materials such as bamboo and hemp

Not surprisingly, this brings together an incredibly broad range of styles and sensibilities, ranging from hippy eclectic to penitent hairshirt, androgynous shapelessness to funky and streetwise, as well as the truly elegant, luxurious and beautiful. Ethical fashion is not as straightforward as organic food or cosmetics – there is no one-size-fits-all certification to determine whether you can join the club or not. So while organic cotton is the bottom line, it still has to be shipped from afar – usually Asia. Some designers have made genuine efforts to cut down on transport – sourcing their cotton from Mali and Burkina Faso, and then getting the clothes sewn in Tunisia, which is more or less a straight line to France. Others stress their association with NGOs who are creating employment opportunities for women in poor communities in third world countries. Everyone seems to have a different sales pitch for why their clothes are ethical.

There are a couple of brands which are already well established as standard bearers for the eco-chic lifestyle – Veja organic sneakers made with organic cotton and natural latex from Amazonia, in northeast Brazil. In fact, Veja are so mainstream now that their press handlers wouldn’t let me photograph any shoes.
Bilum shoulder bags made from recycled posters ripped from advertising billboards and old seat belt straps.

Tudo Bom t-shirts also manufactured ethically in Brazil.

In the category of beautiful and highly wearable:

Brittany-based Les Racines du Ciel makes fluid, sensual pieces from luxurious materials including a wonderful Chinese silk lacquered with a traditional recipe from Guangdong Province which uses an extract from a root vegetable which is buried in the ground, sun-dried and rinsed 30 times in the river.
Numanu also makes feminine, well-cut clothes using hand-woven silk and wool from rural communities in India and organic fair trade cotton.
In the streetsmart and funky category, Makabu recycles used clothing by adding personal motifs and unusual decoration – such as collages made from used rice sacks that he picks up from Asian restaurants around Paris.

The thing that all these designers have in common is – “we care” – it’s a harder sell than “this is good for your health” or “this isn’t a cancer risk” – but when it looks good, it’s hard to say no. Next up: children’s clothing, bags and accessories from the show.

Recycling gets new life online

Beyond the church bazaar, yard sale and charity outlets, new places are popping up online where you can recycle, exchange and give away stuff – everything from old computers, television sets and DVDs to cars and washing machines – that you no longer need or want. Consorecup and are two recent examples of websites which have emerged to satisfy the demand for new patterns of consumption.

Shopping for gently used clothing at the “depot-ventes” around Paris is another way to update your wardrobe while staying in “recycle and reuse” mode. Here’s a list of favourites:
Chercheminippes is a chain of second hand stores dotted around the lower reaches of the Rue du Cherche Midi, towards Montparnasse. Aside from clothes, you will find shoes, handbags, costume jewellery as well as brand new cosmetics from Guerlain, YSL, and Dior—mostly free gift items dropped off for re-sale by press attaches. Chercerminippes have two outlets for women, one for children, and one for men.
Saperli et Popette at 8, rue Guichard in the 16th arrondissement (Metro: La Muette) is the biggest depot vente for children’s clothing of all ages up to 16 as well as maternity clothing.
Lalu at 105 rue Satin-Maur in the 11th arrondissement (Metro: Saint-Maur) is for hipsters who like brands like Isabel Marant and Antoine et Lili.
Récréatoc at 45 rue Lepic in the 18th (Metro: Abbesses) is a tiny boutique which carries clothing for mothers and daughters.

Finally, an item of pure eco-chic, bags by Bilum made from recycled posters ripped from advertising billboards around Paris.

Ecotourism: What is it?

What is ecotourism? According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism should aim to preserve the environment and improve the well-being of local communities by sponsoring responsible travel to natural areas. Sustainable tourism, on the other hand, has a wider definition as it does not have to take place in a natural area, but simply covers social, environmental and economic considerations to all areas of tourism. Consumer choice in both fields are expanding fast, but certification and labelling remain vague so beware of false advertising as tour operators are not bound by any universal standards.
In France, there is the newly launched Ushuaia Voyages which offers treks all over the world and promises carbon offsets, ecolodges, respect for local populations and emphasis on local suppliers. Nature de Decouvertes Voyages also offers an interesting selection of nature discovery and education programmes which are open to children aged 8 and over.

Huttopia runs nature campsites in exceptional natural areas – there’s a choice between tent camping or wooden huts. Gites de France, France’s biggest and most popular source for rural holiday rentals, now has an Ecogite label. WWF France has also launched a “Gites Panda” label covering around 300 rentals, which have to meet environmental criteria specified on the website as well as be located in a national or regional nature park.

Finally, to travel in style, check out Lafuma’s newest Eco 40 backpack, a model of sustainable manufacturing. Priced at 75 euros, the sleek grey backpack has a capacity of 40 liters and is made of hemp and recycled polyester, with no plastics.

Recycled fashion as art

Spotted over at Inhabitat, Paris-based Andrea Crews has a totally unique and exuberant take on recycling second hand clothes for resale.

Ekyog at the Marche Saint-Germain

Ekyog has just opened a new shop at the Marche Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement. The Brittany-based brand, which has outlets in Rennes and Quimper, makes easy-to-wear clothing entirely from eco-fibres like bamboo and organic cotton. All the fabrics are guaranteed 100 pct non-carcinogenic and are baby-soft to touch, declined in a range of powdery pastels. If you can’t make it to Paris, the clothes are available for sale online.

Ekyog, 3, rue Clement, 75006
M° Mabillon