If the words “eco-friendly fashion” sound like an oxymoron to you, meet designer Susan Woo.
Woo’s eponymous line, which launches this fall, is unique for combining style and sustainability. Not only is everything produced sustainable, but all clothes are made exclusively from 100 percent natural fabrics. We’re not talking cotton and hemp — we’re talking luxurious textiles like organic wool and cashmere.
In addition to her clothes being green, her company is too: it uses fair labor practices, recycles all wastes and has an ISO-14001 certification proving that there is minimal pollution and waste involved in production.
This may be Woo’s first line, but don’t say she’s a newcomer. Woo graduated from Cornell University and has since worked with Chanel, Derek Lam and Louis Vuitton. Now she’s taking the eco-awareness from her alma mater and finding ingenious ways to bring it into fashion.
“What is really great now is that there are fabrics available to allow designers to not have to sacrifice style,” said Woo in an interview with New York magazine. “For example, I just met with a mill that will custom-make me any fabric that may be almost impossible to find in organic or all-natural version — amazing laces, jacquards, and patterns.”
These fabrics are put to good use — her collection doesn’t consist of any ‘Save the Earth’ T-shirts stereotypical of eco-fashion. In fact, Woo says that she started the line because “everything eco-friendly was just T-shirts and jeans” and she wanted to create “clothes that were environmentally friendly but stylish.”
A glance at a few choice items from her fall collection cements her work as bona fide fashion, with chic pencil skirts and blouses, as well as stunning gowns — such as a one-shoulder draped dress with a wide belt and an edgy strapless dress with a geometric cutout.
Fashion is often criticized for being elitist and wasteful, so it’s refreshing to see someone so down-to-earth and resourceful in the industry. Woo’s line shows that style and sustainability can co-exist, and we can only hope other designers will also follow in her steps.
Photo (top) of Olivia Palermo and Susan Woo, (bottom) of Susan Woo’s Fall 2009 collection; all photos courtesy of Nicholas Richer for PMc