Monday, January 31, 2011

The NOW Showcase designers brought a bit of eclectic luxury to SoEthic

Jenifer Miller of Mission Savvy an Eco fashion boutique in WV teamed up with The NOW Showcase and journeyed with the crew to Paris for the So Ethic Pret a Porter Show. Here is what she had to say.

One prediction that was impossible to make prior to arriving in Paris was how exactly US based ethical brands would blend with resident European brands at SoEthic.
I mentioned previously that in speaking with local boutiques in Paris I understood two things: 1) Most (except one) choose to not brand themselves as “green” or any cousin form of the word & 2) do not intentionally seek out ethical designers for their collections.
It's difficult to steer clear of the perpetual comparison to NY market. After touring SoEthic the first day this popped into my mind: maybe their reaction to ethical designs has something to do with what is available to them?
Let me just preface this first by saying that this is merely a personal perspective and a reflection of a personal sense of what my consumers want and in no way is meant to degrade any European label I encountered. Differentiating is not degrading, it's understanding how they all compliment each other under this same ethical brand.
My drafted conclusion is that the NOW Showcase designers brought a bit of eclectic luxury to SoEthic that was missing.

Alex Bell and Shira Entis, the lovely, vibratious designers behind Fleabags, a high end and successful collecion of totes, explained to me that while their collection is
created with organic and reclaimed materials “being environmentally conscious is only part of the story,” says Shira. The concept behind the look and development for a particular market is another part of the story. It is essential that their collection be merchandised with other high end collections. And if the buyers are not going to voluntarily seek out SoEthic they may need to reconsider their future approach to showcasing. “But this is something we could have never known, you always have to give something a shot once and then you learn. Coming as a group with NOW was the right move for us this trip.”
The same can be applied to the other designers that joined NOW in Paris. This is all feedback NOW will consider when traveling abroad next season. How can seemingly more high end, ethical, US based brands integrate internatinoally under the umbrella of the “green” label.
So who were our neighbors? Here's some of the best of!
What was really interesting were the number of fair trade brands such as Samomaya (Andes), L' Herberouge (Madagascar) and Bibico (India and Nepal). All of which work with communities to support artisan craft. It's relatively easy for US based boutiques, like myself, to fill racks with “Made In the USA” mindset. The diversity and quantity is available to us and it's a great marketing statement to use.

However, seeing for the first time these fair trade garments up and close and really listening to how personally invested these labels are with on-the-ground production is comforting that “Made In India” or whatever the country is actually OK. (See interesting article by Amy Dufault on Eco Salon “Is The Made In China Backlash Racist?”)
Overall these fair trade brands bring in collections heavy in wool, alpacha and mohair because their livelihoods revolve around the humane farming of these animals for clothing. Hence the large quantity of sweaters at SoEthic in all styles for the Fall season!
Locally produced brands included the sophisticated label KAMI which has been around for 20 years and Eros & Agape with its very southern France feel. These were my two favorites.

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