Fashion goes green with eco boutiques

Arcadia Boutique, Big Green Earth and Details sell fair-trade fashion items and more in the city.

Arcadia Boutique, Big Green Earth and Details sell fair-trade fashion items and more in the city.

I don’t know much about eco-friendly shopping in the city, but I found encouragement in knowing I wasn’t alone.

shop class rosella

Stylist Rachel Zoe, who is probably as famous as the starlets she dresses, wrote in her newsletter, “The Zoe Report,” recently about her own trepidation concerning environmentally-conscious consumption.

“For me personally, thoughts of ‘where do I start?’ rack my brain until I am reminded to take things one step at a time. Even the slightest adjustment in one’s lifestyle can make a glamorous difference,” Zoe wrote.

For those of you who are also unsure where and how to buy eco-friendly clothes, follow this guide, one step a time.

When buying eco-friendly clothing, there are some things you should look for. First, you should know about fair trade – in the eco-friendly clothing business, this is important.

Fair trade aims to improve trading conditions for producers in developing countries and promotes sustainability. Items made under fair trade yield a higher price for the producers and are priced slightly pricier for consumers because the stores need to make a profit.

Philadelphia-based Arcadia Boutique (819 N. Second St.) sells a Stewart and Brown 100 percent silky merino wool Audrey dress made in China with fair trade for $198, although it is marked down to $112.

Even when the items are made in America, eco-friendly can still be a strain on your wallet.

Arcadia carries a pocket cardigan made by Brooklyn, N.Y., based Feral Childe that is made of 100 percent organic cotton and costs $136.

In general, when buying organic cotton, one of the most commonly used and eco-friendly fabrics, you should buy in white, pale green or light brown – the colors cotton grows in. If you find yourself buying dyed organic cotton, you should make sure it is colored with natural or vegetable-based dye.

Other sustainable fabrics include: silk, bamboo, polyester, lyocell, hemp, cashmere, linen, alpaca and ingeo.

Bamboo, hemp, linen and ingeo are all derived from plants, some of them incredibly fast-growing. Ingeo is made from fermented plant sugars (usually corn-derived).

Arcadia carries a beautiful Lucia ruffle top made by the Battalions – on sale for $55, down from $178 – that is made of 100 percent bamboo.

Silk, cashmere and alpaca are all from insects or animals that produce the raw materials these fabrics are made from more than once in their lifetimes.

Regular polyester is made from petroleum and its production involves tons of chemicals. Fortunately, now companies are making polyester out of recycled plastic bottles or recycled polyester fabric, which has a much smaller carbon footprint.

Another fabric made from synthetic materials is vegan leather, the former “pleather.” Matt & Nat’s Laroux studded crossbody bag, available at Arcadia for $148, is made of vegan leather and is, I must say, to die for – though not literally.

There are also many houseware and stationary products that are made using eco-friendly methods. Details (103 S. 18th St.) sells journals and notebooks made from various kinds of the Lokta bush by women in the Himalayas in vibrant jewel tones. Big Green Earth on South Street sells eco-friendly items for the home.

Rosella LaFevre can be reached at


  1. Great primer on eco-friendly threads! That’s a great tip about buying the low-impact colors when shopping for organic cotton, bamboo and others. Some of the best new materials are coming from these super soft fabrics that are made from sustainably grown crops. At we make all natural baby gifts and gear from bedding to baby hats, we cover it all, naturally.

  2. Great overview! One thing you didn’t mention is designers using recycled fabrics. Reusing our exisiting resources is another great wear to lower your carbon footprint.

    There is also eco-friendly jewelry to consider – I design high quality sterling silver and recycled bead jewelry from my studio in Vancouver, BC. All my beads are sourced from my jewelry recycling service where women are invited to recycle any old, broken, or unwanted jewelry they may have. I sell my new designs online to USA and Canada and can be found at boutiques and galleries across the country. Good luck in your quest for eco fashion!

  3. Don’t forget about using water based inks either! Make sure to check out for some supersoft organic tees, made by fair trade, and with proceeds going to areas in need of sustainability projects!

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