Eco-friendly Fashion: How Sustainability has become Mainstream


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“What is the difference between organic cotton and regular cotton?” a customer asks.

“Well, organic cotton is made with 60 percent less water than conventionally grown cotton and is produced without the use of pesticides,” replies a sales associate.

Organic cotton, alongside recycled polyester, silk, bamboo, hemp, rayon, and modal, are materials that are commonly used to make eco-friendly clothing.

Sustainable fashion and eco-friendly clothing are on the rise. With large corporate powerhouses like H&M launching a “Conscious Collection,” to small boutiques that carry and produce their own sustainable clothing and accessories, eco-friendly fashion can be found wherever you turn; and if you’re in San Francisco, these little boutiques can be found on some of your favorite city streets.


prAna clothing store in Pacific Heights, San Francisco on April 21st, 2015. Photo by Zhenya Sokolova

PrAna is located on Fillmore Street in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights District. This eco-friendly boutique is on the same street as runway dominating brands like Steven Alan, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Ella Moss, and Rag and Bone; in a sea, or street, of sameness, PrAna is able to stand out by providing “sustainably made clothing for active lifestyles,” according to Assistant Manager Chanel Chang.

PrAna began as a yoga clothing company 22 years ago, and ended up developing into an active lifestyle brand while branching out into more variations of stylish silhouettes, as Chang explains. Now instead of just sweat wear, you can find pretty much any piece of clothing from recycled polyester swimwear and organic cotton maxi skirts to hemp flared lounge pants and, of course, their signature madera yoga pants.

The storefront simply exudes PrAna’s mission statement: looking active while remaining sustainable. The first thing to attract your eye when entering the Fillmore location is color and pattern. The store is filled with exotic hues from bright pinks and oranges to mellow, yet, exuberant, blues and greens. Patterns vary from tribal-esque to florals, something so simple, like patterning, makes a big difference.

The store is equipped with large-scale picture installations like, for example, a man leaping from a cliff, and another portrait of men and women, in yoga attire, practicing the child’s pose. Other displays around the store help to promote the mission of the company: One display lays out bathing suit tops and shorts, ideal for swimming, while another showcases pants and a windbreaker jacket, for hiking, if need be.

“Our customers are fun-loving, soulful people who travel well, play hard and care about the impact they have on the world around them,” says Jasmine Schmidt, PrAna’s public relations manager.

If active is what PrAna is aiming for, they definitely have found their ideal customer base in Pacific Heights; the store is bustling from opening till closing with customers who share PrAna’s values for sustainability- even if they don’t know it yet.

Not only does PrAna make sustainable clothing, they also hold community events in their store for neighbors and fellow merchants to take part in. Their monthly event calendar can be found in their Fillmore store, with events from group yoga sessions to ladies night. Stop by and be enthralled by all that this fantastic store has to offer.
As for the future, Schmidt says, “Companies will continue to increase the amount of styles that are sourced sustainable and more sustainable materials. Fair trade apparel will also become more universal with more and more companies starting to open up their supply chain to the end consumer so people can measure their impact from beginning to end. Customers are becoming more educated and more vocal about how and where their clothing is made and they will continue to look for those brands that meet their needs.”

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert translates to “green love,” and what other city in the world is filled with such lovers of green than those in San Francisco. Amour Vert is located in San Francisco’s cozy Hayes Valley District, right next to Patricia’s Green. Their mission, “With every stitch a purpose,” is a reflection of the simplicity that Amour Vert brings to sustainable clothing.

Imagine a chic, edgy, and independent woman, who doesn’t necessarily follow the rules, but is deeply connected with the world around her and who is continually fighting for her beliefs- that is, according to Christoph Frehsee, Amour Vert’s co-founder and owner, the type of lady that shops at Amour Vert.

Incorporating great eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, silk, and their classic, one and only wood pulp, Amour Vert connects sustainability and fabulous eco-friendly clothing with the aforementioned fashionable leading lady.

Frehsee and his wife Linda became inspired to create the company after reading an article stating that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, right behind oil. This inspiration lead the couple to the concept of Amour Vert, and from the looks of it, they haven’t looked back yet.

Amour Vert is a sustainable clothing store in Hayes Valley.

Amour Vert isn’t the stereotypical kitschy eco-friendly company, with simplistic designs and itchy fabrics- no, they are the pioneers for the sustainability in fashion movement. Amour Vert’s line can be seen in various Nordstrom’s, Lucky, and Revolve stores.

“I don’t like trends,” laughs Frehsee, “but I see sustainability as a natural trend that will eventually become the new normal.”

An added bonus when buying from Amour Vert is that for every T-shirt sold, they plant a tree through their Plant a Tree foundation with American Forests. According to Frehsee, 30,000 have been planted already and the company plans to plant 100,000 by the end of the year.

“Its a fantastic way to give back and it’s close to my heart,” says Frehsee. “We need to be mindful of our resources.”

Alternative Apparel is a sustainable clothing company and store in Hayes Valley.

Alternative Apparel, located in Hayes Valley, is an excellently modern eco-friendly store that specializes in “creating modern basics for a sustainable future,” according to Kai Shane, the store leader.

Alternative Apparel is founded on the premise of eco-friendly activewear. Alternative Apparel started as a wholesale company known for their contemporary and stylish basics, the most sought after being their cloud like cotton hoodies, and now have four storefronts in the U.S- two in Los Angeles, one in New York City, and another here, in San Francisco’s very shop-able Hayes Valley district.

The store, very minimalistic, with a wooden chandelier hanging from the ceiling, showcases what Alternative Apparel is truly about: basics.

“We tend to think of our customers as modern creatives. Our basics act as sort of a uniform because you can take it in whatever direction you like to express your own particular style,” says Shane.

Kai Shane, manager of Alternative Apparel, a clothing store in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, stands at the register on April 22nd, 2015.

When the ordinary person thinks of basics, they may imagine T-shirts, tank tops and knitted pull-over sweaters; however, here at Alternative Apparel, they sell basics with an edge. For example, a black dress, made with silk and exquisite paneled sides indenting on the figure, as well as leggings, patchworked with grey terrycloth and paired with an organic cotton striped bralette. Hoodies are also a big catch here, made with something they call a tri-blend, generally consisting of organic cotton, rayon, and polyester. Last December, the San Francisco store donated 100 of their incredibly soft hoodies to the non-profit Project Homeless Connect for their “Hoodies for Homeless” drive.

Their exclusive basics are made with non-toxic, low-impact natural dyes, and 60 percent less water than traditional use through their G2 process, which is essentially a washing process that uses “ozone technology.”

“I see the future of eco-friendly clothing being mainstreamed,” says Shane. “As customers become more sophisticated and demanding, with new technologies and information spreading, more people will become more compliant with these kind of things. I think it’s going to become just the way we do business, hopefully, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

A shopper walks out of Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove, located in San Francisco’s Mission district as well as in Berkeley, is home to a wide array of locally made products, fair trade clothing and accessories, as well as organic and sustainable commodities.

According to owner, Rachel Kinney, Foxglove offers a carefully chosen selection of fashion, gifts and accessories that reflect the modern ideals of today’s conscious consumers. Kinney’s main focus is to provide customers with a thoughtful experience, allowing them to leave knowing that they have made an impact on the world in some way- whether if they bought an item that is fair trade to promote healthy work environments for women in India, or handcrafted by a local artist in the community.

“I can only hope that it continues to grow,” says Kinney, referring to the eco-friendly clothing movement. “The San Francisco Bay has a reputation for pioneering a number of environmental movements, and those ultimately serve as a model for other communities and cities. As information and trends spread, there can eventually be a large impact made when larger markets adopt more sustainable policies.”

Foxglove an eco-friendly store on 24th Street and Treat Ave. in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Foxglove carries an ample amount of beautifully made clothing and accessories, from patterned dresses, handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and even children’s clothing! Next time you are dying to buy an unique gift, or just curious about shopping locally, Foxglove is the place to let yourself explore the world of sustainability.

“I just think that it’s important to be thoughtful about the way we consume,” says Kinney.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang

Skunk Funk is another eco-friendly brand located in San Francisco’s Mission District, as well as their second location in the Haight district. Their goal is to provide sustainable fashion for all, by using their own fabrics and textiles. According to their sustainability page on their website, Skunk Funk’s aim is to, “have 100% of our environmentally-friendly fibers certified by 2015 either with the GOTS standard or more globally with the CCS (Content Claim Standard) for all material inputs.”

So what’s sets them apart? Well, first of all, they definitely live up to their name; their clothing is indeed funky, but in a good way. Patters, colors, and styles that are each in their own contemporary with a twist. What sets Skunk Funk truly apart is their seasonal lookbooks, all arranged by color, to fit the consumers desires for fun, fresh eco-friendly fashion. Check out their Spring/Summer lookbook here.

You will not see any of one-of-a-kind these designs in a department store, but you may see them on someone walking on Valencia Street.

Skunk Funk, an eco-friendly store located on 14th and Valencia Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Photo by Emma Chiang