Fashion Week: Painting the Catwalk Green

In a previous post, I explored various techniques and strategies marketers are using to keep green initiatives a primary concern in our economy, as well as consumers' responses to these efforts. It is important to keep the environment in the minds of consumers, yet marketers need to make sure their efforts are clear and not misleading. I would like to take a deeper look at this idea with regard to the world of fashion. Fashion is a creative expression of one's view of the world and this differs from designer to designer. Many designers who envision a cleaner environment are trying to incorporate eco-friendly tactics with their fashion lines through the use of organic materials and sustainable production methods. With the fall season we all know this means one thing --the tents go up in New York and Los Angeles for Fashion Week. Fashion Week is not only the perfect way to broadcast a label's new developments; it notoriously sets the trends for upcoming seasons. And while up-and-coming designers may be more inclined to experiment with green initiatives, the prominent labels seem to be shying away from environmental efforts.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
is one of the world's most prestigious semi-annual fashion shows premiering designer collections from Vera Wang and Michael Kors, to Diane Von Furstenberg and Betsey Johnson. This year's spring/summer collections were debuted at Smashbox Studios in Culver City for the Los Angeles Fashion Week where the main tent finale; "The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show." This show displayed five segments of environmentally minded designers. Emily Factor started the event with her line of mermaid-like dresses and frocks with bright floral designs. The next line that was debuted, called M the movement, featured clothes made from bamboo and soy product, and charcoal. Lilikoi is an eco-friendly brand that focuses on clean production and sustainable fabric ingredients. Lilikoi fabrics are 100% naturally made from bamboo and organically grown cotton and linen. Furthermore, they consider the origin of their fabrics to ensure proper conditions of those who manufacture the fabrics.The final line that premired was by Smart Glass, which is a label that features products made from recycled glass and sterling silver. The designer, Kathleen Plate, has a strong passion for the earth and nature, which is reflective in her brand. Along with her designs composed from recycled glass, Plate donates some of her proceeds to her favorite charity foundations. These four out of the five lines use the earth to sell their products, yet they demonstrate passion for the environment and have the earth's best interest in mind.

There is a fine line between ethical commodification of the earth, however, and exploiting it. If a brand is truly devoted to the earth and offers sustainable options that give back to the environment, it can be seen as ethical. This idea was compromised by Ecoskin. EcoSkin is seemingly a legitimate and eco-friendly brand. Like the other labels, the fabric is organically grown and the manufacturing plant is monitored to ensure ethical working conditions. Yet, during the fashion show EcoSkin's segment included a monkey, wolf (below left), and a snake to walk down the catwalk, which has stirred much commentary across the blogosphere. In the L.A. Times blog author Melissa Magsaysay, an attendee and photographer quotes, "the poor beast was bewildered by the crowd, lights and loud music and the model was tugging him to stay on the runway" (in reference to the wolf). Even if the brand does not use animal fur or skin in their clothing, exploiting them on the runway is just as bad. Simply using organic products for fabrics does not make a brand eco-friendly. Being environmental should not be used as an easy way to market to consumers; it should instead be an all-encompassing passion and effort to help preserve the earth. EcoSkin is a prime example of manipulation and exploitation of the idea of "going green," and blurring the line between what is ethical and what is not. Another point that has been brought to my attention is how the animals were initially exploited. They came from, or were rented from, Animal Actors Worldwide (AAW), a full-service agency that loans out exotic animals. While their list of experience includes well known movies such as Borat, this does not legitimate the brand's environmentalism. Animals should not be exploited and used in a fashion show when the brand claims environmental conservatism; and Magsaysaysay further quotes, "Love them by leaving them in their home". The exploitation of animals is a whole other ethical topic to be discussed, but I would like to point out that this act by EcoSkin is inherently contradictory to the concept of being environmentally ethical. And due to the prestige of L.A. Fashion Week, these acts perpetuate a flawed logic that animal exploitation can be a part of an eco-friendly brand.

Despite unethical practices by some, there are more notable environmental fashion efforts that deserve to be acknowledged. Gen Art hosted "Fashionably Neutral," another fashion show that premiered during L.A's Fashion Week. Similarly, this show featured designs from Brigis Catiis, Popomomo, Velvet Leaf, and The Battalion with all brands promising a commitment to sustainability. Ian Gerard, Gen Art's Founder and CEO says, "Sustainable fashion has become more and more important every passing year with what's happening to the environment. So it's very exciting that this is our first green fashion show." It is comforting to know that some are able to capitalize on green marketing tactics, while keeping the environment, over profit, the main priority. Marketing is inherently persuasive and used accordingly to sell products and services. Knowing this, it is the designer's responsibility to maintain ethical practices when using green marketing.


Exploring the Blogosphere: Environmental Information is Bountiful

This week I extensively explored the Web in search of engaging and reputable sites that pertain to the multifaceted world of marketing, as well as will complement the subject matter presented in my entries. Using criteria determined by the Webby Awards and IMSA, I have created a linkroll of twenty sites as a compilation of blogs, associations, organizations, newspapers, magazines and news sites. I have evaluated each site based on content, depth of information, interactivity, functionality, visual appeal, and overall experience. My goal is to provide my readers with a comprehensive list of sites that acknowledge and critically analyze the constantly developing field of marketing as well as those which tackle emerging social issues resulting from these developments. I have added each site to my linkroll (right) and will provide my own critiques in this entry.

Within my compilation of Internet sites, the first grouping of links I will address can be categorized as resources for marketing strategies and trends across the market. The American Marketing Association (AMA) website is a primary tool for research, every day marketing information, and a venue for professional networking. This site offers rich, in-depth information on every facet in the field of marketing organized in a professional and sleek visual design. MediaPost is also a fundamental marketing site which provides a creatively crafted overview of the world of media. The site is frequently updated, provides insight to professional knowledge, and promotes interactivity through community membership. The next two sites I have found useful for specifically eco-friendly marketing updates and trends. GreenBiz provides updates for the intersection of marketing and the concept of going green. With features section, news, blog, GreenBiz is comprehensive, interactive, and geared towards those who are highly motivated to engage in complex information. Sustainable Life Media is not as professionally designed, and gives the reader a cautious vibe they are trying to be sold something. Though useful in the immediacy of updates and broad range of information, there seems to be a bias or alternate agenda behind the organization. Yankelovich is a site dedicated to sustainable brand equity. It is professional, has extensive research, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. Though similarly, the site is trying to sell you the techniques and knowledge of the author (Yankelovich), thus distracting the reader and losing some credibility.

The next cluster of sites I have collected deal with the social responsibility of going green by joining organizations and participating in green movements. GreenPeace is not only an ample resource for updated green news, it prompts activism through membership and donation. The Environmental Defense Fund site finds unity between updated green news, lifestyle choices, and green marketing. These are all framed within an active charitable context prompting readers to explore and confirm the credibility of the fund. It's Getting Hot in Here is a youth driven movement to aid the improvement of the environment. It effectively appeals to the target reader through interactive tools such as videos, voting, links, and shopping.

The next cluster of sites comprise what I spend most of my on when delving into my green marketing topic. One of my personal favorite go-to resources is TreeHugger. User-friendly, approachable, interactive, with a broad scope of content, TreeHugger (above right) is an acclaimed venue in the blogosphere with information on anything related to the environment-loving community. The Daily Green is more of a consumer-oriented junction for how the everyday consumer can go green, as well as remain updated on how going green is influencing our society. These two sites offer extensive and specific information geared toward the green community both nationally and globally. Similar in content, though more blog focused, Grist is nonprofit environmentally driven journalism resource. Gris is confusing because the user must scroll to the bottom of the page to access articles and blogs. This site is deprived of a cohesive feel to what the focus is, other than being green, and could benefit through using clear organization and formatting. Conversely, The Green Guide is a subcategory for the National Geographic website. The Green Guide effectively produces a lifestyle-oriented everyday guide for consumers. It engages users by offering fun quizzes, interactive videos, "smart shopper cards", and tips of the week to successfully enhance user awareness of how to be green. Planet Green is also a green lifestyle site, yet is uniquely effective in that it uses user-generated votes on various articles to guide reader navigation. This is a different approach than most sites I have visited, yet lacks some credibility when the highest voted articles lack any commentary from their voters. Ecorazzi takes on the format of a celebrity gossip blog. It uses updated information about what is trendy in the green world, as well as posts entries featuring celebrities and their green contribution. This site is creative in design, yet there is little interactivity with the pictures and links, and the content provided lacks incentive for the user to fully engage, comment, and remain interested. Nonetheless, at face value this is an innovative and interesting site I plan on returning to. Ecofabulous is similar to Ecorazzi. This site has a more sophisticated feel, yet lacks in current information, as well as depth of content and scholarly value.

Finally, I will conclude with online newspapers and scholarly driven resources dedicated to academic value. The Environmentalist is a web magazine dedicated to the history and impact and geopolitical effects of climate change. Many of the articles featured in the Environmentalist are published in The Huffington Post, an online newspaper that includes a green section. This site is visually appealing and offers several links to amazing photographs. These two sites are easy to navigate, very interactive, and offer in-depth content. EcoGeek and Marketing Green are similar in nature, content, structure and format. Both are scholarly driven blogs which prompt discussion on current issues. They both offer valuable opinion based on extensive knowledge and research in the author's field: Ecogeek is dedicated to environmental preservation, while Marketing Green is dedicated to effective and ethical green marketing. I will conclude my linkroll analysis with my personal favorite, the Ecologist (above left). Claiming the title of the world's leading environmental magazine, this site does not fall short of that statement. The Ecologist offers insightful and interesting articles, relevant videos, is clear in organization and structure, is visually sophisticated.
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